Arsenal clinched an important victory away to Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday, with Bukayo Saka’s goal the difference-maker.
After a narrow yet comfortable victory over Aston Villa, Arsenal got their quest to finish in the top four back on track. The Gunners put in a solid display and never allowed the Villans to get control of the game.
The Gunners were the team with intent early in the game and had a chance to open the scoring in the third minute. Emile Smith Rowe had plenty of time and space in the box, but the 21-year-old blasted his effort high. Arsenal kept up the pressure and soon found the net through Bukayo Saka, who took his shot with a host of players in front of him.
Those players blocked Emiliano Martinez’s view of the ball, and the former Arsenal goalkeeper was helpless in the end to prevent a tame shot from outside the box from Saka. Although they never allowed the home side a whiff at their goal, the Gunners failed to take advantage of Villa’s overall sloppiness.
It took 60 minutes for Aston Villa to muster their first shot of the game, and 96 to force Bernd Leno into a save. Deep in extra time, Nicolas Pepe conceded a needless free-kick to give the home side a late chance, and Philippe Coutinho struck his shot well, only for the German goalkeeper to keep it out.
Arsenal have won five consecutive Premier League away games for the first time since May 2015:
✅ 1-4 vs Leeds
✅ 0-5 vs Norwich
✅ 0-1 vs Wolves
✅ 2-3 vs Watford
✅ 0-1 vs Aston Villa
They finished 3rd that season. 👀 pic.twitter.com/hGgaMuynHE
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) March 19, 2022
Arsenal kept hold of their fourth spot on the table, and irrespective of the result of the game between Tottenham and West Ham United, they will remain safely in the Champions League places through the international break. Mikel Arteta will be happy with his team’s response after the loss to Liverpool.
Emiliano Martinez: 6/10
It is safe to say Martinez was not troubled too much after Bukayo Saka scored the opener, although he did make a brilliant save to deny Ezri Konsa’s potential own goal.
Matty Cash: 5/10
Matty Cash never got used to the game’s rhythm, as Arsenal kept the left side busy. He kept good control over Emile Smith Rowe’s movements and restricted the Arsenal attacker’s output to the bare minimum.
Ezri Konsa: 5/10
Konsa might have failed to convince Gerrard to persist with him at the heart of the Aston Villa defence ahead of Calum Chambers after an average performance against Arsenal. He almost gave away an own goal early in the game, only for Martinez to save his blushes.
Only two sides have stopped Aston Villa having a shot in the first half of a Premier League game at Villa Park since the start of the 2016/17 season:
◉ Tottenham (2020/21)
◉ Arsenal (2021/22)
It’s a North London thing. 😀 pic.twitter.com/yRbJ7GIenq
— Squawka (@Squawka) March 19, 2022
Tyrone Mings: 6/10
Mings kept Lacazette quiet all afternoon, but his early yellow card after a challenge on Saka might have curtailed his energy and aggression, which might have been useful later in the game.
Ashley Young: 6/10
Despite his struggles against the formidable Saka, the veteran did prove to be a good outlet on his flank. He delivered a dangerous cross into the box on one occasion, only for Gabriel to clear it.
John McGinn: 6/10
McGinn put in his usual hard-working shift in the middle of the park, and it is a shame his good deliveries were never utilised by Aston Villa’s attackers well. He kept his energy levels high, only to see his team fail to make their mark in the game.
Douglas Luiz: 6.5/10
Luiz kept things ticking in midfield, despite being under tremendous pressure from Xhaka and Partey for most parts of the game. Yet, the Brazilian was composed on the ball, although he could be considered a passenger in the match.
Jacob Ramsey: 4/10
Ramsey gave the ball away cheaply too many times as the youngster never got any real control of the game. Fortunately, none of those mishaps created problems for Villa, but he was clearly out of sorts here.
Philippe Coutinho: 4/10
These are games meant for Coutinho to influence the proceedings, but the Brazilian had an underwhelming time on the pitch. He could not have any impact whatsoever against Arsenal.
Emiliano Buendia: 4/10
Many Arsenal fans are now convinced the club made the right decision not to pursue Buendia when he was considered a viable target. The Argentine had no impact whatsoever, as the Gunners’ defence nullified his threat to perfection.
