Ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Aston Villa on Saturday, the squad have continued with preparations at their London Colney training ground. The Gunners are looking to bounce back from their 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday, with the club aiming to secure fourth place in the Premier League table ahead of the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
In the reverse fixture earlier this season, Arsenal cruised to a 3-1 win, but the trip to Villa Park will be a far tougher test for Mikel Arteta’s men. The Claret and Blue Army are currently ninth and much improved under Steven Gerrard.
Lacazette the leader
Following the unexpected departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Barcelona in January, Arteta has yet to announce the new permanent club captain. Alexandre Lacazette has stepped up to be the de facto leader, and has done a fine job so far, although with the striker’s contract up in the summer it is unclear whether he will keep the armband long-term.
In the meantime, however, the 30-year-old is relishing the chance to lead this young and exciting Arsenal team. The Frenchman was seen putting Emile Smith-Rowe through his paces ahead of the weekend.
Smith-Rowe is back
Speaking of Smith-Rowe, the attacking midfield looks to be back in full training following a spell on the sidelines with injury and illness. The 21-year-old, who was recently called-up to the England squad alongside Aaron Ramsdale, Benjamin White and Bukayo Saka, returned to come off the bench against Liverpool and now looks to be fit enough to start against Villa – though competition is currently very strong in Arsenal’s attacking line.
Tomiyasu still out
While Arteta has claimed that Takehiro Tomiyasu could feature on Saturday, he was nowhere to be seen. Calf injuries have prevented the 23-year-old from returning to action, with his last Premier League appearance being the slender defeat to Manchester City on New Year’s Day. Even if he does make the bench for the Villa game, don’t expect him to get on the pitch unless absolutely necessary.
Spirits high despite quick turnaround
Much has been made of Arsenal’s tight and congested fixture schedule of late, but it does not appear to have dampened the players’ mood. The photos released show the players smiling, laughing and hard at work in the club’s gym, although the match on Saturday will really show how fit the team are.