Arsenal can close the gap on the top four once again if they can see off an Aston Villa side for whom a win would lift them six points clear of the drop zone.
For the first time this season, Arsenal seem to have found some consistency, with an easy win in their last home game against Stoke City followed by a superbly disciplined display to triumph at Manchester City and progress in the FA Cup with victory over Brighton & Hove Albion.
The most pleasing aspect of that fluent performance against the Championship club was seeing Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil return to the scoresheet after long spells out injured, but their other scorer, Tomas Rosicky, has been outstanding since coming back to first-team setup on Boxing Day.
With the Gunners playing catch-up in the race for a Champions League place, they will see this as a game they cannot afford to drop points in, particularly as Villa are struggling and have not won in the Premier League since December 7, a run which has brought their lack of goals and creativity right under the spotlight.
But their last two games – as well as Saturday’s results – have offered some encouragement, with new signing Carles Gil making a positive impact as a substitute in the defeat to Liverpool and then netting a fine goal to help see off Bournemouth in the FA Cup. His influence will be key to Villa’s chances at the Emirates Stadium.
Gabriel Paulista could make his Arsenal debut after joining from Villarreal, but Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to be risked while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck are still out.
Aston Villa will have key duo Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph back after injury, and could give Scott Sinclair his first appearance since he joined on loan from Manchester City.
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