Arsenal 0-3 Aston Villa
Back-to-back defeats put a dampener on what has been a very good start to the season, for Aston Villa. A chance to get back on track against an improving Arsenal faced the Villans. The last trip to the Emirates was in very different times, as Villa threw away two leads to lose 3-2 against ten men. Though, this wasn’t the most recent fixture against the Gunners, who could forget Trezeguet’s back-post heroics at the end of last season?
The one change made by Dean Smith was an enforced one, as Trezeguet replaced Bertrand Traore, who has a thigh strain. Neil Taylor and Anwar El Ghazi made their way onto the bench. The lack of a back-up centre-back, would mean Ahmed Elmohamady filling in if there was an injury.
It was almost the perfect start to proceedings for Dean Smith’s men, as John McGinn lashed home a Jack Grealish pass. VAR however, had other ideas, and found that Ross Barkley was in the Arsenal Goalkeeper’s eyeline. Villa then slumped a little, as Arsenal pressed. McGinn nearly turned from hero to zero, as his short back-pass almost let Aubameyang in.
A move that was beginning to look overworked from Barkley, Targett and Grealish then sprung into life down the Villa left. Targett fizzed a low cross toward Trezeguet, who was prevented from scoring by Bukayo Saka, as the Arsenal youngster jabbed into his own net. Villa went ahead without having a single attempt, the ultimate clinical first half display.
Villa hung on early on in the second half, as Arsenal had a handful of chances that could have leveled the scoring. Then the Villans clicked into gear, a sensational Douglas Luiz cross made its way into Ross Barkley, who volleyed it onto the head of Ollie Watkins. Before the Villa faithful could begin to get nervous about giving up a lead, Emi Martinez distributed the ball to Jack Grealish who ran the length of the pitch before playing in Watkins for the third.
Some Arsenal fans were sure to be shouting ‘STOP THE COUNT’ at their TV sets, and thankfully for them it did. It wasn’t for a lack of trying on the Villans part though, as they had several more chances to add to the score line.
After the international break, it’s Brighton for Villa, which should be marked down as potentially another three points after this complete performance.
Emi Martinez – 8
Against his former club, Emi Martinez showed Arsenal exactly why some fans were angry to see him go. The Argentinian ‘keeper prevented John McGinn from embarrassing himself in the first half, as he stopped Aubameyang from opening the scoring, off a poor back pass. His distribution is great, and he emphasised this with quick thinking, to roll the ball to Jack Grealish before the third goal.
Matty Cash – 8
Matty Cash was up against one of the quickest and most dynamic attacking threatsin the league, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and he did fantastically. The energetic right-back threw in some big tackles, and added to the Villa attack without over extending. His three tackles, three interceptions and six clearances were the highest of any of the Villa defence.
Ezri Konsa – 8
Ezri Konsa cotinues to show what a reliable defender he is becoming. The 23-year-old was caught out of position a couple of times, but others in the team filled in for him. Konsa’s defending at the near post from crosses is brilliant, as he got across to cut out crosses from Aubameyang and co.
Tyrone Mings – 8
Whipping the ball from the attacker’s toes, clearing crosses, making blocks, Tyrone Mings did everything that was asked of him at the back. Many of the England defender’s long passes didn’t come off, but that is the only real downside to a very accomplished performance from Villa’s defensive leader.
Matt Targett – 8
The offensive elements of Matt Targett’s game shone. The left-back helped set up the first disallowed goal, and the opener, as he linked up with Grealish and Barkley. His defensive play was much more pleasing too, and despite being beaten by Hector Bellerin once or twice, he prevented any dangerous opportunities down the Arsenal right.
Douglas Luiz – 8.5
Back at his best, Douglas Luiz was pivotal for Villa from start to finish. The Brazilian knicked the ball in midfield several times, and despite being disciplined, still aided the Villa attack. The ball to Ross Barkley for the second goal was truly sublime, and showcased the phenomenal technique that the midfielder possesses. Douglas’ positional sense also came to Villa’s rescue in the second half, as Ezri Konsa gave the ball away on the left. There was Douglas to ably defend and prevent a dangerous attack.
John McGinn – 8
After his disallowed goal in the opening minute, John McGinn had a ropey start to the game. Several misplaced and badly weighted passes put Villa under pressure. The Scotsman kept on working in the centre of the park, and the hard work paid off. Mohamed Elneny for Arsenal was chasing shadows as he attempt feebily to keep McGinn under wraps.
Trezeguet – 8.5
The word ‘shift’ is always one of the next words out of people’s mouths when talking about Trezguet. The Egyptian’s work-rate is incredible. Up and down the line he goes, defending, attacking, and pressing. To emphasise just how impressive Trez’s defensive work is, the entire Arsenal team combined (7) only made one more tackle than the tireless winger (6). A tremendous effort from Trezeguet.
Ross Barkley – 8.5
After some disappointing showings in recent weeks, Ross Barkley needed to show his early season form wasn’t just a flash in the pan. The on-loan Chelsea midfielder’s play with Jack Grealish is brilliant to watch, and the pass to send in Matt Targett to set up the first goal was marvelous. The only downside to his performance was his set piece delivery, as bar from one, all of his corners were dreadful.
Jack Grealish © – 9
Jack Grealish put together an explosive display in London, that Guy Fawkes would have been proud of. Villa’s skipper was at the centre of the attack, as he is expected to be, and he was unlucky to come away with only one assist to his name. Bellerin and Willian didn’t know what to do as Grealish and Barkley combined to create fluid attacking moves down the Villa left. The pace, strength and weight of pass to set up Ollie Watkins for the third, was outstanding.
Ollie Watkins – 9 MOTM
When Ollie Watkins was starved of service for periods of the first half, he still managed to have an impact on the game. Villa’s record signing held up the ball and dominated the Arsenal defence whenever required. He danced away from tackles, passed well and proved what a complete striker he is. Then when presented with the chances, Watkins didn’t pass up the opportunity. Granted, he couldn’t miss the first goal, but he got into the right position and was rewarded. There will be many more goals to come from the ex-Brentford man.
Use code MOMS10 for 10% off selected items below
Off the Bench
Anwar El Ghazi (87) – n/a
Much like Donald Trump’s attempts to keep hold of the US Presidency, Anwar El Ghazi’s introduction was pretty pointless. It did allow a tired Trezeguet to have a six minute rest, when the game was very much over.
Dean Smith – 9
Well, this is one way for Dean Smith to shut the doubters up, after the previous two defeats. An all-round fantastic performance, three goals and a clean sheet, against an Arsenal side that has been gradually improving. Though the previous defeats may have tempered expectations, this highlights just how good this team can be, and the wheels haven’t fallen off as some on social media suggested.
A 100% win record away from home, is so far removed from the dismal performances away from Villa Park last term. Two wins in 19 games on the road last season, three in three this time round. The work on the training ground to get the team playing direct when there is space in behind, but intricate and quick around the box is clear to see. There is also a greater element of knowing when and when not to take risks, after throwing away so many points. The influence and Premier League know-how of Craig Shakespeare can only have helped this. This team is moving forward, it’s just a shame we have to wait two weeks to watch them again.