Well that was disappointing. Just when things were looking up for Arsenal after big wins last week against Liverpool and Manchester City, they give everyone a stark reminder of how far the club still has to go with a disheartening 1-0 loss at Aston Villa.
The Gunners came into the match with an outside chance of getting to 7th place and earning a Europa League spot. First on the docket, a win against 18th place Aston Villa. And they couldn’t manage it — they couldn’t even manage a shot on target. And just like that, their chances of a 7th place finish go up in smoke.
There’s no excuse for that.
Yes, Mikel Arteta rotated the squad a bit. Yes, his lineup may have been a bit of a head-scratcher with Eddie Nketiah playing from wide. Yes, Aston Villa were fighting for their Premier League lives. But Arsenal should be beating 18th in the table. Full stop.
Possession without penetration was the story of the day. Arsenal had the ball for most of the match and couldn’t do anything with it. Unfortunately, that’s become a familiar refrain in matches where the Gunners aren’t the counterattacking team. With Mesut Özil frozen out, Arsenal have no midfield creativity. Look at the pass maps from today and against Spurs.
Arsenal need something different against a low block. pic.twitter.com/ONHKDgd8L7— James Benge (@jamesbenge) July 21, 2020
There is nothing in the middle of the attacking third. If you set a low-block and get numbers behind the ball, Arsenal can’t do anything. And that’s what Aston Villa did today, and it worked.
It’s the same things over and over and over again with Arsenal. Villa got their goal from a corner. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lost Tyrone Mings, who won the initial header, and the ball eventually fell to an unmarked Trezeguet, who scored. Why is a striker not known for his aerial ability marking a 6’5 centerback? Why is there somebody completely unmarked, as in, not an Arsenal man within 10 yards, in the area? Arsenal have conceded 46% of their goals from set pieces, most in the Premier League. The club absolutely needs to hire a set pieces coach to fix the serious, recurring problem.
There really weren’t any good performances on the day to speak about. I guess Dani Ceballos was Arsenal’s best player on the evening, but what good is having your “best” performance be a 6.5 out of 10?
Arsenal took a meager 4 points from away matches against the bottom 4 teams in the Premier League this season. That’s pitiful. You can’t have Champions League aspirations if you’re going to do that. The good news is that the Gunners can still get into the Europa League if they beat Chelsea in the FA Cup Final on August 1st.
But first, Arsenal have Watford on Championship Sunday. The Gunners still have a shot to finish above ***checks notes*** vaunted Burnley. If The Clarets lose, that is.