An absolutely abysmal Arsenal were taken full advantage of by Aston Villa this evening, as the Gunners head into the international break still searching for a clear identity.
Mikel Arteta’s men welcomed the Villans to north London a short time ago, for the final fixture of the Premier League weekend.
Arsenal of course headed into proceedings as overwhelming favourites to bag all 3 points, on the back of an improved spell of form of late.
The capital giants had notched three straight wins across all competitions before tonight, including what appeared a statement downing of Manchester United at Old Trafford last weekend.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, had seen their blistering opening to the campaign go up in smoke, with a pair of consecutive defeats.
As such, what subsequently unfolded over the 90 minutes at the Emirates proved not only a surprise, but an outright shock.
Dean Smith’s underdogs played their hosts off the park, to eventually emerge with a thoroughly deserved 3-0 win.
Villa took the lead with 25 minutes on the clock, when Matt Targett’s delivery from the left-hand side was turned in at the back post by the unfortunate Bukayo Saka.
And this was how the scoreline remained until just inside the closing 20 minutes, as the clash remained on a knife-edge.
Arsenal, though, were not exactly banging down the visitors’ door in search of an all-important equaliser, with a completely misjudged Alexandre Lacazette header the best that the Gunners managed to produce.
In turn, based on the balance of play, it did not come as all that much of a surprise when Villa bagged a 2nd, as the ever-dangerous Ollie Watkins finished out a wonderful team move in style.
And, incredibly, Watkins was back at it again just three minutes later, to put the away side out of sight, and plunge Arsenal into turmoil.
6 – Ollie Watkins has scored six goals in seven games for Aston Villa in the Premier League this season; only Dean Saunders (7) and Dion Dublin (9) have ever netted more in their first seven appearances for Villa in the competition. Flyer. pic.twitter.com/RMOiD1Cl2I
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 8, 2020
Arteta with questions to answer
On the back of such a nightmare evening for all involved with the north Londoners, it is almost difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong for Arsenal.
The capital outfit looked sluggish and frankly disinterested throughout proceedings at the Emirates.
They were outworked, outfought and outplayed by an Aston Villa side who just appeared to want the 3 points more than Mikel Arteta’s hosts.
The Arsenal boss must of course take a considerable chunk of the blame onto his own shoulders, with the same defensive setup employed at Old Trafford last weekend having simply not worked tonight.
A complete disconnect between defence and attack saw the Gunners struggle to create almost any opportunities of note, as a resolute Villa backline made short work of their toothless’ hosts front-3.
0 – This was the first time Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played 90 minutes in a Premier League home game without attempting a shot – indeed, Aubameyang was one of only three outfield players who didn’t record an attempt for Arsenal in this game. Vanished. pic.twitter.com/QxTXTAYdQb
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 8, 2020
When it comes to individual performances, though none impressed to a noteworthy extent, Willian and Alexandre Lacazette certainly looked the worst of a bad bunch.
The pair added essentially nothing positive to Arsenal’s attack this evening, with Mikel Arteta surely considering the introduction of both Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah to his first-choice XI following the return from the international break.
Compounding a thoroughly miserable night’s work from a Gunners perspective, meanwhile, was an injury picked up by Thomas Partey.
The Ghanaian was forced off at the interval to be replaced by Dani Ceballos, with word having since been forthcoming that Partey has picked up a thigh issue:
Thigh injury for Partey.
— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) November 8, 2020
It is also worth noting that Arsenal’s complete collapse only really came after their summer addition’s exit from proceedings, suggesting that Partey may already be too heavily relied upon to hold the club’s midfield together.
Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain: Whilst last weekend’s display in Manchester may have provided circumstantial evidence to suggest otherwise, Arsenal remain FAR from the finished product.
Mikel Arteta needs to find a balance between defence and attack in games where his side can’t simply rely on the opposition to control the majority of the possession.
And, if the post-match reaction from the Gunners faithful tonight is anything to go by, the Spaniard best figure things out sooner, rather than later…
This article was edited by Josh Barker.
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