Competition: Premier League – Arsenal vs. Aston Villa
Venue: Emirates Stadium – Sunday, May 15 – 15:00 BST (10:00 ET)
Match Odds: Arsenal 1/7 – Draw 7/1 – Aston Villa 16/1
While unpredictable on the whole, there is something very predictable about how the Gunners’ season has panned out, as securing a top-four finish has once again become the priority in the last few weeks – an objective they have now achieved.
A battling 2-2 draw away at Manchester City last Sunday means Arsene Wenger’s side now only need one more point to secure third.
However, Arsenal will be desperate to potentially leapfrog their bitter rivals Tottenham on the last day and finish second, although that relies on their neighbours losing away at relegated Newcastle and the Gunners winning.
If Spurs draw, Arsenal would need a most unlikely 13-goal margin of victory over Villa in order to finish second, so the main aim will just be to win the game and put on a show for the fans in what has ultimately been a season of underachievement and disappointment for Wenger’s men.
Aston Villa probably wanted this season to end about six months ago – it has been nothing short of completely disastrous – and you can’t help but feel for the fans.
Last weekend’s goalless draw at home to Newcastle did end a run of 11 straight defeats and avoid a club record of most consecutive losses (12).
This will be the last time we see Villa participating in a Premier League game after 28 years in the top flight, as they look to prepare for life in the increasingly difficult Championship, and look to bounce straight back up.
The reverse fixture saw Arsenal win 2-0 at Villa Park back in December, while the last clash at the Emirates was a resounding 5-0 victory for the Gunners in February 2015.
Arsene Wenger may hand playing time to midfielders Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini who are retiring after this match – whether any of them start remains to be seen. Santi Cazorla could play for the first time since November following his recovery from a knee injury. Mesut Ozil has returned to training and could feauture after missing the Man City game with a hip injury, while Danny Welbeck is out for nine months after knee surgery. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson (both knee) remain long-term absentees, while Per Mertesacker is a doubt with a hamstring injury.
Aston Villa’s Aly Cissokho is available again following a ban, while Rudy Gestede could return from a groin injury. Alan Hutton (calf), Ciaran Clark (ankle), Kieran Richardson (calf), Jordan Veretout (pelvis), Gabriel Agbonlahor (fitness) and Libor Kozak (fitness) are all doubtful. Jordan Amavi is out with a knee injury and Jores Okore will not feature because of an internal issue at the club.
Arsenal’s last five: D/W/D/W/D
Aston Villa’s last five: L/L/L/L/D
Key Stat: Aston Villa have failed to win any of their 17 away games in the Premier League this season since a 1-0 opening day victory at Bournemouth (D3, L14).
Key Player: Jack Wilshere – Arsenal will have been delighted to see Wilshere pull through 70 minutes of an intense game away at Man City unscathed. Keeping him fit could be crucial next season and hopefully we will see a glimpse of his undoubted natural ability on Sunday.
Arsenal 2-0 Aston Villa – The Gunners should seal a comfortable victory on the final day against an Aston Villa side who will be turning their attentions to the prospect of Championship football next season.