Aston Villa v Arsenal: Christian Benteke is close to recovering goal touch ahead of Gunners' visit, says Paul Lambert

18-year-old winger Gnabry set to start for Arsenal on right-wing

While Arsène Wenger’s mixture of youth and experience at Arsenal has propelled them to the Premier League’s upper echelons, it feels as if Paul Lambert has gone too far in one direction. His Aston Villa team has been filled with so many young, hungry, enthusiastic players that they lack the nous to control games or close out wins.

Even their best player of last season, Christian Benteke, is going through a serious dip of form. He scored twice on the opening day of the season, when Villa won 3-1 at Arsenal, then managed three more goals in August and September, but now he has not scored for nearly four months. He is still Villa’s best player and there is no one else to take the responsibility.

Lambert, though, believes Benteke is close to finding the net again. “I thought against Sunderland [where Villa won 1-0 on New Year’s Day] he was excellent and looked back to himself,” the manager said. “I know people are going on about his goalscoring, but that will come. He’s just having a spell where maybe last year the two headers against Sheffield United would have gone in. At least the lad’s in there to try and score.” A Benteke goal against Arsenal tonight could, Lambert hopes, trigger a good run of form over the second half of the season. “I think he needs a goal, but you’re hoping that for this match – big team and big players he’s up against – he’ll raise his game.”

Villa have the second-worst home record in the Premier League – two wins from 10 – but that might change on Monday night. “I’d love to give the home fans something to shout about. It’s our home place, we’ve got to try and win,” Lambert said.

Wenger, meanwhile, has shown this season he does not mind putting pressure to win on his young players. Not if he thinks they can handle it as well as Serge Gnabry.

The 18-year-old was thrown into his first North London derby last Saturday and handled it perfectly. Now, with Theo Walcott out for the rest of the season, there will be more opportunities on the right wing, and Wenger believes the German can handle it. Not that the Premier League is the extent of the expectation for Gnabry in 2014. When asked whether there was a “small chance” that he might, with a run of good games, break into Joachim Löw’s squad for the World Cup, Wenger did not demur. “There is more than a small chance,” he said. “There is a big chance.”

The gifted Gnabry was the best player in Arsenal’s under-21 side last season. He has already started four first-team games this season, and scored his first goal in the 2-1 win at Swansea in September.

He is punchy and explosive, with a burst of pace and a ferocious shot when he cuts inside.

“We are looking at a guy who has good individual talent,” Wenger said. “He can pass people, is a good finisher, and has a very good football brain with good vision. He has great pace, two-footed, can finish right and left. He has a lot in the locker.”

With no Walcott there might be a lack of pace and width in this Arsenal team, of players who can run in behind and stretch the play, or deliver crosses. Wenger, though, is not worried: “[Alex Oxlade-] Chamberlain, [Lukas] Podolski and Gnabry can create that width that we need.”

They will be needed to supply Olivier Giroud, who, after a fortnight without a game, should be well rested for this evening. “It is important that he is back,” Wenger said. “He was a bit tired recently but now he is refreshed, he is back, and I am sure he will have a major impact on the second part of the season.”

Giroud played 26 of Arsenal’s first 29 games but should be refreshed for a busy run of games. “I was always there thinking, ‘I have to rest him, I have to rest him, I have to rest him.’ Then I almost changed my mind. He is always ready for a fight, even when he is tired.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas