Arsenal have failed in their attempt to overturn the red card David Luiz received in Tuesday's 2-1 Premier League defeat against Wolves.

The veteran centre-back was dismissed shortly before the break at Molineux with the VAR upholding the decision of referee Craig Pawson, who judged David Luiz had made contact with the heel of Willian Jose.

Ruben Neves converted the resulting spot-kick to cancel out Nicolas Pepe's opener and Joao Moutinho scored the winner in a match the Gunners finished with nine men after goalkeeper Bernd Leno also saw red.

Head coach Mikel Arteta confirmed Arsenal had launched an appeal against the decision but the Football Association (FA) has dismissed the claim, meaning David Luiz will miss out against Aston Villa on Saturday.

An Arsenal statement read: "The Football Association have confirmed to us that the red card given to David Luiz on Tuesday against Wolverhampton Wanderers will stand.

"We have worked really hard to overturn David Luiz's red card. We presented our case to the FA but are disappointed that our appeal has been unsuccessful.

"We accept the FA's decision and continue our preparations for Saturday's match against Aston Villa."

Southampton enjoyed a slither of good news from their 9-0 embarrassment at Manchester United, though, after the FA did overturn a red card awarded to Jan Bednarek.

The defender was harshly dismissed by referee Mike Dean for a last-man foul on Anthony Martial with the score already at 6-0.

Following the game, Saints dismissed reports they had officially requested Dean and fourth official Lee Mason no longer be involved in their matches.

Bednarek, though, is free to feature when Southampton aim to rebound at Newcastle United this weekend.

A club statement read: "Southampton defender Jan Bednarek will be available for Saturday's trip to Newcastle, after the club successfully appealed his dismissal in Tuesday's match against Manchester United.

"Bednarek was shown a straight red card during the second half at Old Trafford, having been judged to have denied Anthony Martial an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

"The club immediately appealed the decision, and a review by an independent regulatory commission at the Football Association has now led to the card being rescinded."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has warned Alex Runarsson must learn to cope with the pressure of playing for the Gunners after a shaky start as he prepares to be the likely replacement for the suspended Bernd Leno.

Germany international Leno was sent off late on in Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Wolves, thus ruling him out for Saturday's trip to Aston Villa.

Runarsson was the back-up on the bench and played the latter stages of the game, though he did little to endear himself to Gunners fans as he looked nervous when haplessly booting the ball out of play for a corner shortly after coming on.

The Icelandic keeper was signed from Dijon in pre-season to replace the departed Emiliano Martinez, but errors in Europa League games against Rapid Vienna and Molde left fans questioning his acquisition.

Arsenal reportedly tried to offload him again in January and they brought in Mat Ryan on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion to cover for Leno.

But with Ryan still yet to train, Runarsson looks a likely choice between the posts at the weekend, and Arteta is urging him to prove the doubters wrong.

"[Ryan] has not been available to train yet, and Alex is available so we will have the choice between him and Alex to be made," Arteta said on Thursday. "If Mat is able to train and they are both fit, we have a decision to make; if Mat is not fit then Alex will go on.

"Alex knew his role before we signed him, and obviously knows his role after we signed him. We had a plan on the goalkeeper position, and we could not execute [it] the way we wanted, but Alex's role was very clear around the squad.

"He needs to earn his opportunity, needs to earn his place, depending on his performance. He needs to push for that."

Arteta believes criticism of Runarsson is the reality of playing for a club the size of Arsenal and that he must get used to it if he is to have a long-term future there.

"This is what you face when you play for a big club," Arteta continued. "People expect when you go out there to give your best and perform at the top level, and if you don't you get that criticism.

"You know that before you join the club, you know that you are exposed all the time to critics.

"As well, if you do really well everyone is going to be praising you more than at any other club. You have to be able to handle that pressure if you want to play here.

"He works really hard. He's fitted really well around the dressing room, he's a really nice boy, really humble. He needs to be away from all the comments and focus on his work, focus on improving."

Arsenal have lodged an appeal against the red card shown to David Luiz in Tuesday's loss to Wolves, Mikel Arteta has confirmed.

The defender was shown a straight red card after making minimal contact with Willian Jose's heel on the stroke of half-time and VAR upheld the decision made by refereee Craig Pawson.

