28 December 2019 14:45
Aston Villa will look to finish a successful 2019 with a victory when they go to Watford on Saturday afternoon, and boss Dean Smith could make a key decision for the game, according to BBC Sport. The Villans will make the trip down to Hertfordshire off the back of a win over Norwich City on Boxing Day, but I think most associated with the club will admit they were nowhere near their best in the game. Villa have dropped into the bottom three, so the trip to one of the two teams below them in the league represents a chance for them to come out of the danger zone heading into 2020, which would be the sort of pick-me-up they will be looking for. With John McGinn out injured for the foreseeable future, Smith chose to go with Zimbabwe international Marvelous Nakamba in the heart of the Villans midfield to begin with against the Canaries on Thursday, only to swap the African for Conor Hourihane in the second-half. The Irishman came off the bench to score the only goal for Villa in that clash, and having linked up well with talisman Jack Grealish whenever they have both been on the pitch recently, it makes sense for the midfielder to start the game against Watford.
Given the short turnaround from that match to this one, Smith could be tempted to make more changes to his Villans side, with the aim of keeping everyone as fresh as possible, given that they have one more match to come in this busy period on Wednesday. There is an outside chance that England international Tyrone Mings will be fit again, which would be a significant boost to Villa for the clash against the Hornets. Keinan Davis is another who is said to be closing in on a return from injury, which would also be nicely timed. Mikel Arteta's first game in charge of Arsenal was a fairly uninspiring 1-1 draw away at Bournemouth on Boxing Day. That said, the new Arsenal boss was happy with the support his players received from the away section and believes rebuilding that relationship between fans and players is key. Speaking ahead of Arsenal's clash against London rivals Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Arteta has urged for togetherness.
It's our responsibility and we have to do everything we can to achieve that," Arteta said. "First, I think I need the players and if I can convince the players, afterwards we can convince the fans. I think it's a very, very important part of my job. Powerful stuff from the former Arsenal captain who has certainly impressed with his media appearances during his first week as a head coach. With a run of games coming up against Chelsea (twice), Leeds in the FA Cup and then Man United, Crystal Palace and Sheffield United who all sit close to them in the table, Arteta needs to hit the ground running and he needs the help of Arsenal's fans to drag the team through to give themselves a chance of finishing in the top four, as somehow they are only eight points off the Champions League places. Ali Jahanbakhsh makes a rare start for the Seagulls against Bournemouth in the Premier League match with the lunchtime kick-off today (Saturday 28 December). Top scorer Neal Maupay returns to the starting line up at the Amex, as do Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy. Both Adam Webster and Dale Stephens drop to the bench. Former Albion defender Steve Cook is in the starting line up for the visitors. But Bournemouth are without top scorer Harry Wilson. The loan signing returned to parent club Liverpool after suffering a dead leg that kept swelling up. When the Cherries last came to the Amex, in April, they inflicted a 5-0 thrashing on Brighton in a match when Anthony Knockaert was sent off. The referee today, Paul Tierney, has yet to show a red card this season. Both Brighton and Bournemouth are hovering above the relegation zone, each with 20 points from 19 games and a -6 goal difference. Albion have handed Alireza Jahanbakhsh his first Premier League start of the season as they face Bournemouth today. Skipper Lewis Dunk has been passed fit after illness and starts at the back alongside Shane Duffy. There are seven changes in total to the Seagulls' starting XI. Bournemouth make five changes, including the return of Dominic Solanke to lead the attack rather than Callum Wilson. Junior Stanislas makes his first appearance of the season and Diego Rico is back from a ban. Albion: Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Burn; Propper, Bissouma, Mooy; Jahanbakhsh, Maupay, Trossard. Subs: Button, Webster, Bernardo, Gross, Stephens, Alzate, Murray. Bournemouth: Ramsdale; Stacey, S.Cook, Mepham, Rico; Stanislas, Gosling, Billing; H.Wilson, Solanke, King. Subs: Boruc, Simpson, Lerma, Surman, L.Cook, Fraser, C.Wilson. Alireza Jahanbakhsh opened the scoring against Bournemouth with his first ever goal for Brighton and Hove Albion in 27 appearances. Jahanbakhsh, who joined Albion for £17m in 2018, fired home in the second minute after a Neal Maupay teed him up. It was a fine finish and he became the third Iranian player to score in the Premier League. It sparked emotional celebrations from Jahanbakhsh who has been linked with a with January move away from the club. It was his first start of the season and his first start under Brighton head coach Graham Potter.