Arsenal host Aston Villa this weekend and Simon Mail thinks Mikel Arteta's side will continue their progress with a home victory...
"All of Arsenal's league games this season have featured no more than four goals and their improved defensive record suggests a low-scoring victory is worth backing."
Arsenal v Aston Villa
Live on Sky Sports Box Office
Arteta building Arsenal from the back
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was faced with a huge challenge to revive the fortunes of the club but the Spaniard made an immediate impact after guiding them to their FA Cup triumph at Wembley last season. Returning Arsenal to the summit of English football looks a tougher task with Arsenal's eighth-placed Premier League finish underlining the progress still required.
There is no doubt Arteta has focused on building from the back and Arsenal are now more solid than they have been for years. The Gunners have conceded the fewest goals in the top flight with just seven from as many matches. The recent signing of Thomas Partey looks an inspired move with the combative midfielder likely to enhance the strength and dynamism in the side. Arsenal won 1-0 at Manchester United last weekend to climb into the top half of the table and claimed a 4-1 win in the Europa League at home to Molde on Thursday.
Promising start from Villa
Aston Villa were on the brink of relegation last season but Dean Smith's side rallied superbly following the return from lockdown and eight points from their last four games, including a home win over Arsenal, helped them stay up in 17th place. Their ambitions are much higher this time around though and holding on to influential midfielder Jack Grealish is a major boost.
A remarkable start to the new season resulted in Aston Villa winning their opening four top-flight matches for the first time in 90 years. The undoubted highlight was an unforgettable 7-2 home victory against champions Liverpool. New signing Ollie Watkins scored a first-half hat-trick as a rampant Villa team ripped apart Jurgen Klopp's side. Two home defeats since, including a 4-3 loss against Southampton last weekend, offered a reality check but it has still been a very encouraging start for Villa.
Arsenal may be behind Aston Villa on goal difference but the hosts are clear 1.738/11 favourites to win Sunday's game. The Gunners have beaten Villa in their last three home league matches and Arteta's side have largely been reliable at the Emirates. True, Leicester defeated them in their last home game but a strong response should be expected as they look to build on the win at Old Trafford.
Aston Villa are priced at 5.39/2 and this could be a steal based on Villa's first four wins. The trouble is Villa have lost their last two games and it is unrealistic to expect them to maintain the form achieved in the opening month of the campaign. Aston Villa look much better than the side which struggled last season but no-one should get carried away by their outstanding results in September and October.
The draw can be backed at 4.1 but neither team have been held in their combined 13 league matches this season. There have also been no draws in the last ten clashes between Arsenal and Villa. Arteta's hosts are rightfully favourites and fancied to claim victory but there is little appetite in backing them at odds on.
Arsenal may not have the free-scoring flair and creativity of Arsene Wenger's best teams but Arteta has focused effectively on ironing out their defensive deficiencies. Nine goals in seven matches is a poor return but a side featuring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang always carries a threat in the final third. Their solidity at the back points towards a low-scoring match.
All of Arsenal's league games this season have featured no more than four goals and their improved defensive record suggests a low-scoring victory is worth backing. Villa will probably look to tighten up at the back after leaking too many goals lately while Arsenal have yet to score more than three goals in the competition this season. Backing Arsenal to win with under 4.5 goals enhances the odds on the favourites to Evens.
Aston Villa are the only side yet to concede away from home in the Premier League this season, while they were the only team not to keep a clean sheet on the road in the competition last season. Villa are 5/1 to stop Arsenal from scoring this weekend.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster