Arsenal (0) 3 Aston Villa (1) 2
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 22nd September 2019. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac; Mattéo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka; Nicolas Pépé, Dani Ceballos, Bukayo Saka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Mesut Özil, Lucas Torreira, Calum Chambers, Reiss Nelson, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Nicolas Pépé (59mins), Calum Chambers (81mins), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (84mins)
Red Cards: Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Yellow Cards: Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mattéo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Nicolas Pépé, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 58%
Referee: Jonathan Moss
So okay, we can all now put our hearts back into the chest cavity from whence it came, ingest that stiff drink and take a massive intake of breath. This team certainly know how to keep us all on our toes, don’t they? On paper, this looked like a breeze, in the world of cold, harsh reality, it was a lot more complex and controversial that that flippant idea.
The first half looked akin to a car crash, where you can see the accident unfold in front of your very eyes, but could do absolutely nothing to redress the issue, just hold on and wait for the impact. Nothing in this first period would suggest that we would end up eventual winners, just sloppy and poor play and tragic circumstances. After just twenty minutes, The Villains were ahead, thanks to a Joe McGinn goal scored from an Anwar El Ghazi cross that should have been dealt with by the defence. From this moment onwards, we were clumsy, indecisive and unable to hold on to the ball. Then came the incident that defined the first half, and in many ways, changed the match. With just four minutes to go before the break, Ainsley Maitland-Niles stupidly followed through on a tackle with Neil Taylor; having already been booked, referee Jonathan Moss had no alternative but to show our first red card of the season to him, much to the chagrin of the disbelieving home crowd. What else could happen on this late September afternoon?
Second half, time to breathe again. Or so it seemed. At first it was looking as if the second period would be a carbon copy of the first, but wait! In a moment of pure inspiration, Mattéo Guendouzi boldly advanced into the Villa penalty area, when defender Björn Engels sloppily brought him down, and in doing so, gifted us a penalty. In an act of pure unselfishness, our usual penalty taker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang handed the ball to Nicolas Pépé, who wasted no time in introducing the ball to the back of the net. With almost no time to take a sharp intake of breath, Jack Grealish jinked and twisted his way past three of our players before crossing the ball to Moraes Wesley, who confidently restored the balance in the visitors’ favour.
The match was looking like a defeat, until the jeered and mocked Granit Xhaka was substituted for Joe Willock (along with Lucas Torreira, who replaced the ineffective Dani Ceballos). And now things just picked up in a heartbeat. We became masterful, confident, and dare I say it, assertive. Mattéo Guendouzi continued to inspire and showed a good example to everyone around him, and it was merely a matter of time before this sparky little player would be involved in an incident or two. And so it was, with just nine minutes to go, he was instrumental in an effort that led to our second (and equalising) goal. Calum Chambers was the grateful recipient of a Mattéo Guendouzi pass, and without even blinking, put the ball where it belonged, into the roof of the net. And still it wasn’t over; with just minutes to go, our top bandit Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabbed the winner. Phew. Talk about a close run thing.
Okay, we won, and tonight we sit in fourth place in the Premiership on goal difference behind Leicester City; with our rivals Spurs, Chelsea and Mancheter United (whom we play next week) all losing this weekend, we have taken full advantage and seized a top four slot with this victory. But our defence is still rocky, and although the lads showed immense character today, there were times when a win seemed as far away as Christmas. But hey, at the end of the day, we won. Let’s celebrate. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match:Nottingham Forest at The Emirates on Tuesday, 24th September at 7.45pm (Carabao Cup). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.