Ruben Neves converted the resulting penalty to cancel out Nicolas Pepe's opener and Joao Moutinho secured the three points for Wolves, as Arsenal finished with nine men after Bernd Leno was dismissed for inexplicably handling outside his area.

Arteta did not feel David Luiz could be solely blamed for leaving his team-mates a player short and hoped to hear back on an appeal against the sending off on Thursday.

"I am very hopeful and that's why we put the appeal on, we went through the images and we think that the red card should be overruled, that's why we put in the appeal," Arteta said ahead of Saturday's meeting with Aston Villa.

"I don't know how long it will take but hopefully today we will have more information.

"We know the law. For me, it's more about the decision, and what happens in that instance. There was a very similar incident, even though David is behind him and against Manchester United he was on the side of the player, it completely changes the angle and how much it affects the players ability to finish the action, but still a similar situation. I think they will look at it.

"You look at the two images we can have a long, long debate here. Just to put the finger on David, in my opinion, is not fair."

Arsenal have received a Premier League-high of five red cards this season but Arteta is not concerned by a potential lack of discipline in his squad.

The only dismissals that truly bothered him were the avoidable ones dished out to Pepe at Leeds United and Granit Xhaka against Burnley, where incidents away from the ball ended their outings early.  

"When I was worried about the discipline it was on two occasions, with Nico and with Granit. We should avoid that," said Arteta.

"There are other ones where in a split second you have to make a decision, the referee has to make a decision as well, and there is much less to control from our side.

"What is clear is when you have five red cards in this period you will lose a lot of points. If we had some of those points we would be in a completely different position on the table.

"No team with five red cards is on top of the table, it doesn't happen."

David Moyes believes Jesse Lingard can push for an England recall after an impressive debut for West Ham on Wednesday.

Lingard, who joined West Ham on loan from Manchester United last month, marked his debut with a brace in a 3-1 win over Aston Villa.

He became just the second player to score twice on his Premier League debut for the club, after Trevor Sinclair against Everton in January 1998.

A 24-time England international, Lingard last played for his country in mid-2019, but Moyes believes the form he showed against Villa could lead to a recall.

"I think he's still getting used to us and we're getting used to him, but we're thrilled because he made a difference to the team," the West Ham manager told BT Sport.

"If he keeps up that form, it won't be long until he's back in the England squad if he keeps up that level which he done tonight, adding goals to it as well but as long as he keeps adding them for West Ham we'll be happy.

"It was a great opening night for him, not only the goals but he made the team play better tonight as well."

Lingard is the sixth different player to score for both West Ham and Manchester United in the Premier League, joining Rio Ferdinand, Teddy Sheringham, Michael Carrick, Carlos Tevez and Javier Hernandez.

He had a game-high six shots against Villa, and no West Ham player had more successful passes (41) or passes in the opposition half (34) than Lingard.

West Ham are fifth in the Premier League table ahead of a trip to Fulham on Saturday.

Liverpool were stunned by Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield as they lost for the second home Premier League game in a row, while Manchester City stretched their winning streak at Burnley.

Having seen their 68-game unbeaten home league run ended by Burnley two weeks ago, the champions again came unstuck against an improving Brighton side.

Liverpool's next opponents are leaders City, who had less trouble seeing off Burnley as they made it 13 victories in a row in all competitions - the longest such run by a Premier League side since Arsenal between March and August 2002 (also 13).

There were also victories for Leicester City, Everton and West Ham on Wednesday, overcoming Fulham, Leeds United and Aston Villa respectively.

Here is the pick of the Opta facts on a day in which history was made as all five away sides triumphed.

Burnley 0-2 Manchester City: Jesus and Sterling keep winning run going

Twenty-four hours on from Manchester United's record-equalling 9-0 win against Southampton, City regained a three-point lead at the summit with a game in hand thanks to a routine victory at Turf Moor.

Gabriel Jesus scored for the third game in a row that he has started to give City an early lead and Raheem Sterling marked his recall to the starting line-up with his 99th goal under Pep Guardiola in all competitions.

Burnley offered little in response as they failed to register a single shot on target for the second game running, making them the first Premier League side to do so since Everton in January 2018.

