Arsenal XI: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Luiz, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Xhaka (72), Guendouzi, Ceballos (72), Pepe, Aubameyang, Saka (45).
Subs: Ozil, Martinez, Chambers (45), Torreira (72), Nelson, Willock (72), Martinelli
In a thrilling match that displayed everything amazing and terrible about the game of football, 10-men Arsenal came from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-2 in a memorable Premier League fixture.
The free-flowing nature of the match against Eintracht Frankfurt seemed to carry over to the Emirates as both sides wasted no time getting after each other’s defence. Aston Villa looked like a team that had waited all week just to get a piece of us, as they followed in the footsteps of Watford who’d managed 31 shots on Sunday.
John McGinn’s shot from outside the box on five minutes didn’t trouble Bernd Leno, but it set the mood as supporters continued to find their seats.
We started to settle down and built several decent moves but our end product was lacking. At the back, Ainsley Maitland-Niles picked up an early yellow; one that would later prove costly.
A deflected Nicolas Pepe shot that Kolasinac headed across goal found Aubameyang but the golden boot winner couldn’t shuffle it out from under his feet and it squirted out for a goal kick.
A few moments later Nicolas Pepe showed why fans have been incredibly excited about the arrival of the Ivorian, while also holding a bit of concern in the back of their mind. A quick hesitation move allowed Pepe to blow past his man but his shot was deflected and it looped over the goal. The Ivorian will be in Neil Taylor’s nightmares for a good while after what he had to endure today.
It seemed like Arsenal had all of the momentum when John McGinn slotted a curling cross past Bernd Leno in the 20th minute. His second goal in North London already in this young season so far. McGinn slips past Matteo Guendouzi and in-between David Luiz and Sokratis for a textbook finish, leaving Arsenal defenders flatfooted and stunned.
Arsenal did a decent job of responding to Villa’s goal, as Saka’s right-footed shot just skimmed over the crossbar a few moments after the 25 minute mark.
It was almost a mirror image from his goal earlier this week, as the young Hale End product continued to seamlessly dovetail into the front three as his movement, vision, and bravery continued to stand out. Taking on Premier League fullbacks with no hesitation, and not just with pace but throwing his body as well. An absolutely fearless week of football from Saka.
Granit Xhaka picked up a yellow card around midfield in what was an almost identical sort of tackle as the one he placed in Arsenal’s own box against Brighton last spring. Grabbing Jack Grealish’s shoulder as he romped through the midfield, putting the Swiss midfielder under the microscope for the remainder of the game.
At the 38 minute mark, Ainsley Maitland-Niles goes to ground for a 50/50 ball that saw the young Englishman take out Neil Taylor which would be his second yellow and would end the afternoon for our patchwork right back. Arsenal go down to 10 men.
Sokratis goes down and is holding his face a few minutes before the halftime whistle as an apparent bust up between him and Aston Villa’s Wesley Moraes turns out to be our Greek defender trying to goad the referee into giving Aston Villa a card.
A card is brandished just moments later in the 44th minute as Matteo Guendouzi picked up a needless yellow card. The first half ends with Arsenal down a man, down a goal, both defensive midfielders on yellow cards, and with the North London faithful directing an array of boos and whistles toward John Moss as he walked into the tunnel.
Saka is substituted for Calum Chambers at halftime in order to shore up the back.
Granit Xhaka is almost booked a second time just minutes into the second half as the physicality and engines of McGinn and Grealish continued to provide problems for the the Arsenal midfield that looks like they are struggling to just stay afloat.
Arsenal still had attacking moments even with a disadvantage, as the pace of Aubameyang and Pepe on the wings proved to still be a dangerous threat.
That quality and pace kept Aston Villa off balance, and in the 59th minute it allowed a bursting Matteo Guendouzi to get chopped down by Aston Villas Trezeguet. A quick VAR check confirmed what everyone already knew. Penalty to Arsenal.
Nicolas Pepe stepped up to the spot, and channeled his inner Aubameyang and placed it directly down the middle, officially opening his Arsenal scoring account.
The Arsenal goal celebrations were short lived, as John McGinn came close on the very next Villa possession, bringing Arsenal fans back down to earth. Villa set off their own celebrations on their very next possession, as Wesley poked home the go ahead goal just 90 seconds after Arsenal drew level.
Granit Xhaka wins a free kick on the edge of the box, and David Luiz curls his shot directly into the path of the goalkeeper, leaving him untested.
Matteo Guendouzi did his best to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, not only did his 69th minute shot just glance over the bar, Guendouzi kept popping up to receive the ball, driving forward with it, and making something of anything happen.
Emery brings on his last two subs of the night, bringing on Torreira for Ceballos and Willock for Xhaka. The burst of energy from the two young midfielders was immediately felt as they did not waste any time pressing and hurrying everything and anyone around them.
Torreira found the ball at his feet in the box in the 72nd minute but couldn’t make anything of it, as it deflected off of a defender for a corner kick.
Arsenal found themselves in another favorable position as they pinned back Aston Villa, as Willock fed Aubameyang for a shot just inside the box that was blocked by a Villa defender.
Kolasinac and McGinn come together in the 76th minute, and when something comes together with Kolasinac, there is only one winner.
Some nice combination play in the 78th minute saw Pepe attempt a bicycle kick, which fell to Chambers who’s shot deflected wide. The resulting corner fell to Sokratis’ feet which was quickly but awkwardly cleared away before Sokratis could get a foot on it.
Arsenal draw level in the 81st minute due to a beautiful back post pass from Matteo Guendouzi found Chambers who initially tries to drive the ball across goal, and then calmly flicked the rebound over the defenders into the back corner of the net.
Aubameyang wins a free kick on the edge of the box as Arsenal regain all of the momentum. That momentum turns to absolute mayhem as Aubameyang calmly curls the set piece into the top corner of the net, giving Arsenal the 3-2 lead with just under 10 minutes left to play.
Controversy seemed to surround Sokratis throughout this entire match, as a potential handball in the penalty box in the 89th minute was waived off.
Bernd Leno was given a yellow card for time wasting two minutes into stoppage time, as Arsenal manage to hold on to the lead and escape with three very important points.