47 seconds into the match it seemed John McGinn had done just that smashing the ball into the net. But Mr. VAR disagreed. The goal was taken away for Ross Barkley being offside (which he was) and in the line of the keeper despite John McGinn hitting the shot no where near Barkley. The keeper had zero chance to save the shot. But this is the modern football game. Mr. VAR runs the show.
Just short of the 10 minute mark it was John McGinn creating a chance for Arsenal this time. He left a back pass short of Martinez but thankfully the former Arsenal keeper was quick enough to keep the match scoreless.
Arsenal grew into the game after the McGinn mistake, helped by poor passes from Aston Villa. Just short of the 25’ mark Villa had some good possession down the left. Barkley, Grealish and Targett slowed the play down and passed it between them to create some space. In the end, Targett put a lovely cross to the far post and Trezeguet was there to slot it home. After a few replays, turned out Saka put it in his own net ahead of the Egyptian winger. No blame for Saka really because if he didn’t get a touch to it — Trezeguet would have.
Villa played better after taking the lead. McGinn created the best chance with a wonderful ball over the defensive line to Grealish in the box. Jack settled the ball but a defender moved across to block the shot. Arsenal had their chances too. Lacazette was open in the box but he couldn’t keep a far post header down. But in the end the first half ended in the driving rain with Villa up by the one goal.
Arsenal made one change at the break — Partey off, Ceballos on. No changes for Villa.
Aston Villa were the better team for the opening 15’ minute period but couldn’t get on the scoresheet. Grealish had a tight angle shot saved by Leno. Then the captain hit a perfect volley from a corner that Kieran Tierney blocked (and likely will have the bruise to show for it).
Double sub for Arsenal in the 65’. Willian off for Pepe. Lacazette off for Nketiah. Arsenal use all three subs before Villa use any. After the subs the hosts were the better team Pepe offered Arsenal quite a bit going forward.
But it was the Villa who found the back of the net next. A Barkley corner was cleared by the first man. The ball was rotated to Douglas Luiz who sent a ball in to the far post. Ross Barkley hit it first time back across the goal and it was big Ollie Watkins with a diving header making it 0-2.
Right after the Arsenal kickoff Villa could have made it three but a Grealish shot was saved off the line by a defender.
Villa supporters didn’t have to actually wait long for the third though. Only a few minutes later, former Arsenal man Emi Martinez rolled the ball to Jack Grealish to start a counter attack. Jack ran with the ball for about 60 yards and found Watkins sprinting into the box. Big Ollie made no mistake, making it 0-3 to the good.
Then I took a breath for the first time since the subs were made by Arsenal.
Villa finally make their first sub in 88 minute. The usual winger switch — Trezeguet off, El Ghazi on.
In the end — Villa saw it out. Special shout-outs for Barkley, Grealish and Watkins for me. Also Emi Martinez for keeping a clean sheet back at Arsenal. Sure he didn’t really have anything to do — but that still must feel great. Also he started the attack leading to the third goal, give him a hockey assist for that. That takes nothing away from the rest of the players either. It was a really class performance and a well deserved three points away at Arsenal.