Aston Villa turned to an increasingly familiar formula Tuesday night — a set-piece goal and strong defending — to defeat Arsenal 1–0 and move out of the Premier League’s bottom three in its penultimate matchweek.
The Claret and Blues got that goal from the same connection that worked nine days prior at Villa Park: Conor Hourihane’s corner evaded the Arsenal defenders — via a slight touch off Tyrone Mings’ head — and found an unmarked Trézéguet on the back side of the box. And just like he did against Crystal Palace, the Egyptian winger certainly did not miss, rifling a strike past Emi Martínez to give Villa the lead inside the first half hour.
While that one goal didn’t settle anyone’s nerves, it was by default enough to see out the win: Arsenal finished the match without a shot on target.
By and large, Villa ceded possession to the Gunners, happy to mine set pieces and absorb pressure, something they worked to perfection. Arsenal’s only real chance in the match came during its most open phase, just after the 75th minute.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Villa missed a great chance to make it 2–0. Jack Grealish dribbled a defender on the left flank to launch a promising counter-attack, and played a great ball through for substitute Keinan Davis. The Villa striker had a defender on his hip, and while he beat Martínez, he couldn’t beat the far post — the shot slipped wide, conjuring images of Goodison Park five days prior.
It nearly happened immediately. Down at the other end, Arsenal won a corner, and when Eddie Nketiah beat Tyrone Mings to the ball and headed it toward the far post, it looked like Villa would immediately be punished for their wastefulness.
The ball hit the post and… somehow… ricocheted back into Pepe Reina’s hands.
It was the break Villa needed — and have far too often failed to get — to secure all three points.
Villa now sit 17th, in the driver’s seat heading into the final day thanks to Manchester City’s 4–0 thrashing of Watford earlier today. Villa’s edge on Watford is by a single goal (though they’ll have the edge in goals scored if that ends up level, too), while they sit three points clear of 19th-placed Bournemouth.
Let’s make this simple:
- If Bournemouth win AND Villa and Watford both lose, the Cherries stay up. Otherwise, they go down.
- In any other scenario, Watford must better Villa’s result by at least two goals to survive.
- Villa stay up if neither of those criteria are met — in other words, even a 1–0 Villa win at West Ham United on Sunday forces Watford to win by three at the Emirates.
Let’s do this, y’all. I’ll order the first round.