The Villa Report – Aston Villa 2 Arsenal 4
In a Word
Rollercoaster: ‘A feeling, situation, or experience that changes very quickly.’
The Carter Report
By Rob Carter
After consecutive defeats to Leicester City and Manchester City, Villa faced 2nd placed Arsenal, themselves licking their wounds after a humbling home defeat to City in midweek.
Unai Emery made five changes to last weekend’s line up, with Tyrone Mings, Matty Cash, Alex Moreno, Phillippe Coutinho and John McGinn coming into the starting XI at the expense of Calum Chambers, Ashley Young, Lucas Digne, Jacob Ramsey, and Leon Bailey.
The pyrotechnics were on display before kick-off, and it didn’t take long for Ollie Watkins to light up Villa Park with a superb finish, catching Arsenal cold. Villa looked sharp in the opening stages, in complete contrast to what we saw at the Etihad last weekend.
Arsenal grew back into the game and equalised 11 minutes later, with Bukayo Saka capitalising on a weak and misplaced Mings cushioned header. Despite some impressive and slick interplay from the visitors, Villa did not look overawed and deservedly went ahead again courtesy of a cool finish from Countino, rounding off a flowing move involving a lovely dummy from Emi Buendia.
Despite the encouraging first 45 minutes, at half-time there was nervousness in the lower Holte concourse, and that was before anyone had tried to use the new automated food and beverage facilities.
The game continued to ebb and flow at the start of the second half, with Villa coping with Arsenal’s possession-based play, until the ghost of Stevenage reared its ugly head, with Oleksander Zinchenko being given far too much time and space to fire past Emi Martinez at the near post after a short corner routine. It does beg the question as to why Premier League footballers cannot learn lessons from previous mistakes. Once is perhaps forgivable, but twice? Arsenal had been taking short corners all afternoon, and Villa for some reason didn’t realise the danger until it was too late. These are basic things.
Emery reacted by making a change, bringing on Ramsey for a tiring Coutinho, shortly followed by Bailey for Buendia and Leander Dendoncker for Douglas Luiz. Jhon Duran followed, on for Watkins.
The game felt like there would be a winner, and Bailey came so close to providing it, bringing the ball out of the sky and driving in towards the Holte before unleashing a rocket which Ramsdale somehow managed to tip onto the crossbar. The Jamaican often looks more dangerous when coming on off the bench, and so it was proving again, with Arsenal struggling to cope with him.
And then, heartbreak.
A sustained period of Arsenal pressure culminated in Jorginho smashing a first time shot from the edge of the box against the crossbar, cruelly coming back off Martinez’s head and nestling in the net.
Martinez’s decision to come up for a late corner, subsequently punished by a runaway goal from Gabriel Martinelli with the last kick of the game, seemed to make many of the post-match headlines, with Emery apparently not involved in the decision.
Despite another four goals conceded, Villa were applauded off the pitch by an absolutely devastated claret and blue fanbase.
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Whether you take the positives or concentrate on the negatives depends on what sort of Villa fan you are, but for me, if we can bring in some players who can perfect the art of retaining possession in the most trying of circumstances, the team will benefit hugely. There seems to be no problem in scoring goals, but that can only take you so far when each game is littered with defensive errors.
Coutinho’s performance in the first half justified his start, and Boubacar Kamara again showed in spells that he will become a major player for the club.
Ollie Watkins was a threat for every one of the 78 minutes he was on the pitch, and long may that continue. Duran did his best to score when he came on, forcing Ramsdale into a save, and did a good job in winding up the Arsenal defence. He’s going to be fun to watch.
As Ronan Keating once said, life is a rollercoaster, you’ve just gotta ride it. Let’s hope that the next time we exit the ride, we don’t feel as sick.
Carter Match Value – £26
Good value but with a sting in the tail. Like getting the bill in a restaurant and finding out you’ve been charged for the bread.
The value is out of £35.53 per game cost of a £675 Season Ticket