On Sunday night Aston Villa comfortably dispatched of a lacklustre Arsenal 3 – 0. This was largely down to Villa’s creative duo of Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley. The pair ran riot all night long, causing Mikel Arteta’s side no end of problems.
These problems were evident from the first minute, as Grealish’s good work down the left flank teed up John McGinn to fire home what he thought was the opening goal after just 45 seconds, until VAR ruled it out for a questionable offside.
This early setback didn’t deter the away side though, as they found a breakthrough after 25 minutes. A Barkley and Grealish give-and-go gave the Chelsea loanee acres of space to pick a pass, as eight Arsenal players sat deep behind the ball.
As half of the Arsenal backline stepped up, the other half stayed stagnant, allowing Matt Targett to drift in behind Héctor Bellerín, Willian and Calum Chambers. Barkley played him in, and Targett put a teasing ball across the box, begging to be converted, to which Bukayo Saka duly obliged to score an own goal and give Dean Smith’s men the lead.
Villa remained dominant for the next 50 or so minutes until they doubled their lead, courtesy of Ollie Watkins. For the second goal, Douglas Luiz picked up the ball with no Arsenal player within 10 yards of him, and immediately looked for a pass to a runner in behind. As you can see below, Barkley has already started his making his run, and he collected Luiz’s well-hit pass perfectly.
Barkley put a cross in with his first touch, that was met perfectly by Watkins who had got goal-side of Kieran Tierney. With 3x as many red shirts in the box than black ones, praise has got to go to Villa for showing the same cutting that they showed in the 7 – 2 win over Liverpool, and also for recruiting the players who are able to finish off the chances that last season, they might have struggled with.
Late into the game, Arsenal threw men forward to try and salvage something from the game, they were left vulnerable to the counter-attack. An attacking opportunity was cleared by Villa, and collected by Grealish deep inside his own half. He showed the pace the get the better of Bellerín and complete a lung-busting dribble as far as the edge of Bernd Leno’s penalty area.
As three Arsenal players swarmed around Grealish in an attempt to dispossess him, this left Barkley free on the right in a great goalscoring opportunity. However, Grealish decided to play in Ollie Watkins, also in dangerous position away from Gabriel, as the Brazilian tried in vain to cover both Villa threats. Watkins powered his strike home to get Grealish his deserved assist, put the visitors three goals to the good, and the game to rest.
This Aston Villa performance was the perfect way to respond to recent defeats against Leeds United and Southampton, meanwhile Arsenal’s three game winning streak came to an alarming end.