Premier League Odds, Picks, Predictions | Aston Villa vs Arsenal Preview (Feb 18)

Premier League Odds, Picks, Predictions | Aston Villa vs Arsenal Preview (Feb 18) article feature image

Julian Finney/Getty. Pictured: Takehiro Tomiyasu.

Aston Villa vs. Arsenal Odds

Sat, Feb. 18
7:30 a.m. ET
USA Network

Aston Villa Odds


Arsenal Odds

Over/Under2.5 (-104 / -116)
Both Teams to Score (Yes/No)(-126 / -102)
Odds via FanDuel. Get the latest soccer odds here.

Arsenal has hit their first point of adversity in the Premier League season as they are winless in their last three league games. A 1-0 loss at Everton, a 1-1 home draw with Brentford and a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City has ceded control title of the race back into the hands of the Cityzens.

The Gunners are still tied on points with City and have the game in hand, but the betting markets make City as a clear favorite to win the league following Arsenal's blip in form. They now have a chance to get right on the road against Aston Villa, a team that Manchester City just beat by a comfortable 3-1 scoreline on Sunday.

Aston Villa have seen up and down form since hiring Unai Emery, but this will be a chance for him to stick it to his former club once again on Saturday and further derail their title charge.

Aston Villa Struggling Under Emery

Emery has been at Villa for 10 full matches now and the early returns are not positive. In that time span, Villa have the second worst non-penalty xG difference in the entire league.

There are definitely some game state effects in a sample size this small. For example, if you control for more neutral game states, they're a slightly below-average team.

But Emery hasn't really solved Villa's attacking problems that existed under Steven Gerrard either. They have scored 1.4 goals per match under him, but they've run hot to get to that point.

The attack has produced just 0.92 xG per 90 under his managerial reign. For the season, this is a mediocre unit across the board in attack. They're between 12th and 15th in most attacking categories from expected threat to xG.

We know what Villa's attacking talent is and it's not well-suited to exploit Arsenal on the wings in transition either.

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Can Arsenal Overcome Tough Point?

Manchester City used a variety of different defensive approaches to slow down Arsenal, and they were extremely effective. The Gunners didn't take a shot from open play after the 28th minute and finished the game with 0.8 non-penalty expected goals.

Eddie Nketiah had the early headed chance, but Arsenal struggled to break through City's defensive press. This was true in the second half especially. City followed a pattern from Everton and Brentford of completely taking away the wide areas by adding more defenders wide and daring Arsenal to attack centrally.

Emery can do something similar tactically when he drops into a back six. He did at times at Villarreal when facing top attacking sides like Bayern Munich and Barcelona. This is harder to do against Arsenal when they do have Gabriel Jesus, who is an elite creator and dribbler in tight spaces in the middle of the pitch. Nketiah isn't giving them that same level of production and the result is a weakened Gunners attack. Jesus remains out with injury.

There are also injury concerns with regards to Thomas Partey. He was held out Wednesday entirely and his status is in question for this match. He's the key transition defender and ball-winner for Arsenal and the drop off to Jorginho is notable.

Arteta opts to invert Oleksandr Zinchneko to prevent transitions up the middle though, and that's a major why Arsenal's transition defense has improved so much in this season.

Aston Villa vs Arsenal Pick

Aston Villa will have key center back Tyrone Mings back for this match, even if Diego Carlos is still another week away from being fit. Emery is sure to employ a similar defensive game plan to Sean Dyche and Thomas Frank to take away easy access to the wide areas where Bukayo Saka and Martinelli have feasted all season.

Villa's defense has been solid and has encouraging underlying numbers on everything but set pieces. So, while the Gunners can exploit an advantage on dead ball situations, I think they'll struggle to create from open play once again in this match. Villa have a top eight defense at preventing box entires, stopping progressive passes and stopping crosses.

They're also top seven in expected threat allowed. It's a difficult away day for Arsenal. The market has downgraded the Gunners for their recent blip — the market moved from Arsenal -140 to -125.

Instead of targeting the side, I'd bet the under 2.5 at -120 or better to kick off a wonderful Saturday of European soccer. Villa's attack is still not creating many big scoring chances at all, but they can slow down Arsenal once again.

Pick: Under 2.5 (-120 or better)

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