Arsenal-Aston Villa Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)

Arsenal will be looking to stay at the top of the Premier League when they travel to Aston Villa on Monday evening.

Arsene Wenger's Arsenal (14-3-3) were top of the table going into the latest round of league matches, thanks to three consecutive wins since Christmas. Confidence should be high in the camp after last weekend's 2-0 FA Cup win over local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, although the game did see Theo Walcott pick up a torn ACL that ended his season and his chances of representing England in the World Cup in Brazil.

"We lost a very talented player, a very intelligent player and a player who was just grabbing his form again," said Wenger. "From game to game he became more influential, you have seen a complete player. He can always decide a game through a final ball or through a goal. Sometimes in the same game he does both.

"The injury has accelerated transfer speculation, but let's not forget about Serge Gnabry who can play in the first team. We have (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain back and we have many other players who can play on the flanks so to find better solutions than what we have internally will not be easy."

Aston Villa (6-5-9) picked up their first league win in six attempts last time out against Sunderland, but have just two wins and a league-low seven goals at home. The Villains mustered just four points from six games over a packed December but were boosted by the return of influential winger Marc Albrighton from a long-term injury.

"I am delighted to see him back, I am really happy for him, he's a really good lad," said fellow midfielder Fabien Delph. "I know what it's like to be injured long-term. For him to weather the storm and come through is terrific. He got a player of the month award too. Fair play to him.

"He's a top player. He's got masses of talent and he works really hard for the team too. I knew he'd be back because he's mentally strong. You need to have that characteristic with injuries. He showed it in abundance. Now he's determined to impress, progress and improve. He's flying."

Villa have injury doubts over Nathan Baker (hamstring), Ron Vlaar (calf), Chris Herd (hamstring) and Charles N'Zogbia (calf), while Libor Kozak (broken leg) and Jores Okore (knee) are out. Arsenal are expected to be missing Aaron Ramsey (hip) and Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), while Walcott, Thomas Vermaelen (knee), Olivier Giroud (illness), Nicklas Bendtner (ankle) and Kieran Gibbs (calf) are doubts.

Aston Villa stunned Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates on the opening weekend of the season. Giroud put the Gunners ahead in that game, but two Christian Benteke penalties and an Antonio Luna strike on the counter-attack secured the points for the Villains. The game was a rare highlight this season for Benteke, who has gone a career-worst 11 league games without a goal.

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 14 matches at Villa Park, while Villa have kept just one clean sheet in their last eight attempts against the north Londoners in all competitions.