Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
Premier League Review
I must say – I like Villa.
Like Arsenal, the biggest club in their city and region.
And have won the European Cup no less – let’s be frank, we haven’t.
And we had one of our greatest FA Cup wins against them in 2015. Arguably the greatest, because we haven’t won an FA Cup final 4-0 before then.
But Villa really won this game for three main reasons – our crap defending, Villa’s gameplan, and Arteta’s faults.
The goal they scored was another case of bad defending.
The corner saw Ceballos and Luiz mix up by not clearing it properly.
But the resultant corner was weak.
The centre-backs didn’t really clear the ball, and Soares didn’t close down Trezeguet properly. To be fair, it was a good finish, as the Villa player lived up to his illustrious past-French namesake to score.
We also weren’t as combative in midfield as in previous games – and Grealish amongst others was free to run at our back-line with freedom. The City performance was a holistically good team structure, but in this game, we lacked the structure to stop (with respect to Villa) a far lesser team in quality.
It was a display reminiscent of various bad displays over the past few years, and whilst Luiz and Holding had reasonable individual games, we succumbed to the same old faults. Seemingly, our old failings won’t end at this point.
Villa’s game plan
We were poor, no doubt. But Villa must be given kudos for their win.
They defended well, albeit our attacks didn’t threaten them much. But they also used ball-carriers such as Grealish to expose our weak areas and expose our failings.
They also closed down the midfield and worked our defensive channels well, and our wing-backs didn’t really track as well as they could have.
Grealish is a player I’d like at Arsenal, given his technique on the ball and drive. He would be a far more effective creative force than Ozil, and the likes of Willock haven’t developed enough to be a mainstay for us.
Villa also closed down the connecting spaces well and exposed our wide areas. Soares and Saka didn’t track their wide runner well enough, and clearly Villa had a good structure to win the game.
Arteta takes the L
Mikel Arteta, for this first-ever managerial role, has done well to impose a new defensive structure, reach the FA Cup final, and stabilise our form after the dross of Emery.
But today, he has to take the blame I feel for this loss.
I didn’t mind the rotation – it was good to give players a rest. And the formation and system presumably were the same as in the City game.
But we were limp.
Don’t get me wrong – Villa as I mentioned above had a good game plan which was executed well.
But for me, Arteta didn’t instill a good attitude here.
Moreover, he also didn’t make good enough subs once the side was down 1-0.
I must say Nketiah, Laca, and Auba were not effective. Yes, there wasn’t good service. But their pressing, unlike in recent games, was poor too. Service from the midfield or wide players isn’t needed to press opposition defenders or their goalkeeper.
Nketiah could have been taken off at half-time, despite him hitting the post in the second half, and possibly need a formation change.
We improved slightly once Xhaka came on, but then Arteta showed poor game management. This performance, in some ways, was akin to the Spurs game. At Spurs we had more clearcut chances but lacked the cutting edge to finish them off. But at Villa, we lacked the energy despite the greater possession, and with some earlier changes, we could have got the win. Or least have not lost as we did.
All managers make errors – but this for me is Arteta’s biggest error thus far. He is learning on the job, but the attitude here was poor and there wasn’t any real spring or energy in our player. Possession alone doesn’t win football matches, and we’ve seen this at Tottenham and now at Aston Villa.
Arteta – 3 – See the point above. Players should be responsible for their own attitude, but the manager is also key in instilling this. As mentioned prior, we were limp, lacked energy, drive, passion, and telling moments.
Pepe – 4
Willock – 3
Xhaka – 5
Tierney – 5
Man of the match
Was solid, and the goal wasn’t really his fault.
We’ll see if Deeney has the “balls” to try and beat us to stay in the division next week……….
MarbleHallsTV is an Arsenal social media account on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Been a Gooner since the 90s, inspired by Ian Wright, then Bergkamp, Vieira, Henry, Pires, Campbell, Rosicky, Koscielny, Ozil and Sanchez. A digital marketer/entrpreneur by profession, born in UK living in the Americas now.