Arsenal (0) 0 Aston Villa (1) 3
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 8th November 2020. Kick-off time: 7.15pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny; Bukayo Saka, Willian Borges da Silva, Alexandre Lacazette; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Alex Rúnarsson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nicolas Pépé, David Luiz, Eddie Nketiah, Granit Xhaka,.
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 59%
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistant Referees: Constantine Hatzidakis, Nick Hopton
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR David Coote; AVAR Stephen Child
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
The good news about tonight’s match here at the Emirates, is that we have no immediate injury concerns, and everyone is fit, well and available for selection by Mikel Arteta. it is to be noted, however, that we have won our last three home league games against Aston Villa by an aggregate score of 12-2, and we have conceded merely seven goals in the Premiership this season. However, sadly, we have failed to keep a clean sheet in our last six home league games. Tonight’s match is an important one to win, as a victory will take us to fifth in the table, a solitary point behind fourth placed Southampton. Let’s go!
High drama within a minute of the start! Matt Targett plays in Jack Grealish down the left, who looked up, found John McGinn in open space. He simply controlled the ball with his right foot on the edge of our box and cracked the ball into the roof of the net with his left foot; fortunately for us, Martin Atkinson referred to the pitchside monitor, only to discover after five minutes, that. Ross Barkley was offside. He appeared to be interfering with play, as Bernd Leno could not see John McGinn’s shot, so thankfully the goal was disallowed. The denied Villa goal only served for both sides to attack each other’s goal in earnest, and a few minutes later, after Alexandre Lacazette was floored by a clumsy tackle by John McGinn, a solid gold goalscoring chance for Arsenal was blasted wastefully over the bar by Willian. The midfield started to get rather congested as both sides vigourously contested every ball looking for a break in play for an attack to take place, and sure enough, a couple of minutes later, Bukayo Saka collected the ball on the edge of the Villa penalty area, and his excellent shot went narrowly wide. After just twenty-four minutes, a Jack Grealish ball again found Matt Targett, who fired in a low cross into our penalty area, and after some indecisive defending, it was eventually bundled in by Trézéguet at the back post, via Bukayo Saka, who desperately tried to prevent the goal, only to no avail. The goal gave the visitors extra confidence now, and they started to cause our defenders problems. Willian crossed a high ball in from the left, but it was headed away by Tyrone Mings, and just before half time, a Kieran Tierney ball found Alexandre Lacazette, whose header from close range sailed over the bar and into the stand. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won a corner, which was wasted, and as the first half was brought oa a close by referee Martin Atkinson, we can look back on this half as forty-five minutes of messy play at the back, and wasted chances up front.
For the second half, Dani Ceballos replaced Thomas Partey, and almost immediately, the visitors put us under pressure with a quick shot from Trézéguet, which was pushed away by Bernd Leno at his near post. Soon after, Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang crossed the ball deep into Villa’s penalty area, and Douglas Luiz conveniently headed it straight onto the right foot of Willian; sadly his snap shot travelled wide of the mark. Soon afterwards, a Kieran Tierney pass found Dani Ceballos, whose weak shot was easily picked up by former Gunner Emiliano Martinez in the Villa goal. Meanwhile, the visitors came back at us again, and although they created some goalscoring chances, mercifully they all went wide of Bernd Leno’s goal. The match started to become an end-to-end game, and Rob Holding was unlucky not to score when his shot went just wide. Mikel Arteta substituted Willian and Alexandre Lacazette for Nicolas Pépé and Eddie Nketiah with twenty minutes of the match remaining, and as in all substitutions, it lifts the spirits of the team who remained on the pitch. A strong Mohamed Elneny shot cannoned off Eddie Nketiah and back into open play, and a superb curling Nicolas Pépé shot flew past the Villa far post. Then the unthinkable happened. From an Aston Villa corner, which we cleared, Douglas Luiz sprayed a long ball forward which Ross Barkley fired straight toward our six-yard box where Ollie Watkins found the back of our net with a diving header; three minutes later, Ollie Watkins scored his second of the night when he slotted the ball under Bernd Leno after collecting a pinpoint pass from Jack Grealish. Into the final ten minutes of the match, every time we came forward, Villa punished us on the counter-attack, time and time again, in which we were extremely firtunate not to cocede a fourth goal on the night. With a mere minute of normal time remaining, we were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the visitors’ penalty area; Nicolas Pépé did the honours and just like our performance tonight, it went absolutely nowhere.
Truly, a night to forget. After the victory at Old Trafford last week, tonight’s match was embarrassing, to say the least. We were lacklustre, toothless, without inspiration nor creativity, and it has to be said that we can consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have lost this match by only three goals, when in essence it should have been at least two more. Our defence went to sleep, the midfield lacked creativity, which in turn affected the performance of the strikers, who had just two shots on target all night. Thankfully, we have the international break next week, which should give Mikel Arteta time to right some wrongs before the Leeds United match a fortnight today. Hopefully.
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: Leeds United at Elland Road on Sunday, 22nd November at 4.30pm(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.