Debutant Mat Ryan was the only positive as Arsenal suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday.
Arsenal could not have made a more horrific start to the game, as Ollie Watkins broke the deadlock just 74 seconds in, with Bertrand Traore supplying the final ball. Thereafter, the chances came few and far between, with neither goalkeeper really tested a great deal apart from the odd save. Post the interval, though, both sides would go on to show more urgency.
However, it was Mat Ryan, on debut for Arsenal, who was the busier of the two shot-stoppers, with Emi Martinez’s more crucial stop being in the first half from Granit Xhaka’s free-kick. In the end, Arsenal did not have many ideas in the final third, as Aston Villa held on to eke out a narrow 1-0 win. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Mikel Arteta’s men.
Mat Ryan: 8/10
Making his debut for Arsenal, Ryan did not have the best of initiations as he conceded just 74 seconds into his Gunners bow. Ryan, though, was a big reason why Arsenal did not lose this game by a bigger margin, making a string of impressive saves to deny the likes of Ollie Watkins, Bertrand Traore and Jack Grealish, among others. Did not deserve to end up on the losing side.
Hector Bellerin: 5.5/10
The best of the lot among the Arsenal defenders, although that does not really tell much. Having said that, Bellerin produced better output in the final third, linking up smartly with Bukayo Saka while also delivering a key pass. There were a few sloppy moments on the ball, though, and he did not have a gala time against the tricky Grealish.
Rob Holding: 5/10
The man who has been ever-present in the Arsenal defence, Holding has also been their most solid defender. This time around, though, the Englishman was a nervous wreck on several occasions, with Grealish, Traore and Watkins deriving a lot of joy up against him. Bailed out by Ryan behind him so many times and needs to do better next weekend in what will be another tricky test against Leeds.
Gabriel Magalhaes: 5/10
With David Luiz suspended, Gabriel got a chance to impress. However, the Brazilian was sucked out of position, which allowed Watkins to pop into space to score the match-winning goal. Having said that, he did improve as the game wore on, getting some much-needed game-time under his belt.
Cedric Soares: 4/10
With Kieran Tierney still unavailable, Cedric got the opportunity to play as the left-back again. But, as was the case against Wolves, the Portuguese international failed to impress and was one of those culpable for the early goal that Arsenal let in. There were a few other nervy moments up against Traore, but he was largely solid. Did little of note going forward and lost the ball cheaply as well.
Thomas Partey: 6/10
An exasperating outing that ended with even more frustration for Partey. While the Ghanaian did always look to make quick transitions and hardly ever lost the ball, his decision-making was a bit awry at times. Went off injured in the 74th minute and Arteta will be desperately hoping that it is not too serious.
Granit Xhaka: 6/10
One of those who bordered on being impressive. Xhaka, though, did not make the best of starts to the game as he failed to move the ball forward quickly in the opening 45 minutes. Post the break, the former Arsenal captain was more purposeful in his display and even played a couple of key passes. Came the closest to scoring for the Gunners, having been denied by a fine save by Emiliano Martinez.
Bukayo Saka: 6/10
Aston Villa players anytime that Saka gets the ball. pic.twitter.com/yyx4dtqtKG
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) February 6, 2021
As ever, Saka was a bright spark out on the flanks for Arsenal and constantly looked to make things happen, delivering a team-high 3 key passes. His crosses did not always reach the intended target, but he was the best source of creativity for the Gunners. Clipped countless times by the Aston Villa defenders on what turned out to be a rough afternoon for him.
Emile Smith Rowe: 6/10
There never was a lack of effort from Smith Rowe, as is always the case. However, this was another game in which the young playmaker did not really get a chance to showcase his abilities as well as he potentially can. Still managed to create one chance while retaining a passing rate of 93 percent. Put in the hard yards off the ball as well, winning 4 duels while attempting to press high up.
Nicolas Pepe: 5/10
He might not have a goal or an assist to show for his efforts, but Pepe was a menace at times for the Aston Villa defence with his movement and runs in behind Matty Cash. Came close to scoring on a couple of occasions, but the end product was elusive on the day. Needs to do better despite the threat he carried.
Alexandre Lacazette: 5/10
An afternoon to forget for Lacazette. While he did create one half-chance, he did not really link up with the likes of Saka, Smith Rowe and Pepe and well as he would have liked. Never really got into scoring positions, with the Aston Villa defenders keeping him at bay.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 5/10
Sent on in place of Lacazette, Aubameyang, who was the Player to Watch in our preview, hardly got a touch on the ball, with the resilient Aston Villa defence keeping him isolated. Arsenal need their captain back at his menacing best.
Martin Odegaard: 6/10
On for Cedric Soares, Odegaard provided an injection of energy and showed some neat touches on the ball. Misplaced just one of the 25 passes he attempted, but output in front of goal was poor.
Listless. Created little of note.