It meant for a quiet day for City's defenders as they kept a sixth straight shutout in the competition - their joint-longest run without conceding - in what was a 12th successive victory in games played on a Wednesday, which is a Premier League record.

Burnley will be glad to see the back of City for another season having now lost to them by an aggregate 10-0 scoreline across their three meetings in all competitions this season, the other defeat coming in the EFL Cup.

Fulham 0-2 Leicester City: Maddison inspires Foxes to another away win

Kelechi Iheanacho's first Premier League goal in 15 appearances and a second strike of the season for James Justin earned Leicester all three points at Fulham.

James Maddison set up Iheanacho and Justin to take his goal involvement to 12 - six goals and as many assists - in his last 12 outings in all competitions, with this the first occasion he has laid on more than one goal in a Premier League match.

Leicester have now collected 26 points on their travels this season, which is already their second-highest tally in a campaign after their 2015-16 title success (39 points).

As for Fulham, they have now gone 11 games without a win in the Premier League and have lost their opening four home games of a calendar year in all competitions for the first time in their English Football League history.

Leeds United 1-2 Everton: Toffees earn rare Elland Road triumph

Everton made it four consecutive away league victories for the first time since December 1985 through first-half goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

This may just be the sweetest victory of the lot during that run, given it is only their second at Elland Road in the top flight in 38 attempts - the most recent before today coming in 2002.

It is the fifth home league match Leeds have lost in 10 games this term - the last time a Marcelo Bielsa side lost more at home in the league in a single season was Athletic Bilbao in the 2012-13 LaLiga campaign.

Sigurdsson put Everton on their way with another goal assisted by Lucas Digne - the sixth he has set up in the Premier League this season, which is the most by any defender. 

Only Liverpool pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson (both 28) have registered more than Digne's 17 assists since the start of the 2018-19 season.

Calvert-Lewin doubled his side's tally with his ninth headed goal in the Premier League since the start of last season - only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (12) has scored more in Europe's top five leagues over that period.

Aston Villa 1-3 West Ham: Lingard at the double on Hammers bow

Jesse Lingard marked his first appearance for West Ham since joining on loan from Manchester United with a couple of goals against Aston Villa.

The England international is only the second player for the club to achieve that two-goal debut feat after Trevor Sinclair against Everton in January 1998.

Lingard's double came after Tomas Soucek had given West Ham the lead with his eighth league goal of the season - the most of any midfielder when excluding penalties.

Ollie Watkins gave Villa temporary hope at 2-0 but the home side could not avoid a fourth defeat in their last six league matches, compared to only four losses in their opening 14.

David Moyes has plenty of reasons to be cheerful, having overseen three successive away wins in the competition for the first time since April 2014 when at Man United, with this latest victory taking West Ham to 38 points - their highest top-flight tally after 22 games since 1985-86.

Liverpool 0-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Alzate stuns stuns toothless champions

Liverpool's home struggles continued with defeat to Brighton, who picked up a victory in this fixture for the first time in 13 meetings in all competitions - and a first at Anfield since 1982.

The Merseyside club having now lost consecutive games at Anfield in the top flight for the first time since September 2012, having gone 68 without a home loss in the Premier League.

It is four Premier League games at Anfield without a win, meanwhile, the last three of those without scoring - the first time that has happened since October 1984 - in a goalless run spanning 348 minutes and counting.

Steven Alzate was the match-winning hero for Brighton with his first Premier League goal in his 28th appearance, coming from the first shot on target of the contest. 

Toothless Liverpool offered little in reply, testing opposition keeper Robert Sanchez just once as Brighton made it four top-flight clean sheets on the bounce for the first time in their history.

Manchester City extended their lead at the Premier League summit with a 1-0 win over struggling Sheffield United on Saturday. 

Pep Guardiola's side started the day one point ahead of rivals Manchester United, but finished it three ahead of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's outfit after they were held to a disappointing, if record breaking, 0-0 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. 

Newcastle United turned around their woeful recent form with a 2-0 win at Everton, while Aston Villa won away at Southampton. 

Crystal Palace edged past Wolves 1-0 at Selhurst Park, while strugglers West Brom and Fulham played out an entertaining 2-2 draw. 

Here is the pick of the Opta facts from the day's action in the Premier League.

