Published On: Sun, Apr 14th, 2024

Emi Martinez haunts old club as Arsenal squander title advantage against Aston Villa | Football | Sport


Arsenal failed to pounce on Liverpool’s slip up as they were beaten by Aston Villa on a potentially pivotal day in the title race. On an afternoon of frustration for Mikel Arteta, his side lie two points off new leaders Man City after being regularly denied by former keeper Emiliano Martinez, most notably in the first half when he saved from Leandro Trossard from point blank range. For the visitors, who now lie fourth, the golden moments came late, Leon Bailey slotted an angled shot home before Ollie Watkins delightfully chipped over David Raya.

Arsenal’s lack of ‘plan B’ exposed

They started on the front foot, but the display of the hosts had long fallen flat by the time they were hit by two killer blows.

The nervous energy throughout the stadium was apparent as soon as Villa settled and began to marshal Arsenal’s front three of Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka. The assurance and confidence of recent weeks was notably lacking as Arteta failed to produce any kind of back-up plan.

When on the front foot and in control Arsenal are a sight to behold. Today showed that when that notion doesn’t come off, they are prone to running out of ideas.

Watch all the Premier League and Champions League drama unfold on TNT Sports

 

Jesus fails to fire

If the perception remains that Jesus lacks the cutting edge to be considered a world class striker, then the Brazilian did nothing to banish it at the Emirates before being hauled off late on.

As ever, his work rate impressed, but in truth, his all-round play was plagued with inaccuracy. The forward missed three chances during the afternoon, wasted further opportunities in attack by failing to link with teammates, and was regularly caught offside. His midweek confession that he’s currently playing through pain seemed relevant – and on Sky Sports Gary Neville summed his “rusty” display up aptly.

Returning Martinez proves his point

You can’t help but think that had Arteta not opted to offload Emiliano Martinez in September 2020 it would have saved him dubiously pursuing Raya last summer.

Regardless as to whether the 31-year-old felt he had to point to prove, he turned in another display to cement his reputation as one of the world’s leading keepers. And the undoubted highlight of a string of saves came in the 40th minute when from point-blank range, he stuck out a leg to deny Leandro Trossard.

His clean sheet could yet provide Arteta with the cruelest of irony. At the end of the campaign, the Spaniard might just have to reflect on one of his former players influencing a result that cost Arsenal the title.

Arteta’s Jorginho gamble again backfires

It was at a pivotal stage in the title race last season when Mikel Arteta opted to give the composed Jorginho a rest, and a damaging 3-3 home draw with Southampton duly followed.

While the calamitous nature of that display wasn’t repeated against Villa, the Italian’s presence in midfield was missed – belatedly coming on in the 78th minute. In the second half, the Villa duo of Youri Tielemans and John McGinn came increasingly into the contest as the away side got on the front foot. It’s a hectic period for Arteta and co, but squad rotation today did not pay off.

Advantage Emery in Champions League quest

The narrative will be dominated by Arsenal dropping points in the title race, amid an afternoon where the tension of the situation seemed to weigh heavily on the home crowd and players.

But had it stayed 0-0, ex-Arsenal boss Unai Emery would have been wondering how. Watkins fired against the inside of the post in the first half and Tielemans hit bar and post with a spectacular effort in the second. Instead, the Spaniard can reflect on a satisfying league double over the club that discarded him – as well as going three points clear of fifth placed Spurs.



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