Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal: Premier League – 06/01/2021

An embarrassing performance at the Emirates Stadium back in November gave Aston Villa a well deserved victory, but given Arsenal’s recent run of form (their game against Wolverhampton Wanderers notwithstanding), Arsenal had every right to be confident about securing revenge against the boys from Birmingham.

Following the unceremonious dismissals of David Luiz and Bernd Leno respectively against Wolves, Maty Ryan was called into make his Arsenal debut and Gabriel Magalhães was recalled to the side alongside him.

The game did not start well. Within the opening two minutes Aston Villa found themselves in front. A bit of dawdling on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area from left-back fill-in Cédric Soares allowed Bertrand Traoré loose and the winger square the ball for Ollie Watkins, whose shot took a deflection off Rob Holding to take it away from Maty Ryan and bounced into the back of the Arsenal net.

Jack Grealish encourages Aston Villa’s anti-Bukayo Saka tactic.

It was a hammer blow. Going 1-0 down can be a tough pill to swallow even at the best of times, but going 1-0 down away to a side in the form Aston Villa are in within two minutes os damn near suicide.

Arsenal created a few avenues to exploit Villa, but the final ball was all that was lacking. Aston Villa soon seemed to realise that Bukayo Saka would likely be Arsenal’s main danger man and so targeted him so as to break up Arsenal’s play.

For the most part, this tactic seemed to work. Saka is something of a pacemaker in the Arsenal side and the constant breaking up of fouls broke the team’s rhythm. The tactic almost backfired hiwever when Granit Xhaka’s superb free-kick was expertly kept out by former-Gunner, Emiliano Martínez.

The second half was a far more creative showing from both sides. Villa had sat back after their goal, but in the second-half they seemed more willing to attack, forcing Maty Ryan into some superb saves.

From Arsenal’s perspective, there were a few opportunities to draw level, mainly through the high number of chances the team created. A possible penalty incident that was missed by VAR in which Alexandre Lacazette was tugged down by Martínez summed up Arsenal’s afternoon however, and the final whistle blowing brought an end to a cruel afternoon for the North Londoners.

Martin Ødegaard is tracked by Ross Barkley, Jack Grealish and Marvelous Nakamba.

Despite the result on the board, the performance was something far more impressive than Arsenal fans are used to seeing from the team. Despite going 1-0 down, Arsenal did not let their heads go down, but instead strived to be better and create openings for a route back into the game.

The introduction of Martin Ødegaard seemed to bolster Arsenal’s attacking credentials. A guilt-edged miss at the end of the game will likely play on his mind for a while, but his performance elevated the team around him, even Emile Smith Rowe, who was himself already experiencing a very good game of his own.

The tactical switch-up following Ødegaard’s introduction was a fascinating sight to behold as Emile Smith Rowe moved out to the wing and Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka and Willian all seemed to occupy the left-hand side, with Ødegaard given the license to drift out wide where needed.

All in all, it was a dissapointing result for Arsenal, but they can take comfort from the performance, which was definitely a step in the right direction.

Arsenal team:
 33.) Maty Ryan
  2.) Héctor Bellerín (c)
16.) Rob Holding
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
17.) Cédric Soares (Ødegaard 65’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
18.) Thomas Partey (Willian 74’)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
  7.) Bukayo Saka
32.) Emile Smith Rowe
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette (Aubameyang 59’)

Arsenal subs:
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
21.) Calum Chambers
22.) Pablo Marí
25.) Mohamed Elneny
  8.) Dani Ceballos
12.) Willian
11.) Martin Ødegaard
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Aston Villa team:
26.) Emiliano Martínez
  2.) Matty Cash
  4.) Ezri Konsa
  5.) Tyrone Mings
18.) Matthew Targett
  7.) John McGinn
19.) Marvelous Nakamba
15.) Bertrand Traoré
20.) Ross Barkley
10.) Jack Grealish (c)
11.) Ollie Watkins

Aston Villa subs:
  1.) Tom Heaton
27.) Ahmed Elmohamady
22.) Björn Engles
  6.) Douglas Luiz
21.) Anwar El Ghazi
17.) Trézéguet
41.) Jacob Ramsey
25.) Morgan Sanson
39.) Keinan Davies

Leave a Reply