Manchester City 1-0 Sheffield United: Guardiola's men keep on winning

An early goal from Gabriel Jesus helped City set a new club record of 12 consecutive wins in all competitions.

It is also the longest winning run by a Premier League team since Arsenal racked up 12 in a row between August and October 2007. 

The slender win was also their ninth triumph in January, the most they have ever won in a single month in their history. Indeed, it is the most wins by a team in the top four tiers of English football in a single month since the formation of the Football League in 1888.

The result also means City have kept 20 clean sheets in all competitions this season, which is at least five more than any other side in the top-five European leagues. 

After their shock midweek win at Manchester United, this was a case of normal service resumed for the rock-bottom Blades. 

They have now lost 20 of their last 24 Premier League matches - seven more than any other side in the same period - and have been on the end of eight 1-0 defeats this season. That is the joint-most ever by a side at this stage (21 games) of a top-flight season, along with Ipswich Town in 1985-86.

Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United: Record-breaking stalemate for United

They did not come away from London with all three points, but United can at least toast an 18th consecutive away match in the Premier League without defeat – their longest run without a loss in their illustrious top-flight history.

While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side created the best opportunities, they failed to find the back of the net for a third consecutive league match against Arsenal. The last time they went that long without scoring against the Gunners was between September 1981 and May 1983 when they went four games without a goal.

The result means Solskjaer has now failed to win any of his five Premier League games against Arsenal, with the Norwegian the only Red Devils manager to face the north London side more than once in the top flight without winning a game.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have now kept four consecutive home clean sheets in all competitions for the first time since April 2019.

The draw means Mikel Arteta's side are unbeaten in their past six league games against United – their longest run against the Red Devils in league competition since between October 1980 and May 1983 (also six).

Everton 0-2 Newcastle United: Toffees downed by a familiar foe

Steve Bruce relieved some of the intense pressure he had been under as Newcastle ended an 11-game winless run in all competitions with victory at Goodison Park.

It was no surprise that Callum Wilson was the inspiration behind the win, the England international's brace means he has now been involved in 67 per cent of the Magpies' 21 Premier League goals this season (10 goals, four assists).

His first goal was his 50th in the Premier League, while he has only scored more against West Ham (eight) in the competition than he has versus Everton (six).

The Toffees, meanwhile, have now been defeated in four home league games this season. That is the most Carlo Ancelotti has lost in a single campaign since the 2007-08 campaign with Milan, when he was also beaten four times.

Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson made his 300th Premier League appearance in the defeat to become the second Icelandic player to reach the milestone after Hermann Hreidarsson (332).

Southampton 0-1 Aston Villa: Grealish and Barkley combine to overcome Saints

Villa secured a first win over Southampton in the Premier League since December 2013 thanks to Ross Barkley's first-half goal, laid on by the superb Jack Grealish.

Grealish has now been involved in 15 league goals (six goals, nine assists) in a single season for the first time, eclipsing his tally of last term when he scored eight goals and created six for his team-mates.

Only Harry Kane (11) and Kevin De Bruyne (10) have more assists than Grealish this season, while the last Villa player to register more in a single season in the competition was Ashley Young with 10 in 2010-11.

Dean Smith's side were also indebted to another clean sheet from goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, whose 10th shutout of the campaign is only bettered by City's Ederson (12).

Defeat for Southampton means they have lost three consecutive top-flight matches for the first time since November 2019, while they have also failed to score in five of their past seven Premier League games - they had only drawn a blank in five of their previous 41 in the competition before this.

Aston Villa have completed the signing of midfielder Morgan Sanson from Marseille for a reported fee of £15.5million.

The 26-year-old has agreed a four-and-a-half-year contract with Villa.

Sanson has played with Marseille since he signed for them from fellow Ligue 1 side Montpellier in January 2017.

He was part of the Marseille team which made the Europa League final in 2018 and the one which finished second under Andre Villas-Boas last season.

Villa boss Dean Smith, whose team have had a strong first half to the Premier League season, was enthusiastic about Sanson's credentials after the deal was confirmed on Tuesday.

"Morgan has performed consistently at the highest level in French football for a number of seasons as well as in this season's Champions League," Smith said.

"He is a player with the quality and experience to play in any midfield position.

"He will add real competition for starting places and gives us more squad depth which is vital to competing successfully in the Premier League."

