Arsenal tightened their grip on fourth in the Premier League as Bukayo Saka’s first-half strike was enough to secure a 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.
Mikel Arteta’s side dominated possession and chances for the first half of the game and earned their reward in the 30th minute.
A short free-kick from the right was played into the box and, when it fell on dangerman Saka on the edge, he beat Emiliano Martinez with a shot that went through a crowd of defenders.
Villa, who remain ninth in the Premier League with 36 points from 29 games, rallied late as Ollie Watkins’ deflected effort hit the outside of the post after 68 minutes.
Arsenal withstood late pressure to move to 54 points – four clear of fifth-placed Manchester United with a game still in play against their Champions League rivals before the international break.
AstonVilla: Martinez (6), Cash (6), Konsa (6), Mings (5), Young (6), Luiz (6), McGinn (6), Ramsey (5), Coutinho (5), Buendia (7), Watkins (6).
Subtitles: Traore (5), Ings (n/a), Bailey (6).
Arsenal: Leno (7), Tierney (7), White (8), Gabriel (8), Cedric (7), Partey (8), Xhaka (6), Smith Rowe (6), Saka (9), Odegaard (6) , Lacazette (6).
Subtitles: Holding (n/a), Pepe (6), Nketiah (6).
Man of the match: Bukayo Saka.
2000 PL goals for Arsenal
It has been nearly seven years since Arsenal last won five on the rebound on the road – in May 2015, when they would finish third – and Arteta called on his side to maintain a high standard of performance after their four-game winning streak. finished against Liverpool.
The Gunners were without Aaron Ramsdale, with Arteta confirming the goalkeeper’s hip injury will rule him out for ‘a few weeks’ meaning he is set to miss England’s upcoming friendlies against Switzerland and the Coast of ivory.
Danny Ings was benched for Aston Villa as the hosts made three changes. Emi Buendia replaced Ings, with Ollie Watkins playing as a lone striker. Ezri Konsa replaced Calum Chambers while Ashley Young replaced injured Lucas Digne at left-back.
Arsenal were without goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and striker Gabriel Martinelli for the trip to the Midlands. It meant a rare start for Bernd Leno as Emile Smith Rowe played further forward. Takehiro Tomiyasu was not named to the team.
Martin Odegaard, making his 50th appearance for the club, was quickly involved as his clever pass was swept towards goal by Tomas Partey but easily recovered by Emi Martinez.
Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool meant a sixth loss in six games against other members of the current top five, but here they faced a side that also struggled to come out on top when they aspired to higher peaks.
Villa have now lost 10 of 12 games to teams above them in the division this term, so it’s a measure of how far they still have to progress under Steven Gerrard.
Ezri Konsa, on his return to the side, was lucky not to score an own goal as Martinez was vigilant to avoid his mistake from Saka’s cross – but they weren’t so lucky at the half -hour as Saka continued his excellent away form. pushing Arsenal ahead.
The England international has now been involved in six goals in his last five Premier League away games – and his ninth league strike of the season was instinctive as he ran in on a loose clearance from Emi Buendia to shoot at ground level through the bodies to surprise the blind. Martinez to his right.
It was Arsenal’s 2,000th Premier League goal, and Saka was targeted for the remainder of the first half as Tyrone Mings was lucky to escape with more than one yellow card for catching the in-form winger with his follow-up moments later.
It was a system failure for Gerrard as Arsenal had far too much space. Ashley Young needed help while Philippe Coutinho and Buendia remained anonymous, contributing to Villa having just two touches in their opponents’ box.
Gerrard resisted the temptation to make an immediate change on the restart, but it was only on the hour mark that his players threatened to equalize as John McGinn latched on to an error from Odegaard to folding a shot one yard wide from Bernd Leno’s left. hand post.
