Aston Villa scored a big win in the European football race with a 1-0 victory over Arsenal at Villa Park on Saturday.
Ollie Watkins ‘two-minute goal proved to be decisive, with Bertrand Traore capitalizing on Cedric Soares’ loose pass and feeding the Villa forward, whose first effort found the net via a slight deflection from Rob Holding.
Arsenal arrived at Villa in the second half, but it was Mat Ryan who was the busier of the two goalkeepers, producing a number of fine saves to deny Watkins and Jack Grealish.
Let’s get into some player reviews.
Emiliano Martinez (GK) – 6/10 – Made an acrobatic save to prevent a bound Xhaka free kick at the top corner in the first half, and a decent save to deny Pepe in the second.
Matty Cash (RB) – 7/10 – Produced a big defensive change as Arsenal bombarded the right flank – but Cash stood firm and frustrated the Gunners.
Tyrone Mings (CB) – 8/10 – Made two vital blocks to stop Lacazette from slipping Saka in the first half and to stop Smith Rowe from having a goal-bound effort in the second. A display that oozed authority, Mings was pure Jackie Weaver.
Ezri Konsa (CB) – 7/10 – The villa looked great at the back, with Konsa appearing with some significant interceptions.
Matt Targett (LB) – 8/10 – The entire backline of the Villa was exceptional and Targett embodied that. Stubborn, determined and resilient.
John McGinn (CM) – 7/10 – I saw a scathing effort in the second half well saved by Ryan. Well mopped up at the back and had to make a tireless defensive change in the second half.
Wonderful Nakamba (CM) – 6/10 – Overwhelmed a bit in midfield in the second half but worked his socks on as Villa put the men behind the ball and kept their defensive form well.
Ross Barkley (CAM) – 6/10 – I saw more ball early in the second period and looked dangerous when driving down the Gunners backline. Derivative in and out of the game.
Bertrand Traoré (RW) – 7/10 – Instrumental in the Villa opening, hooking up on Cedric’s sloppy pass, driving forward and picking Watkins. Should have put himself on the scoresheet himself after playing on goal, but his reduced effort was saved.
Ollie Watkins (ST) – 7/10 – Opened the scoring in less than two minutes, folding Traore’s ball back into the net via a punch from Holding. Forced Ryan to make a good save in the second half with a well-hit effort from the distance and turned into a typical, tireless change.
Jack Grealish (LW) – 6/10 – Shot in a more defensive and disciplined performance as he diligently followed and overtook Saka with Targett – slightly to the detriment of his offensive influence in the first half. Advancing more in the second.
Trezeguet – 6/10
Jacob Ramsey – 6/10
Mat Ryan (GK) – 7/10 – Made a number of fine saves to stop Traore in the first half, and Watkins and Grealish in the second.
Hector Bellerin (RB) – 6/10 – Drew a Martinez save with a left-footed curling effort in the second half. Had a good battle with Grealish and did not venture forward as often as usual as he was watching the skipper of Villa.
Rob Holding (CB) – 5/10 – Wasn’t close enough against Watkins as Villa took the lead, the attacker’s effort deviating from Holding.
Gabriel (CB) – 6/10 – Slight miscommunication with Cedric in preparation for the Villa opener – but Gabriel was largely sold short due to his teammate’s rough patch.
Cédric Soares (LB) – 5/10 – Started slowly with his undercut pass to Gabriel recovered by Traore in preparation for Villa’s opener. Replaced just after the hour.
Granite Xhaka (CM) – 7/10 – Almost evened the scores with a terribly slapping free kick in the first half and played a number of smart, deep passes to put Arsenal behind.
Thomas Partey (CM) – 6/10 – Efficient in possession and was more effective in the second half before he was sent off for injury 17 minutes from time.
Emile Smith Rowe (CAM) – 6/10 – Almost slipped on goal in the second half but was dismissed by Mings. Otherwise, drifted in and out of the game – and Arsenal were that much less effective for their lack of impact.
Bukayo Saka (RW) – 6/10 – Seemed to be fouled every time he touched the ball as Villa ganged up on the Arsenal wide man. Moved to the left rear following the introduction of Odegaard.
Alexandre Lacazette (ST) – 5/10 – A fairly calm afternoon, barely had a goal sniff and was substituted just before the hour.
Nicolas Pepe (LW) – 5/10 – Thrown a good chance in the first half and passed another good chance from just over the post in the second.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 5/10
Martin Odegaard 6/10
Willian – 5/10