Sanson has two goals and three assists in 10 Ligue 1 starts and two substitute appearances this season.

In his first interview with Villa, he told the club's website: "I'm really happy to be here, very proud to join the Aston Villa family.

"In the future I hope we can do great things together.

"It's a magical club, a big club in England. When Aston Villa called me, I didn't have to think about it for a long time – it was the best opportunity for me and my career.

"I love the team; I love the spirit – I'm a warrior and I like it when all the players run for the team and run for the club. I appreciate watching Villa because it's good football.

"I hope the best for the club. I think we have a very good team."

Villa are eighth in the table, just five points behind fourth-placed Liverpool with two games in hand on the reigning Premier League champions.

Having beaten Newcastle United last time out, they return to action away to Burnley in the top flight on Wednesday.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith revealed he was sent off during his team's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Manchester City for suggesting the officials were clowns.

Villa put bodies on the line to frustrate City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday until Bernardo Silva opened the scoring with a contentious goal 11 minutes from time.

Rodri came back from an offside position behind Tyrone Mings to dispossess the Villa defender and set up Silva, who finished clinically with his left foot from the edge of the penalty area.

Smith was then shown a red card by referee Jon Moss for telling fourth official David Coote he thought the officials must have been given juggling balls for Christmas.

Ilkay Gundogan rubbed salt into the wounds by scoring from the spot after Matty Cash was penalised for handball, and Villa boss Smith made his feelings clear after his team were beaten in what was their first top-flight game for 19 days due to a coronavirus outbreak.

"I still don't understand the rule if I’m honest," said Smith.

"I don't think anyone can tell me why a goal has been given. He [Rodri] has taken advantage of an offside position. He comes back and tackles Tyrone Mings from behind.

"What was Tyrone supposed to do, just let it go through? He was 10 metres offside. Do you just stand there all the time now?

"I thought they'd at least go over to the screen as it looked clear offside. I looked at the screen myself and it looked like a clear offside.

"When I realised they weren't even going to take a look I told the fourth official I thought they had got juggling balls for Christmas.

"If that's the law then definitely [it should be changed]. He's standing offside and taking an unfair advantage from that. Nobody in this stadium thinks that goal should have stood, so you can't tell me it should have stood and that tells you there is a fault with the law."

He added: "I don't think anyone can tell me why it's been given. What is Tyrone meant to do? Can you stand 10 yards offside now?

"Nobody in the stadium feels that should have counted so you can't tell me that should have counted."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Kevin De Bruyne may have suffered a muscular injury in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa, though he is waiting on further updates.

De Bruyne hobbled off in the second half as City beat Villa on Wednesday to move top of the Premier League table.

City star De Bruyne was replaced approaching the hour mark before Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan scored during the final 11 minutes at home to Villa, the former in controversial circumstances.

Kyle Walker also succumbed to injury after just 28 minutes, and Guardiola was asked about the pair.

"First, I didn't speak to the doctor," he said.

"Kyle asked to be out because something happened – hopefully it was just a kick.

"Kevin put his hand on his leg. Maybe it will be something muscular. But what do you expect? It's normal, sometimes these things happen with these kind of games."

City are now unbeaten in 16 games across all competitions after defeating a Villa side whose previous top-flight outing was a 2-1 loss to Manchester United 19 days earlier, having suffered a coronavirus outbreak.  

Silva broke the deadlock in the 79th minute amid strong claims for offside against Rodri as Villa boss Dean Smith was sent off for his protests, while Gundogan's late penalty sealed the win.

"I didn't watch the image on TV, I know they complained on the touchline," Guardiola said when discussing Silva's contentious goal.

"And VAR is there. So there are many challenges, with long balls when the player is offside, and you go backwards, the central defenders, you clear the ball, central defender for themselves, the counter attack.

"But VAR was there. If it was offside, the goal would have been disallowed, but honestly I didn't watch it, and I understand they complained about this action. In general, the game we played was outstanding."

City have kept 10 clean sheets in their 18 Premier League games this season – only in 1976-77 (17 games) have they reached that figure in fewer fixtures in their league history.

After a difficult start to the season, his side are firmly back in the mix, and Guardiola added: "There are many, many teams, but if you ask me for my opinion, still have one game left to finish the first round, so the rise in the table is good because we are there.

