The Good, Bad and Ugly – Post Arsenal Fallout
A blockbuster lunchtime kick-off at Villa Park produced more twists, turns and emotion than most Hollywood scripts, but alas, the result ended predictably.
This was another battling performance by Aston Villa against one of the top two teams in the league. Despite the ending, Villa were still in with a chance of snatching victory until injury-time.
The closest game to this one was the time Liverpool scored two injury-time winners to triumph at Villa Park on their way to the title in 2019. The problem is, Villa are meant to have advanced beyond the role of unlucky losers.
There were many positives, Watkins remaining on fire with a fourth goal in as many games, Coutinho and Buendia again showing that it isn’t always one or the other, and Jhon Duran resembling prime Duncan Ferguson in aggression for his short spell on the pitch.
None of this matters of course when the familiar failings let things down.
Villan of the Week – Phillipe Coutinho
He’s magic don’t you know?
Coutinho once again had more joy against a top side than he did against league 2 Stevenage in the FA Cup defeat.
Not only was it his first goal or even goal contribution of the season, but it was also a performance where he put in more tackles than any other Villa player with five in the game.
The myth that he isn’t interested or doesn’t try is not reflected in the stats. With any luck, this begins a run of goal contributions for the magician.
In an entertaining game where neither team really deserved to lose for various reasons, the Aston Villa side didn’t exactly help themselves.
Tyrone Mings, fresh from signing a new contract, tried to head an Arsenal cross back into his own box, presumably to Buendia to keep possession, rather than taking the safe option and clearing his lines, leading to Arsenal’s first equaliser.
For the second equaliser, Ollie Watkins was slow to leave his position and get out to the player about to take the shot. This was a carbon copy of the Stevenage goal, albeit with arguably a higher quality of shot and a higher quality of goalkeeper to beat.
The fact remains, that this was the same set-piece play that Stevenage used to unpick Villa. Arsenal clearly did their homework, why haven’t Villa learnt from their mistakes again?
Then, of course, after Villa went close with Bailey hitting the bar, and Mcginn and Duran both had shots saved by Ramsdale, the inevitable happened.
When I say inevitable, it was always going to happen after Mikel Arteta put the PGMOL on notice that Arsenal were owed two points after conceding an offside equaliser to Brentford the weekend before.
The same happened in reverse, Jorginho’s excellent strike, while completely free on the edge of the box, hit the bar and rebounded off Emi Martinez’s head for the crucial goal.
Unlucky Villa again, until the first replays came out. Not one, but two Arsenal players, offside in the keeper’s line of sight. Was it chalked off to give Mr Arteta another petulant hissy fit? Of course not, enjoy the two points refund Arsenal.
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Emi Martinez had an ugly game, and not far behind was Villa manager Unai Emery.
If the Argentine leaves Villa in the summer, this game could be remembered as an ugly point of no return.
To begin with, Martinez had a pretty poor game by his high standards. There’s an argument he should have called for the first ball, before Mings headed it to Saka.
He should also not be getting beat at his near post from Zinchenko, whether Watkins was slow to close the shot down or not.
Then there was his quite abysmal distribution on the day (46.% passing completion). Three passes in a row went out for a throw-in instead of finding Alex Moreno.
After Arsenal took the lead, nobody batted an eyelid at Martinez going up for a corner as a last chance to grab an unlikely equaliser. Nobody that is except Unai Emery.
Emery claimed that he hadn’t given instructions for Martinez to go up and it was his decision, telling Talksport;
”He decided in the last action to go to the corner offensively, but I don’t like it. But I told him nothing, before or after because in all my career I have never told our goalkeepers to do it and the statistical data is going against the teams that are going with the goalkeeper more than scoring any goals.”
The problem is when you point the finger, fingers tend to be pointed back. If this was the case, why was it not made clear to Martinez beforehand? Other interviews with the BBC and BT Sport show Emery saying that he has now told Martinez this.
This situation has the potential to turn ugly for both parties. Emery has enjoyed a prolonged honeymoon period due to impressive results, but this loss put him one point worse off than Steven Gerrard was after his first ten games.
By calling out Martinez who has credit in the bank with Villa fans, he could find himself in the same situation that Gerrard was in with his treatment of Tyrone Mings.
This distraction needs to be put aside before the trip to Everton, where he will take on Sean Dyche, who was mooted for the Villa job by some. A good result will help put this unnecessary and ugly outburst behind both Emery and Martinez.