Grossly disappointing result at Villa

Grossly disappointing result stemming from a sloppy pass and bad defending at the start.

It was the 197th time – two stalwarts of English football met. Hard to imagine empty stadiums at the first clash 117 years ago.

Arsenal finished 21 points ahead of Villa last season. Villa hadn’t done the double over Arsenal for 28 years. These records have a psychological effect – and several have tumbled this season. It also confirms Arsenal’s current mid-table status, and it is fast becoming a write-off season, when top four was the target.

Also worrying that ill-discipline has knocked Arsenal off course again.

Both teams lost mid-week, and both made a couple of changes. Ryan replaced the suspended Leno and Gabriel came in for David Luiz first start

For Villa, Nakamba replaced Luiz and Traore in for El Ghazi.

Previous games affect the next ones. Cedric laid a sloppy ball off in the first two minutes which was far too short for Gabriel. Traore crossed to an un-marked Watkins to tap it home via a deflection off Holding who was standing too far off the Arsenal fan.

Dean Smith said: “I told the team that in the last game we had gone away from being a good team – based on work ethic.” That clearly geed them up, as they pressed Arsenal with lots of energy.

And Aston Villa have only failed to win once when they have been ahead this season – eleven out of twelve.

The Arsenal performance continued to be sluggish in comparison.

But a multiple passing move led to Xhaka finding Pepe whose shot spun up and saved by Martinez. Saka was tripped and an Xhaka shot, which turned out to be the only effort on target in the half, was tipped over by the Argentine.

Saka then cut in, crossed, and Holding headed wide.

At the other end Barclay found Traore who turned and lobbed Ryan who managed to push it out.

Saka was away and brought down by Konsa. Arsenal players appealed for a last-man red. But in all truth, it wasn’t obvious.

Nkamaba took Saka out with a premeditated kick – part of a Villa plan to target him.

Arsenal attacks continued to be broken down by Pepe – nearly double figures.

He had a chance to an unmarked Gabriel but opted to shoot – wide.

Pepe continued to be very disappointing after half-time. Free on the left his cross went out of play.

Ryan saved twice from Villa crosses. And Grealish and Barclay caused problems on the left.

Smith Rowe set up Pepe, but he shot wide when he could have played it back.

Smith Rowe nearly dribbled through on his own but was foiled at the last by Tyrone Mings.

Perhaps Arsenal’s best chance of equalising was when Martinez grabbed Lacazette’s shirt at a corner and hauled him down. The ‘foul’ went Villa’s way.

Saka set up Bellerin to shoot but Martinez saved. And then The Spaniard set up Saka whose shot was blocked by Targett.

On 58, Aubameyang replaced Lacazette to play down the middle. And he didn’t get into the game.

He met a Pepe cross, but in the process took the ball away from the onrushing Smith Rowe.

Cedric caught the inaccuracy bug crossing straight at Martinez and failing to keep a ball in.

Ødegaard came on for the Portuguese and showed some neat, creative touches and Saka moved to left back. And the pressure mounted on Villa.

Willian came on for an injured Partey and immediately hashed a cross. And gave the ball away just outside the Arsenal area – leading to a Villa threat. And then lost the ball in an Arsenal attack, and then fouled McGinn. Near all his passes were sideways or backwards, summing up his season to date.

Grealish and Watkins had shots from the left on breakaways, one saved well by Ryan and the other just wide.

Ødegaard was set up by Saka for a chance of glory but blasted over.

Remaining Arsenal pressure came to nothing although the approach play was good.

Dean Smith said: “We started at good intensity. We got onto throw ins and pushed them inside. It had to be a good defensive performance. The two teams set up man for man and you have to win the battles. I’m pleased with the way players competed.”

Mikel Arteta said: “We gave them the goal and another three big chances.”

“We created more than enough openings but when we had to score a goal, we didn’t find the right pass or the right shot. We should have won the game comfortably.”

Aston Villa: 26Martínez, 2Cash, 4Konsa (Booked at 31mins), 5Mings, 18Targett, 7McGinn, 19Nakamba (Booked at 35mins), 15Traoré (Substituted for Trézéguet at 66’minutes), 20Barkley (Substituted for Ramsey at 78’mins), 10Grealish (Booked at 90mins), 11Watkins

Arsenal: 33Ryan, 2Bellerín, 16Holding, 6Gabriel, 17Cédric Soares (Substituted for Ødegaard at 65’mins), 18Partey (Booked at 52mins, Substituted for Willian at 74’mins), 34Xhaka (Booked at 90mins), 7Saka, 32Smith Rowe, 19Pépé, 9Lacazette (Substituted for Aubameyang at 59mins)