"When we lost against Tottenham, we were 12th in the table, but then we lost just two games and the most important thing, is the fact that we are back since Newcastle game, playing the game we have to play to be contenders. Everyone wants to win, wants to be champions but you have to show why you are champions.

"Today, I had the feeling that we controlled many aspects, we had the right tempo of the game, we concede few, create a lot. We have to be more clinical in the final third, especially in the eight yard box and penalty spot but we'll improve."

Bernardo Silva was relieved to end his Premier League goal drought as Manchester City earned a late 2-0 win over Aston Villa to go top.

The Portugal international superbly scored a disputed first Premier League goal of the season 11 minutes from time.

Villa boss Dean Smith was sent off for his protests after he felt Silva's strike should have been ruled out for offside against Rodri, who won the ball back from Tyrone Mings in the build-up.

The Spain international was in a clear offside position when Mings received possession but the officials allowed the goal to stand because, under the current interpretation of the law, a new phase of play began after the Villa centre-back touched the ball.

Ilkay Gundogan's last-minute penalty sealed the points to extend City's winning run to nine matches.

Rivals Manchester United can replace them at the summit if they are victorious when they face Fulham later on Wednesday.

For Silva, it was his first league strike since the 5-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion in July.

And it was his first Premier League goal at the Etihad Stadium in 20 appearances, since scoring a hat-trick against Watford in September 2019.

"It has been a long time since I have scored," Silva said to BT Sport.

"I'm happy to score. It doesn't matter who scores the goals but I'm happy to score.

"Most important we are leaders for now. There is still a long way to go but still, very happy. We are doing very well, very solid at the back. We are happy with the last two games and our momentum."

The breakthrough arrived just as it looked like Villa would halt City's fine run of form.

Silva's opener was the 36th effort at goal in a dramatic match, and City's 25th of the contest.

Asked about Villa's complaints over his goal, Silva added: "I haven't checked it yet. 

"Our player was offside but when their defender touched it, he stops being offside, I think. But I haven't checked it.

"It was a very important win, a tough game for us. Just three more points and on to the next one.

"It felt like an important win because we got to the 75th minute without scoring, so to get those two goals, we are very happy."

City have now won 15 of their past 16 Premier League home games against Villa, including an on-going streak of 11 in a row.

And their forthcomig fixtures appear favourable as they look to extend their winning run.

After an FA Cup match with League Two Cheltenham Town, City face struggling trio West Brom, Sheffield United and Burnley prior to their crunch clash with champions Liverpool at Anfield on February 6.

Bernardo Silva scored a controversial first Premier League goal of the season as Manchester City beat Aston Villa 2-0 to go top of the table.

City dominated much of an entertaining encounter on a miserable evening but looked set to miss out on the chance to take over at the summit until Silva struck 11 minutes from time, albeit in contentious circumstances.

Villa boss Dean Smith was sent off for his protests after he felt Silva's goal should have been ruled out for offside against Rodri, who had won the ball back from Tyrone Mings.

Ilkay Gundogan's penalty sealed all three points to extend City's winning run to nine matches and put them top, although Manchester United can replace them when they face Fulham later on Wednesday.

City lost Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker to injury but they are now unbeaten in 16 games in all competitions.

Former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson would like to see Jack Grealish make a move to Old Trafford.

Aston Villa star Grealish has been linked with the Red Devils in the past 18 months but there has yet to be a concerted effort to sign him.

However, with the future of Paul Pogba unclear beyond this season, talk has again emerged that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could look to Grealish as a possible replacement for the France star.

The England international has created a competition-high 55 goalscoring chances in the Premier League in 2020-21 from only 15 appearances.

The 25-year-old has become integral to Villa's improved performances this term, making 11 per cent of all of their passes and drawing 73 fouls, the most of any player in the division.

Former skipper Robson, twice a league champion with United, thinks Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be making a smart move if he added Grealish to his squad.

"It was a good decision giving [Jack Grealish] the [Aston Villa] captaincy," he told Stats Perform. "I think it's made him a bit more mature.

"He's a powerful player. He's quite a strong boy and he's quick and the way he can sort of go either way past people, he's always going to be a danger and that's why he gets so many free-kicks. Him and Villa have been terrific this season.