Ollie Watkins: 5/10
Watkins ran around and provided a good physical presence against Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White. But the Arsenal central defensive duo had him under control for the most part. The striker barely had any say in the game, and he faded with time.
Leon Bailey: 5/10
Bailey made a good early impact after coming on. But like the entire team, he fizzed away as time went by.
Bertrand Traore: 5/10
Traore combined well initially with Bailey after coming on together. But following that period, he barely had a say in the game.
Danny Ings: N/A
Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Bernd Leno: 7/10
A good game under his belt, given he has not played in the Premier League since August. Leno was barely tested until the 96th minute, although his presence of mind in the box was a positive trait and useful in sniffing out dangerous balls.
— Bernd Leno (@Bernd_Leno) March 19, 2022
Cedric Soares: 7.5/10
Cedric put in yet another solid performance at right-back, as he nullified the threat posed by Buendia. The Portuguese international was always a ready outlet on the right side, combining well with Saka and Martin Odegaard on his flank, while his work in tight spaces deserves admiration.
Ben White: 9/10
A performance worthy of an England callup, as White kept a tight lid on the Aston Villa attack. The home side constantly targetted the defender for his supposed lack of aerial ability, but White dominated the area with total authority.
Gabriel Magalhaes: 8/10
Arsenal’s defenders were on their A-game, and Gabriel was a brilliant outlet when on the ball. Nothing went past him in the air, and he never gave the Aston Villa attackers an inch of space to operate with.
Kieran Tierney: 8/10
Tierney was on Matty Cash’s case and killed off any possible impact from the Aston Villa full-back. He held his line well, as that side was focused more on containing the threat posed by Cash and Coutinho, which limited his offensive contribution.
Thomas Partey: 9/10
Thomas Partey’s game by numbers vs. Aston Villa:
88% pass accuracy
9x possession won
9 final third entries
5 duels won
3 take-ons attempted
2 take-ons completed
1 chance created
1 shot on target
Another superb performance. 👏 pic.twitter.com/bm9AlZ4vqC
— Squawka (@Squawka) March 19, 2022
Partey continued his excellent form, as he dominated the central areas with his quality. Despite playing progressive passes into the attacking third, the Ghanaian never appeared at risk of losing the ball.
Granit Xhaka: 8/10
Xhaka is growing into his new role, and Saturday’s game showed further progress. The Swiss midfielder worked well in tight spaces and proved key in some neat build-up play. He got himself booked, but the refereeing decision was widely criticised.
Bukayo Saka: 8/10
Saka was sensational again when it mattered, as the winger threatened the Aston Villa defence with his trickery and constant entries into the final third. He got the game-winning goal in the first half, as he shot through a barrage of players and beyond Martinez to give his team the lead.
2,000 – Bukayo Saka’s opener was Arsenal’s 2,000th goal in the Premier League with the Gunners becoming the third side to reach this milestone after Man Utd (currently 2176 goals) and Liverpool (currently 2002 goals). Landmark. pic.twitter.com/WX1n2TaPkc
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 19, 2022
Martin Odegaard: 8/10
Odegaard’s partnership with Saka was not as prosperous as in some previous games, as Aston Villa targetted Arsenal’s right side the most. Yet, the Norwegian playmaker found space and teammates to operate well, creating plenty of trouble for the Villa backline.
Alexandre Lacazette: 5.5/10
The Aston Villa defenders understood how Lacazette could affect the game and nullified his presence to the best of their abilities. The Frenchman’s play was limited, and there was one moment when he had the chance to present Odegaard with a one-on-one opportunity with Martinez, only for him to have his shot blocked.
Emile Smith-Rowe: 7/10
Smith Rowe kept popping up in the right places and got some shots on goal. He missed a brilliant chance early in the game to score the opener, firing his shot high. With his side’s focus shifting towards defending, the attacker had a limited impact in the final third.
Nicolas Pepe: 5.5/10
Pepe did well by making himself an outlet to receive long balls, as Arsenal looked to clear things away from their defensive third.
Eddie Nketiah: 5/10
He did not have much impact, although he missed a decent scoring chance as he slipped while receiving the ball in a promising area.
Rob Holding: 5/10
Holding was sent on to see the game out and did his job in the final minutes.