Aston Villa (1) 1 Arsenal (0) 0
Villa Park, Trinity Road, Aston, Birmingham B6 6HE
Tuesday, 21st July 2020. Kick-off time: 8.15pm
(4-2-3-1) Emiliano Martínez; Rob Holding, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac, Cédric Soares; Dani Ceballos, Lucas Torreira; Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nicolas Pépé, Joe Willock, Matt Macey, Granit Xhaka, Matt Smith.
Yellow Cards: Lucas Torreira, Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolašinac, Joe Willock
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 69%
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
After the superb victory in the FA Cup semi-final by our chaps on Saturday evening, we are now back to our bread-and-butter matches in the Premiership, of which there are only a brace left for us to play this season, starting with Aston Villa tonight, who currently reside at the wrong end of the Premiership table. That of course, is somehow incidential; we have to keep on winning right up to the very last moment on the very last day, as we need to accrue as many points as humanly possible in order for us to stand a chance to play in European competition (via our final Premiership position) next year.
The first half started at quite a fast pace for an end-of-season match, and it was great to see that our desire to win the game was paramount in these opening stages. Our passing was strong and accurate, with our players finding each other with ease. The running off the ball by Bukayo Saka was superb and although the home side tried to break up our play, they were unable to do so, and therefore we started to dominate in most areas of the pitch. As the match wore on, we exploited the gaps that the Villa defence was leaving for us extremely well, but after the drinks break, the match turned against us; we somehow went to sleep and the home side took the lead after a corner which was we poorly defended. A strong strike by Trézéguet from just inside our penalty area flew into the back of our net to give them the lead after twenty-seven minutes. The goal certainly sparked life into the game, and heavy tackles were committed by both sides in their desire to win the match. Our midfield play was very good, but we were unable to get the ball up to the strikers, and as such, we allowed the home side to take advantage of the situation to pressurise our defence in the latter stages of the first half. A strong move by Eddie Nketiah led to a corner which came to nothing, and in the resulting Aston Villa break, we very nearly conceded a second goal just before half-time.
For the second half, Granit Xhaka came on for Lucas Torreira to tighten up the midfield and within a minute of the restart we were put under pressure by the home side. Somehow, under this pressure, we managed to break out and Dani Ceballos was unlucky not to be able to turn and shoot after some clever play in the Villa penalty area; the sheer weight of defensive numbers prevented our man from scoring the equaliser on this occasion. We started to find our way through the Villa defence, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was unlucky not to score when his shot was blocked by the horizontal body of Ezri Konsa, which was unfortunate. Kieran Tierney and Nicolas Pépé replaced David Luiz and Bukayo Saka, which meant that we changed to a more defensive shape for the remaining half hour of the game. With the substitutions in place, we started to play a better game with good passing techniques, but we were still having trouble breaking down the Villa defence. Cédric Soares, Nicolas Pépé and Kieran Tierney were supplying Eddie Nketiah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with quality balls, but the home side defence were sitting very deep and we were finding it tough to break through and create chances. With fifteen minutes left, we were extremely fortunate not to concede a second goal when Keinan Davis thankfully slotted the ball past the post when on a one-to-one with Emiliano Martínez; a minute later we should scored ourselves when a header from Eddie Nketiah came off the inside of the post to fall into Pepe Reina’s arms. Joe Willock came on for an exhausted Cédric Soares with eleven minutes of the game remaining, which meant that with our attacking options, we could push up and press their defence. In the final stages of the match, it was becoming clear that it could literally go either way now, and with three minutes of normal time remaining, a dangerous Nicolas Pépé free-kick came close to us equalising, and by now we were throwing everything we possible could at the Villa defence. Time and time again we were firing balls into their penalty area, but to no avail, sadly.
Overall, it was an extremely disappointing performance; although we had sixty-nine per cent possession, our players did not get one shot on target throughout the whole match, and we are now guaranteed to have our worst Premier League finish since 1995. We know what we have to do to get into Europe next year, and ultimately our season now rests on ninety minutes at Wembley Stadium on 1st August. 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: Watford at Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU on Sunday 26th July at 4.00pm (Premier League). 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.