"He's been linked with us but those decisions, thank goodness, are with Ole and the board of directors. I wouldn't mind seeing Jack Grealish in a Manchester United shirt. I don't know whether the staff at Old Trafford fancy him, much as you'd like to see him play for your club."

United face Fulham on Wednesday looking for a win that would take them back to the top of the Premier League.

Grealish and Villa are in action away to in-form Manchester City.

Manchester City and Aston Villa would have faced each other on the opening weekend of this Premier League campaign had Pep Guardiola's side not reached the final stages of the Champions League in Lisbon and earned an extra week to recuperate.

Plenty of what's happened since then - for both of these clubs and throughout the division - would have been impossible to predict, with a strange season springing surprises at every turn.

However, had City and Villa played one another in September, most observers would have confidently looked towards Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish to supply the creative inspiration for their respective teams.

It is safe to say each star midfielder has lived up to his billing over the first half of the campaign.

Mutual respect

Grealish earned a long-awaited England debut earlier this season and was a bright spark when England suffered a 2-0 Nations League defeat in Belgium.

Before the match, the 25-year-old revealed he spent his final preparations casting an admiring eye over a certain member of the opposition.

"For the past 24 hours, I've been watching little clips of my favourite players like I do before every game," he told Sky Sports.

"I watch loads of clips. I watch clips of De Bruyne, I watch clips of [Philippe] Coutinho, just players that are in my position, really.

"That's what I've done since I was a little kid and I still do it to this day - I have no shame in saying that and that's what gets me going for football matches."

After the match, De Bruyne conceded Grealish had also captured his attention.

"I rate him very highly," he said. "He's somebody I mentioned before, talking to the team-mates at City, in a random conversation.

"In England they talked about creative problems in midfield, but he brings that to a team. He deserves a shot."

Those warm words from De Bruyne seemed to carry a little more weight when a move for Grealish was rumoured to be one of the topics of discussion during Guardiola's successful contract extension negotiations in November.

Given the City boss already must try to accommodate the playmaking talents of Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva around De Bruyne, it is questionable whether he needs such a reinforcement in his creative department.

However, Opta data from this season shows Grealish is doing plenty to match the reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year.

King creators

Both De Bruyne and Grealish have started 15 Premier League games apiece this season, with the latter playing one more minute overall.

In that time, the Villa man has created 55 chances to De Bruyne's 51, although City's number 17 has 10 assists to Grealish's seven following an outrageous outside-of-the-boot cross for John Stones to open the scoring in Sunday's 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace.

Overall, they are second and third in the Premier League's assists table, Harry Kane's fruitful relationship with Son Heung-min helping the England captain to amass 11 for Tottenham.

Manchester United talisman Bruno Fernandes separates them at the top when it comes to chances created, having crafted 54 for his Old Trafford colleagues.

Those numbers continue to look incredibly strong when projected across Europe's top five leagues.

Hakan Calhanoglu has created 59 chances for Serie A leaders Milan, although only six of those have been converted, while the continental top five is rounded out by Lyon's Memphis Depay being level with De Bruyne on 51.

In terms of assists, Kane and De Bruyne are again one and two from Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller (nine) and Roma's Henrikh Mkhitaryan (eight).

Goals, guile and grubby work

De Bruyne has fired off 57 shots this season (17 on target) to Grealish's 40 (14 on target).

However, City's designated penalty taker has only scored three, with his first Premier League goal from open play this season coming earlier in January at Chelsea.

Grealish has weighed in with five for Dean Smith's men, including a double in their logic-defying 7-2 evisceration of champions Liverpool.

Grealish has 81.2 per cent accuracy for passes ending in the final third, outstripping De Bruyne's 73.5 per cent, although the City favourite attempting 105 crosses and corners to the younger man's 51 goes some way to explaining this discrepancy.

In terms of dribble success rate, they are neck and neck again, with Grealish returning 63.8 per cent and De Bruyne 63.

Grealish has attempted 69 dribbles to his idol's 46, which does a little to explain the frequency with which he draws free-kicks.

His 73 fouls won is comfortably the highest in the division, with Palace's Wilfred Zaha (51), Liverpool's Sadio Mane (43) and Kane (40) up next.

