Arsenal fought back with 10 men to defeat Aston Villa 3-2 on Sunday, showing a lot of spirit amid all the same problems that have been plaguing the team this season.
With 11 vs 11 in the first half, Arsenal were the worse side. Other than one big chance created in the first few minutes by Bukayo Saka, Villa had the best of the opportunities in front of goal, and John McGinn put one away for 1-0.
The day appeared only set to get worse as Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off for a second yellow and hobbled away from the action.
Arsenal found some resolve in the second half though, particularly through Matteo Guendouzi, who drove at the Villa defence to win a penalty. Nicolas Pepe converted, after being handed the kick by designated taker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Gunners were only level for a minute, with Wesley giving Villa the lead again, but a couple of late goals from substitute Calum Chambers and Aubameyang secured the three points for the hosts.
Let’s have a look at our player ratings for the match.
- Bernd Leno 7.5 – Another seven saves for the goalkeeper as he continues to be much busier than he should be. The keeper also pleased fans by mixing up whether he played the ball short or long, completing 16 of his 23 passes between the two options.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles 3 – I still don’t believe the second yellow should have been a booking, but Maitland-Niles put himself in that position by picking up the first so easily and then sliding in. He also needed to do more with his attacking positions.
- Sokratis Papastathopoulos 5 – Should have been quicker to react to the danger for Villa’s second, and he was involved in a bizarre incident wrestling with Wesley. Otherwise, he had a fairly solid game, particularly in the air.
- David Luiz 4 – Allowed Wesley to run across him and score Villa’s second, and he was caught out for the first as well. His passing continues to be better than anyone else in the back four, as you’d expect, and he fought well at the end.
- Sead Kolasinac 5 – Kolasinac’s performance suffered from the usual problems of a slow final ball and being caught out of position defensively once or twice, but that wasn’t a major issue on the day – despite the 26-year-old running the left-hand side entirely on his own for the second half.
- Matteo Guendouzi 8.5 – Put in an average performance in the first half, and he was partly at fault for the Villa goal. It couldn’t have been more different after the break, as the midfielder was the driving force behind Arsenal’s comeback. He won a penalty, hit the post, played the ball that led to the second goal and battled for every single possession.
- Granit Xhaka 3 – Unlike Watford or Frankfurt, there was little defending Xhaka on this occasion. From a lazy foul to pick up a booking to significant struggles in the individual duels, as well as a lack of energy for a game like this, Xhaka’s 93% pass accuracy couldn’t mask the rest of his performance this time.
- Dani Ceballos 4 – Like Xhaka, Ceballos got walked over by the Villa players. He was dispossessed four times and dribbled past four times, both more than anybody else. That was partly because he kept turning into trouble. The Spaniard did complete all of his passes and make a couple of tackles at least.
- Nicolas Pepe 8 – Created the most chances, completed the most dribbles and took the most shots of any Arsenal player. He also took his penalty confidently, and the hope is that will now lead to one or two from open play at Old Trafford.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 7.5 – Aubameyang’s influence on this game was absolutely pivotal, even if it’s hard to say he really played well for much of it. The striker struggled to get on the ball and bring others into play, but when it mattered he made a bold decision to give Pepe the penalty and then scored a fantastic free-kick of his own.
- Bukayo Saka 7 – Made the only big chance Arsenal had in the first half, and as the rest of the team played poorly his strength and dribbling pushed them forward on a few occasions. Unfortunately, he had to be sacrificed after the red card.
- Calum Chambers 7 – Took his goal very nicely, and filled in at right-back well considering that’s not his position. Admitted afterwards that he was caught out for the second Villa goal, but there were plenty more chances to stop it after his mistake.
- Joe Willock 7 – Won the ball back and played in Aubameyang to earn the free-kick for the winning goal. Willock and Torreira added a huge amount of energy to the midfield, fighting to make something happen in every single possession.
- Lucas Torreira 6.5 – As above, Torreira came onto the pitch raring to go and put everything in to try and complete the comeback. He did get dispossessed a couple of times but only because he was being positive and trying things.