After the disappointment in midweek against West Ham and little to no break before this game, fans went into this early kick-off feeling slightly skeptical.
Dean Smith decided to return to the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation and opted for a more defensive approach, starting Marvelous Nakamba in place of Douglas Luiz in the holding midfielder role.
A decision that worked well for Villa as they managed to grind out a well needed 1-0 win.
This game had a hint of déjà vu to it, with large similarities to the 1-0 against Southampton.
In both games, Villa had only 18 minutes of pure possession, with the average duration of 10 seconds.
Whilst this makes for stressful viewing for fans, it is promising to watch a Villa side that is capable of defending a 1-0 lead like this, which in previous years, has not been the case.
Ollie Watkins continued his fine goal scoring form, with his 10th Premier League goal of the season.
In recent games, his first touch, hold up play, and finishing have all been on display.
In games such as this, it shows why Villa paid so much for him.
He applied a team high 22 pressures this game and is a key reason as to how Villa are able to win games such as these.
With reduced possession, comes reduced opportunity.
However, Watkins remains active in all games and could be perceived to have been unlucky not to add to his tally further.
Arsenal dominated possession in this game with 63%, but failed to cut out any clear scoring opportunities. With an expected goals tally of 0.87 xG to Villa’s 1.14 xG.
This was a testament to the once again, solid Villa back-line.
With a special mention to Tyrone Mings, who in recent weeks, received criticism for his performances (i.e., Defeat to Manchester City).
His six clearances, two blocked shots, and 83% success rate in his aerial duels were integral in ensuring Villa kept their 11th clean sheet of the season.
Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was seemingly quiet in this game by his standards.
Although, upon review of statistics it outlines just how much he offers to this squad.
With four chances created, 81.5% pass accuracy, four key passes, eight ground duels won, and three aerial duels won, he was very active.
These are aspects of Grealish’s game he perhaps doesn’t get enough credit for.
He offers a lot more than just goals and assists.
His game management and defensive efforts for the team are also world class.
As shown here, Villa’s most threatening area was through the middle with 0.58 xG.
As usual, the left side was preferred with 17 attacks occurring here, but with only 0.39 xG stemming from there, it was clear it was Arsenal’s game plan to stunt this side of the pitch for Villa; a similar tactic that was also implemented by West Ham.
After five games in quick succession, the squad will welcome a well-deserved seven day break before they face Brighton on Saturday.
A rested squad will hopefully see the return of the fast, free flowing football Villa fans have been used to all season.
However, in the absence of this, it is enjoyable to watch such high-quality defensive performances such as the Southampton and Arsenal games.