Arsenal played out a dire defeat to Aston Villa on Tuesday night, with Mikel Arteta’s heavy rotation giving the team too many problems.
Arteta didn’t have much choice but to rotate, after consecutive games against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City. Certain players needed rests, whilst others picked up injuries, notably Shkodran Mustafi.
As a result, Eddie Nketiah, Cedric Soares, Lucas Torreira, Bukayo Saka, Rob Holding and Sead Kolasinac came into the side. Sadly but unsurprisingly, switching out over half the team really disrupted their rhythm.
When Villa took a first-half lead from a set-piece, Arsenal’s job got even more difficult. Whilst the hosts came into the game needing a win, at least that left some potential for open spaces at the back. Once they had a lead to defend, it was a different story.
In the end, Arsenal never looked likely to even equalise, let alone win the game. The result leaves them relying on the FA Cup for any hope of a Europa League spot, with only 8th and the chance to relegate Watford to play for on the final day.
Let’s have a look at our Arsenal player ratings for the Villa match.
- Emi Martinez 6 – Had no chance with the goal, as Cedric didn’t do enough to cover the near post. Made two good saves, but was out of position for a late Villa chance they missed. Didn’t misplace any of his passes, but that wasn’t hard in the circumstances.
- Rob Holding 5 – Not a bad performance defensively, making a team-high six clearances and winning three of his four aerial duels. He struggled in possession, completing a high percentage of passes but very few with any real intent.
- David Luiz 5 – Played the opening hour and a few really nice forward passes. Probably needed a rest.
- Sead Kolasinac 4 – Surprisingly good in the air, but still very much out of his depth at centre-back. He looks clumsy and nervous passing around the back, and you can tell the others are hesitant to pass to him as a result.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
- Cedric Soares 4.5 – Doesn’t seem to have realised that most of Arsenal’s forwards can’t head the ball, so spamming crosses all game doesn’t add a lot. One of his crosses did find Saka (via a deflection), who could’ve done better. Didn’t close down the Villa goalscorer well enough.
- Dani Ceballos 5 – Saw an absolute tonne of the ball, with 12.2% of the possession on his own. Which just makes it even more disappointing how little he did with it. Created one chance, from a corner, that Torreira volley from outside the box. He needs Xhaka alongside him in this system.
- Lucas Torreira 4 – Didn’t offer anything to the team in possession, picked up a yellow that guaranteed his half-time substitution.
- Bukayo Saka 4.5 – Wasted that one chance from Cedric in the box, put a couple of decent crosses in. The team kept misplacing passes to him in the first half, which may have been partly because he was working with Torreira and Kolasinac.
- Eddie Nketiah 5.5 – Had Arsenal’s best chance of the match, a header that hit the post. Also created a good opportunity for Aubameyang, via a deflection. Still, the experiment playing him at right-wing didn’t work out for the most part.
- Alexandre Lacazette 5 – Dispossessed a lot, at least twice more than anyone else on either team. No shots, or even any chances to shoot. Decent in the air.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 5 – Excluding the Nketiah header, Arsenal’s other best chance was when Aubameyang got in behind and cut back to find Lacazette or Nketiah. However, his bizarre chipped ball was impossible for either to get on the end of. Needed to do better with a couple of shots, but had little to work with, in fairness.
- Granit Xhaka 6 – Arsenal needed him to come on and his passing was at its usual good standard, but he ended up basically playing left-back and had little chance to change the result.
- Nicolas Pepe 7 – Created the only two chances Arsenal had after the 60th minute, and the only good chance of the game with his corner for Nketiah to hit the post. This despite the fact he was essentially playing at wing-back. Needs to start back in the front three again at the weekend and in the final.
- Kieran Tierney 6 – The third of the three substitutes who is a nailed-on starter for the cup final, if fit. Made the defence’s sole tackle of the match (yes, I’m being serious). Tried to get around the outside and get crosses in, with limited success.
- Joe Willock N/A – Nothing really to say here, he was only on the pitch for a short period of time and didn’t do much.