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.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms