Santi Cazorla Arsenal
Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla celebrates his goal against Tottenham in the FA Cup third round, January 4. Reuters

When Antonio Luna struck one past Wojciech Szczesny to seal a 3-1 victory for Aston Villa on the opening day of the English Premier League, it looked like the wall had finally caved in for Arsenal, and another frustrating season was in store for the Gooners.

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Fast forward five months, and nothing could be further from the truth, as Arsenal find themselves very much in the title challenge, with three points at Villa Park on Monday night able to take them back to the top of the Premier League table.

Arsenal have bounced back from that defeat at the Emirates in some style, and Villa will be wary of a backlash with Arsene Wenger's men, not only having revenge on their minds, but also that precious three points after every team around them won at the weekend.

"Everybody expected Arsenal to win the game," Villa manager Paul Lambert said of the victory in August. "It was just the way the game transpired on that day. We got a great result and played really well. You've got to work hard against them. You've got to play without the ball a lot of times.

"We looked really threatening on the counterattack that day. Gabby had one of those days where he was fantastic for us, Christian got a couple of goals and the midfield worked ever so hard.

"The opportunity is there to try to go and win a second game against them. Looking back at the stick after the first game, I'm pretty sure Arsene is laughing about it now. The team is excellent and we have to try to compete with them. We did it once and we have to try to do it again. If you let them settle and let them play, then they can hurt you."

Counterattacks are something that Wenger will be wary of, with Villa not exactly a team that can hurt you with possession - the home side have the second least possession average in the league.

The Arsenal manager will, however, know this side are a completely different beast to the hesitant, not-sure-what-we-are-about team that fell so calamitously, with the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is line for a return for the first time since that Villa defeat, and Olivier Giroud only strengthening an already buzzing Arsenal squad.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Aston Villa Agbonlahor Arsenal
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could make his first appearance for Arsenal this season since that opening day loss to Aston Villa. Reuters

Wenger will be more than happy with a 1-0 win away from home, but there will be a certain poetic justice if the Gunners can pull off a 3-1 victory come Monday.

Team news: Aston Villa: Gabriel Agbonlahor and Brad Guzan are available for the Premier League clash on Monday, with Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker set to undergo late fitness tests. Joe Bennett and Chris Herd, however, remain sidelined.

Arsenal: Giroud returns to the lineup after missing the last two games with an ankle problem, while Theo Walcott's absence for the rest of the season has been offset a little by Oxlade-Chamberlain's comeback.

"I would have no hesitation," Wenger said when asked about playing Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been out since the opening game of the season. "I don't know yet.

"The most important thing is that he played [in an U-21 game] and came through it well. We'll see how he is but he's been out for five months. It takes some time to play in the Premier League. It's good to have him back."

Kieran Gibbs also has a slight chance to return, but the game comes too early for Aaron Ramsey, who misses out along with Yaya Sanogo, Nicklas Bendtner and Abou Diaby.

Key men: Aston Villa: Agbonlahor had a brilliant game in the reverse fixture, and the England forward will look to terrorise down the Villa left yet again, while Christian Benteke, who has been off colour of late, will target a repeat of that double at the Emirates.

Arsenal: Giroud's return is a big plus for Wenger, and the French international will want to get his name on the scoresheet. All eyes will also be on Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Serge Gnabry, if given an opportunity will look to sparkle like he did in the FA Cup third round against Tottenham.

Expected lineups: Aston Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Luna; El Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph; Delph, Benteke, Agbonlahor.

Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud.

Prediction: 2-0 to Arsenal

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