Player ratings, reaction and analysis as Saka secures decisive victory in top-4 races



Aston Villa 0-1 Arsenal (Saka 30 ′)

Bukayo Saka’s ninth Premier League goal of the season was enough to secure an important 1-0 victory for Arsenal against Aston Villa and Consolidate Gunners’ Champions League charge.

Despite missing both Aaron Ramsdale and Gabriel Martinelli due to a hip injury and illness Arsenal started the match in a much more convincing way, putting Aston Villa deep against their own goal for much of the first half.

The visitors almost went up by a goal after 10 minutes when Eiri Konsinez came through and shot from the left. The ball bounced harmlessly off the post, though. Mikel Arteta’s team got their pressure to pay off in the half hour as Saka scored his 10th goal of the campaign in all tournaments.

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An Arsenal free-kick into Villa’s penalty area was cleared only as far as Saka on the edge of the box, and the winger quickly adjusted his feet before expertly checking a volley that putted into the bottom corner via a fingertip from Emi Martinez, who appeared. to be invisible by it.

Not long after, Saka was greeted by a tough challenge from English international colleague Tyrone Mings, which infuriated his Arsenal team-mates. Despite protests led by captain Alexandre Lacazette, referee Andy Madley decided to show Mings a yellow rather than red card, and after stumbling through to the break, Saka reappeared in the second period.

It was an obvious ambition of Villa to use their ability at attacking on the flanks. 61 minutes into the game, John McGinn had to leave the pitch due to a knee injury. In came Leno. Moments later, Saka had a similar effort for Arsenal that caused Martinez to quickly jump over his goal.

Gradually, Villa began to gain a foothold in the match and they were a few inches from an equalizer when Ollie Watkins’ shot was deflected to the bottom of the post by Kieran Tierney.

Saka may still be feeling the effects of Mings’ sliding challenge, was withdrawn after 68 minutes and had already witnessed a couple of dropouts from his team including Ramsdale, Gareth Southgate will be hoping the 20-year-old will be available for England’s matches towards Switzerland and the Ivory Coast.

Surprisingly given Villa’s lack of attacking spark all the way through, Danny Ings was only called from the bench with 10 minutes left and he almost made the desired result, hitting a header from a McGinn post up on the roof of the net.

It was just as good as it was for Villa, who first recorded their first shot on goal with the final kick of the match as stand-in goalkeeper Bernd Leno palmed Philippe Coutinho’s free kick away.

For Arsenal, it was a victory that extended their advantage over Manchester United by five to four points and their hopes of securing a long awaited return to the Champions League gets further boosted by having a game in hand.

Player ratings

Aston Villa (4-3-3)

  • Martinez – 6
  • Cash – 6
  • Cons – 6
  • Mings – 6
  • Ung – 6
  • McGinn – 6
  • Luiz – 6
  • Ramsey – 5
  • Buendia – 5
  • Coutinho – 5
  • Watkins – 6

Subs:

  • Bailey – 6
  • Traore – 6
  • Ings – 6

Arsenal (4-3-3)

  • Leno – 6
  • Cedric – 7
  • White – 8
  • Gabriel – 7
  • Tierney – 7
  • Fest – 8
  • Odegaard – 6
  • Xhaka – 7
  • Saka – 8
  • Smith Rowe – 6
  • Lacazette – 6

Subs:

  • Pepe – 6
  • Nketiah – 6
  • Holding – 6



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