Arsenal dug deep on their own turf to seal a late victory over Aston Villa, with Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang emerging as the stars of the show.
Arsenal’s game at the Emirates against Aston Villa was nothing short of a thriller. The Gunners had to twice come from behind with ten men to defeat newly-promoted side. Matteo Guendouzi emerged as Arsenal’s shining star, although it was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who stole all three points, courtesy of his late free-kick.
Arsenal started on the front foot with Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pepe and Aubameyang getting chances on their end to score. But without making any inwards movement, Aston Villa took the lead out of nowhere. Things compounded when right-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles was booked for a second time for his challenge and subsequently shown a red card, reducing Arsenal to a man short.
The Gunners made amends when Guendouzi won a penalty early in the second half, which Pepe converted for his first Arsenal goal. Villa, courtesy of more sloppy defence from Arsenal, retook the lead through Wesley.
But then, Arsenal pressured Villa into conceding and Calum Chambers finished expertly late on, before Aubameyang’s brilliant free-kick settled matters and grabbed all three points. Here’s how we rated Unai Emery’s men.
Bernd Leno: 6.5/10
Leno was not spectacular but wasn’t on the wrong side either. Made sure his routine saves were fine and commanded over the area well. Cannot be blamed for either of the goals, as he was left exposed yet again by a shambolic defence in front of him.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 3/10
Maitland-Niles’ evening went from bad to worse with a second bookable offence. Not to say he was playing any good before the sending off, but a challenge like that, with the boots facing up, he had to go.
There has to be some solution to the central defensive woes. Sokratis looks so different a player from last season and is uncomfortable playing out from the back. So, why is Unai Emery so hell-bent on playing him? His partnership with David Luiz is not showing any signs of improvements. The lost battle with Wesley and allowing Jack Grealish to charge for the second goal showed that.
David Luiz: 3/10
Another shambolic performance from Luiz. He should be held responsible for both the goals. For the first, he did not track John McGinn’s run and position. He was responsible for the second after failing to keep track of Wesley, who just eased into the area to slot home his goal. One of the centre-backs have to be dropped. But which one?
Sead Kolasinac: 6/10
Kolasinac was the best of the Arsenal defence. Worked hard and got into promising positions from the left side. However, he is not making those killer cut-backs or passes into the box like last season and that is a worry. Defensively he was decent, making some crucial challenges, but he was also to be partly 2blamed for the first goal, after failing to cover the far post.
Matteo Guendouzi: 8/10
Can Arsenal start looking up to Guendouzi when they need a fightback? The midfielder was yet again the star of the show, as he was the driving force behind Arsenal’s comeback win. More importantly, he made amends for his part in Villa’s first goal by winning the penalty. He then provided the cross to help Chambers score the second. Terrific from the 20-year-old Frenchman.
Granit Xhaka: 3.5/10
It could be time to drop Granit Xhaka to the bench and build the Arsenal midfield without a player who was slow, without ideas and at times clumsy. Watching Villa’s second goal would give us an example of Xhaka’s immobility. Secondly, Arsenal’s energy levels took a boost after he left the pitch.
Dani Ceballos: 5/10
Emery got his selection wrong with Ceballos, as Mesut Ozil would have thrived on the pitch against Villa. Ceballos struggled to impose his ideas on the ball and looked uncomfortable operating from the No. 10 role. Willock, when he replaced the Spaniard, immediately brought visible change.
Nicolas Pepe: 8/10
Much better from Pepe. Got his first Arsenal goal from the penalty spot, worked is sock-off in attack and provided the kind of threat everyone expected him to do. Whenever he had the ball in the right areas, Arsenal looked threatening. Could have even scored before the penalty. His wholehearted support to Aubameyang throughout the game showed signs of a budding partnership.
Bukayo Saka: 6/10
Not a bad first Premier League start for Saka. Despite a lack of support from midfield, Saka ensured he got on to things, with some excellent crosses and a fizzing shot that just went above the crossbar. Made an early chance for Maitland-Niles only for the full-back to blaze it over, and it was the right-back’s red card that forced Emery to sacrifice Saka at half-time.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 7.5/10
During the game, Aubameyang looked off, missed a few presentable chances, and it certainly looked like he was having an bad day. Then, he came with a banger of a free-kick and ensured Arsenal collected all three points from what seemed like an improbable position.
Calum Chambers: 6/10
Well, there are two sides to Chambers’s evening. He was majorly at fault for Villa’s second goal but made amends from what looked like a striker’s finish. Terrific goal and credit to him for working hard after coming on.
Joe Willock: 6/10
Emery got it right with his substitutions on the evening. Willock, upon replacing Ceballos, immediately added some much-needed energy and vision to Arsenal’s attack.
Lucas Torreira: 6/10
It is clear Arsenal need to replace Xhaka with Torreira immediately. The Uruguayan added the required dynamism and energy after coming on. He was vital to Arsenal’s desire and helped them immensely in the incredible comeback.