Arsenal have always been more fluid in generating chances. Saka’s ball control was fascinating, losing Young to Partey’s pass before stroking another shot just wide. It left the door ajar for Villa to ever believe a chance could be converted – and Leno midway through the second half was beaten when Watkins’ tight turn and strike deflected Kieran Tierney but grazed the outside of the post.
Arsenal had been unable to sideline Villa as Gerrard turned to reinforcements with Bertrand Traore and Leon Bailey brought in, but that failed to pick up the pace.
There was no catchy finish despite a late cameo from Danny Ings and a looping header from the cross from McGinn that rippled the roof of the net as Arsenal held on to get back on their way to the Victoire. In truth, it was a relatively easy day in Second City for Arteta’s men – but their defensive organization given Ramsdale’s absence was commendable. More important tests await us.
Analysis: Big step on the road for Arteta
Ben Grounds from Sky Sports:
It was a sign of where the game was that Rob Holding replaced Martin Odegaard with five minutes left. It’s all about results for Arsenal at this stage of the campaign and there’s no need to entertain. The price is huge if they can finish in the top four after five years out of the Champions League and they have strengthened that position at Villa.
Mikel Arteta needed to be held back by fourth official Martin Atkinson as he continued to point the finger at his players to come back during an attritional second half. After Leno collected a final sparkling free-kick from Coutinho, the final whistle was greeted with elasticity by Arteta as he embraced his assistant Steve Round on the touchline.
The Spaniard is striving to get Arsenal back to where they feel they belong – and here you can feel the significance of this win in one of the most troublesome hurdles left this term.
It was a day off for Villa as Gerrard collapsed in his seat during the closing stages. Arteta never stopped gesticulating. He now has his players in his image – “he knows exactly what we need”, goes the jubilant Arsenal fan song – and while trips to Tottenham and Chelsea are yet to come, there are no more nothing flaky about Arsenal.
Only Arsenal have consistently fielded a starting XI whose average age is under 25 – but they are gaining experience with each passing week. It was another big step for Arteta and for Arsenal.
Man of the Match: Bukayo Saka
Just four Premier League games this weekend, but when there’s such quality going on, who needs quantity?
Saka was full of the joys of spring to accompany the sun to Villa Park, and Young never understood that. Saka had actually suffered two below-par displays against Leicester and Liverpool, but here he went into double digits for the season.
It led to a period of sustained special treatment, but he came out patched up for the second half having missed just two games this season. Tough and already rounded off his game, it’s hard to accept he’s only 20 when you see him playing like this, such a mature footballer who is spearheading Arsenal’s rise.
Arteta opted to take him off in the 69th minute – he didn’t get protection from match officials – as Nicolas Pepe continued the fight, but Saka had already delivered the decisive blow.
He said BT Sports“To win today was huge. To get the result and three points makes us really happy. The goal prepared us; we created a few chances before and after, but this goal put us in control.
“I wasn’t complaining [to the referee], but I wanted to let him know that it was my game. I will chase after the players; sometimes I need a little more protection when the opponent tries to hit me.”
On being more resilient, Saka added: “We are better at it. We have worked on it and we are improving, you can see that. The Champions League is the goal, but we have to stay humble.”
Arsenal’s happy hunting ground – Opta stats
- Arsenal have won 13 Premier League away games against Aston Villa, against no team they have more road wins in the competition (also 13 against West Ham).
- With nine games to play, Aston Villa have suffered as many Premier League defeats this season as they did last campaign (15).
- Arsenal have kept 13 clean sheets in the Premier League this season, their highest in a league campaign since 2017-18 (also 13), last keeping more shutouts in 2015-16 (18).
- Aston Villa have won just one of their last six Premier League games at Villa Park (D2 L3), having won two of their first three home games under Steven Gerrard (L1).
After the international break, Aston Villa return to the Premier League against Wolves at Molineux on Saturday April 2; kick off 3 p.m.
Arsenal visit Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday night football April 4, live on Sky Sports; kick off 8 p.m.