Arsenal flounder again on Midlands grit.
Back to the drawing board for Arteta.
Arsenal lack serious creativity in the final third which puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the team, particularly at home when having to break teams down. Was there a mistake in transfer policy. And an attitude problem given the difference to last week.
It was the same team as Man United – five at the back with Bellerin and Saka as wing backs.
It was the return of the Argentinian Martinez. Villa hadn’t conceded away this season but had two home defeats on the trot. In the last game between these sides, Villa gave Arsenal a hard time – winning 1-0 which helped them stay in the division.
They were quick off the mark. Grealish took on Holding who sent it to McGinn running in who fired it into the top of the net. But Barkley was offside and interfering with Leno’s vision.
There was a worry down the Arsenal left which looked insecure every time Villa probed in that area. And also Villa showed much more dynamism than Arsenal.
But McGinn sent a slow back-pass and Partey nipped in with Martinez having to save.
There were some wayward balls from Arsenal players in the first ten. But Aubameyang found space on the left and found a late run by Willian who knocked it skyward.
An Afro-Brazilian duo conjured a free-kick to Tierney who didn’t connect well.
Barkley and Grealish toyed with Arsenal defence on the left setting Targett free who sent it across the area for Trezeguet to steal a march on Saka who had switched off and knocked the ball into his own net.
Sustained Arsenal pressure saw Konsa and Luiz put their bodies on the line with crosses from Tierney and Willian.
Villa looked more threatening than Arsenal in attack, with the home team looking too rigid.
Bellerin had a chance deep into the Villa area but decided to pass instead of shoot.
Aubameyang passed to Saka – Martinez tipped the cross away from Lacazette and Partey struck it wide.
Tierney found Lacazette in a flowing move but he missed when he should have scored with a header. Particularly as he hasn’t scored in his last five games.
Ceballos came on for the injured Partey after half-time.
Trezeguet fired it in and Leno saved.
Grealish worked a good chance but Leno tipped it wide.
Villa continued to exploit the weakness on the Arsenal left.
But Arsenal had a chance from a corner when Gabriel sent to Holding who hit it wide.
Willian, who was disappointing, only recording two forward passes in the whole match, went off for Pepe, and Lacazette for Nketiah, with Aubameyang and the u23 international joint strikers in the middle.
Tierney passed to Elneny who fired it wide into Nketiah.
Pepe drove and shot wide.
Luiz sent a long ball to Barkley who volleyed across the goal for, Arsenal fan Watkins to head home.
A Grealish shot was saved on the line by Ceballos.
Martinez passed out to Grealish who drove and shrugged off Bellerin, who should have brought him down like the top sides do, set it up for Watkins who fired it home.
Arsenal tried to attack, didn’t have enough players in the box when crosses came in.
After the match, Watkins said that his team new Arsenal would switch the play from one side to another, so we cut off the lines to the midfield and in the second half we could play.
Mikel Arteta said: “congratulations to Aston Villa. I take full responsibility. We didn’t win enough duels and were sloppy with the ball. Today was the first time I haven’t seen my team perform.”
Dean Smith said: “Before the match, the stats showed that Arsenal had scored the most goals from open play. We had to fight them.
Arsenal XI: Leno, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Bellerin, Thomas, Elneny, Saka, Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Subs: Ceballos, Runarsson, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Luiz, Nketiah, Xhaka.
Villa XI: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Trezeguet, Barkley, Grealish, Watkins. Subs: Taylor, Steer, Hourihane, Nakamba, El Ghazi, Elmohamady, Davis.