Arsenal failed to capitalise on last weeks win at Old Trafford - as our Gunners team were trampled by Aston Villa and give us a hard reminder that we are not where we need to be to challenge for the top4.
In a rare occurrence, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta named an unchanged side from our previous Premier League encounter – the 1-0 win over Manchester Utd. That meant the combo of Elneny and Partey continued in central midfield and Willian was preferred to Pepe in attack.
Aston Villa were the better side early on. The visitors looked to utilise their pace from midfield and inside the first minute they scored what they thought the opener, when John McGinn smashed high into the net, but an obstruction on Bernd Leno meant VAR ruled it out.
It was a mark of how things were to go in the first half. Villa looked much more menacing and we just couldn’t lay a glove on returning keeper Emi Martinez.
It was cagey, it was far removed from our impressive display against United. We just weren’t at the races again – and Villa made us pay.
Twenty five minutes in, they took the lead when a low ball was fizzed across our box. Saka was being diligent and tracking back. He was under pressure from Trezeguet though, and Saka could only put it into his own net.
Was there going to be a response from our side?
We had two chances before half time to rectify the situation – first up was a Bellerin thrust into the box but his cutback found no Arsenal shirt. Then just minutes before the half time whistle, Tierney delivered a sumptuous ball that Lacazette failed to convert. It was our best chance so far and we had squandered it.
Half time came and went and the second half began. Partey made way for Dani Ceballos to begin the second forty five minutes, and the Ghanaian hadn’t set the world alight – Arteta needed to change things up.
Inside the first minutes, Villa had their actual first shot on target, but Trezeguet’s effort was beaten out by Leno. Then, Willian had an attempt from inside the box, but his shot was screwed badly wide.
It was the perfect piece of action to encapsulate how badly we had been playing.
Villa were the team mostly on the front foot though. We should have been the one making the moves and dictating play, but instead, the majority of the danger was being created by Villa. Arteta had seen enough and swapped out Lacazette and Willian for Nketiah and Pepe – would they force the issue more than we had been doing?
Pepe came close to making an instant impact with a low curler that flew just wide – but just as we were building momentum – Villa hit us with a sucker punch that secured the points.
This was made by a long ball from Luiz, which was volleyed by Barkley into the path of Watkins who headed home from close range.
That was that, but it would get so much worse.
It was Watkins again to really hammer the point home, after collecting the ball from Grealish who had carried it about 50 yards with very little opposition in the way. Leno could do nothing to stop the ball going through his legs either.
This was pitiful – easily the worst display since Arteta took over.
Villa saw out the game easily as we refused to show any real urgency to make this any better.
We got exactly what we deserved – what exactly happened here?
You can’t go from our flawless game against United to this debacle without seeing the massive contrast. We were up for the United game, we looked like we wanted to be elsewhere for the majority of this game. That level we need, cannot dip this low. We aren’t good enough to let that happen.
Player selection needs to change
Lacazette? Woefully out of form. Willian? Swap out for Pepe who at least makes things happen. Arteta needs to see that there are players who deserve to get a shout – and others who need to ride the bench.
Villa played to their strengths – which we failed to adapt to
Grealish, Barkley and Trezeguet were on the rampage every time they got the ball. Where was the tackles flying in? The obstruction? It was too easy for them.
Thankfully, the international break is upon us – so no Arsenal for two weeks. Our next game is against Leeds United. On this form – we’ll get tonked.
Get it out of your system and rate the team here.