Villa stun Arsenal as Emery gets one over his former club to dent their title chances

If you asked me six hours ago if Aston Villa could beat Arsenal at the Emirates I would have said no. Despite our league position, Villa have been very unpredictable of late, doing enough to win games without looking as good as they did earlier in the season.

I wasn’t even sure what side Unai Emery would name when he rested many of his big stars in the recent 4-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad.

Given the results this weekend, the result for Villa is massive. Of course, it means nothing if we don’t follow this up with a win at Villa Park next weekend but given Tottenham still have to play Arsenal, it’s quite the statement and we can enjoy it for now.

This one is for you, Unai.

Report: Arsenal 0-2 Aston Villa

Villa made two changes from the side that beat Lille on Thursday night as Nicolò Zaniolo and Moussa Diaby came into the starting line-up for the suspended Douglas Luiz and Leon Bailey who dropped to the bench.

Arsenal made changes of their own from the side that drew with Bayern Munich on Tuesday as Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard came in for Jakub Kiwior, Jorginho and Gabriel Martinelli.

The home side dominated the game early on and manager Mikel Arteta would have expected his side to take one of their chances.

Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka all came close to giving the Gunners the lead but they failed with their final touch.

Throughout the first half, Villa were happy to soak up pressure, breaking on the counter-attack and they could have given themselves the lead when Ollie Watkins jumped on a mixup between Zivchenko and Gabriel but his effort struck the inside of the post.

Arsenal’s best chance of the half fell to Trossard but there is a reason why Emiliano Martínez is the best keeper in the world when he produced a world-class reaction save as the first half ended goalless.

Villa came out a better more confident side after the break as Arsenal struggled to have the same impact. The warnings were there for the home side when Youri Tielemans effort cannoned off the crossbar and the post.

Both managers turned to their bench to try and make an impact on the game and it was Emery’s change that paid off.

Lucas Digne’s cross from the left wing evaded everybody and fell to Bailey who calmly slotted home from close range.

Villa’s stunning win was topped off moments later when Watkins broke free before chipping David Reya in the Arsenal goal to win 0-2.

It was the first defeat of 2024 for Arsenal and the result may have cost them any chance of winning the Premier League.

What the manager said

Emery: “This is a very tough match and we needed to be focusing very well defensively. We wanted to be strong and have high commitment to defence in the first half, and wait for our moment to control the game.

“The first half was more difficult but we tried to dominate with the ball. Second half we competed very well.

“We are not being consistent in every match like I want but today we were fantastic.”

Up Next

Villa are back in action on Thursday night when they meet Lille in the return leg at the Stade Pierre Mauroy.

Arsenal travel to Germany for their second leg against Bayern on Wednesday.


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