A key reason for this could be how integral Grealish is to so much of Villa's attacking play. As per Opta, he is responsible for 11 per cent of his team's passes. By contrast, Zaha and Kane make five per cent and Mane four.

As players who cherish the ball so much, De Bruyne and his counterpart do plenty to get it back.

The UEFA midfielder of the year has made 74 recoveries, 27 tackles and seven interceptions in the Premier League this season, compared to 79 recoveries, 23 tackles and eight interceptions for Grealish.

It seems implausible that these two midfield maestros will stray too far from the thick of the action at the Etihad Stadium, which should make for a very watchable encounter.

Whether or not it amounts to a live audition for Grealish, only time will tell.

Pep Guardiola has ruled out Manchester City delving into the transfer market with Sergio Aguero to again be absent when they host Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Aguero has made just five Premier League appearances this season and has missed City's past three games in all competitions while in self-isolation despite testing negative for COVID-19.

Guardiola has used Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Ferran Torres in the central attacking role during the Argentina international's absence but is not interested in bringing in further options.

The City boss simply replied "no" when asked if the club could look to bolster their options in January after he confirmed Aguero would not return to face Villa.

"He is not ready for tomorrow. He is still isolating," Guardiola said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"We need Aguero, we miss him. The numbers speak for themselves. He's the best striker in our history.

"He can win games by himself and for a long time he has not been with us, but we have not sat here complaining. We moved forward with the players that we have and found alternatives."

Aymeric Laporte has not been part of a matchday squad for City since December 26 but Guardiola confirmed he is nearing a return from a thigh injury.

However, with Ruben Dias and John Stones having developed an incredible centre-back partnership, the City boss warned Laporte it will not be easy for him to regain his spot.

"He is at the last step. He is not ready for tomorrow, but he is training with us. Yesterday was the first one, today was the second," said Guardiola.

"Hopefully [back to face Cheltenham Town on Saturday]. That would be good news. We need him. We cannot play with just Stones and Ruben. We need Nathan [Ake], we need Eric [Garcia], we need Laporte.

"It depends on him [whether he can get into the starting line-up]. The quality is there so if he is in top form and his mind is open he is the best left-sided centre-back.

"He has special qualities on the ball. He has to be focused to come back as best as possible and he will have the minutes. Being in the team or not depends on the performance of everyone."

In the eight Premier League games Stones and Dias have started together, City have dropped just two points and conceded a single goal.

In the nine matches where either one of them has not started, they have conceded 12 at an average of 1.3 per game.

No Premier League defender has been involved in more clean sheets (eight) or has a superior passing accuracy (93.4 per cent) than Dias, whose 78.3 successful passes per 90 minutes are only bettered by Thiago Silva (83.8).

On Dias, Guardiola said: "We knew his quality on the pitch, we knew a bit his personality but we have been impressed at the consistency, being ready mentally and physically to play every three days.

"You always expect the best but we are more than delighted with what he has given to the team.

"[His impact] has been massive, not just with John. He has the ability to live every single action, always concentrated on what he has to do and helping his team-mates. It is not easy to find that in someone who is 23 years old."

The Premier League has announced 16 new positive cases from its most recent two rounds of coronavirus testing - a fall of 20 from the number of players and members of club staff who tested positive the previous week.

Due to a rise in infection rates across the league and in the United Kingdom at large, the Premier League ramped up testing to twice weekly between January 4-10, when there were 36 positives.

Across the two rounds carried out between January 11-17, there were 16 positives from 3,115 tests.

That amounts to an infection rate of 0.5 per cent, down from the rate of 1.39 per cent the previous week, when there were 2,593 tests.

Clubs received updated guidance from the Premier League this week, reminding them that "unnecessary contact" between players such as "handshakes, high fives and hugging" should be avoided, following government criticism of goal celebrations.

Aston Villa's games against Tottenham and Everton were called off over the past week following a COVID-19 outbreak that forced them to close their Bodymoor Heath training ground.

Villa are due to return to action at Manchester City on Wednesday, but Leeds United's scheduled meeting with Southampton on the same day will not take place.

Southampton will instead face Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup third round, with the initial fixture earlier this month postponed due to a number of coronavirus cases at the League One club, with their manager Steve Cotterill remaining in hospital.

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