Arsenal 0-3 Aston Villa: 4 Things We Learned From That Atrocity

Arsenal, Mikel Arteta (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Mikel Arteta (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

Arsenal fell to a 3-0 loss on the worst night in Mikel Arteta’s reign.

We’ve been to Tottenham, dominated the game and lost. Not as bad. We crashed out of the Europa League at home to Olympiacos in the round of 32. Not as bad. What we just witnessed on Sunday evening against Aston Villa was the worst night Arsenal have had under Mikel Arteta.

Normally with pieces such as these you can list a few points from across the game, but this could easily be 12 individual columns of disdain for each of the players tonight, and the manager.

A turgid start to the game was reminiscent of recent Europa League nights, with Villa having a goal chalked off by VAR inside 46 seconds. If you’d expected Arsenal to pick up from there then you were grossly mistaken, instead that strike acting as a foreshadowing for the following 89 minutes of sheer ineptitude.

Bukayo Saka‘s own goal was followed by a brace from Ollie Watkins, which was the absolute least that Villa deserved and less than what Arsenal deserved. It was atrocious.

Here’s four things we reluctantly learned.

All Arsenal’s Issues Compounded

Watching Arsenal try to create chances on Sunday was like watching a snail try to take flight. There was nothing to work with in that attack, just players stood in a line occasionally moving towards the ball as if it was the beginning of a dodgeball game.

But we already knew this, didn’t we? Arsenal’s creative chasm has been the talk of the town under Arteta, with Sunday being the perfect storm of all those failings coupled with some abject defending against an opponent who were excellent on the night.

We shall bemoan the shambles we witnessed from the home side, but we have to praise the visitors for being quite superb.

Just take a look at Villa’s forward players and how they interchanged so effectively, made irregular runs and attacked with fluidity. They were exciting and varied. Arsenal were boring and predictable.

Arteta is still sounding out his attacking formula, but persisting with the same, ineffective, approach. Rinse and repeat.

Lacazette is the Arsenal number 9
Arsenal’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette (Photo by WILL OLIVER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Alexandre Lacazette Must be Dropped

You can’t seriously expect Arsenal to score goals with a striker who demonstrates such woeful technique when presented with an excellent scoring opportunity. Supporters have banged the Frenchman’s drum in favour of his ferocious work-rate and pressing ability, but the drum has burst and the music stopped.

He is shot for confidence. It’s understandable when he’s playing in a team with a midfield pivot pair who are stood on the halfway line, but just like how goalkeepers need to be ready to make a save when they’re barely involved, strikers have to take chances when they come about.

Kieran Tierney‘s excellent cross had to be converted. Our number one striker didn’t even jump. He hit the ball with his scalp.

There are teams and situations where Lacazette’s skillset will come in handy, no doubt. What Arsenal need at this very moment is somebody to make runs behind the last line of defence, occupy central defenders and, ultimately, take their chances.

Lacazette isn’t doing that. This mustn’t persist.

(A special mention goes to Willian, who was abysmal)

Back to the Drawing Board for Mikel Arteta

This is still a process. There will be more bumps in the road.

But this is getting ridiculous.

Arteta absolutely deserves some leeway for essentially embarking on a third transition in style since taking the job. He’s made Arsenal significantly stronger at the back – ignoring tonight – and won us silverware. Now he’s reshaping the structure of the team to make them more dynamic in attack, yet sometimes you have to accept defeat.

In this sense, said structure is not working. As a man who is learning with each day on the job, any time you’re practicing and perfecting a new art, you will make mistakes. Arteta is, right now, making a mistake by believing this attacking formula is going to pay dividends [insert Albert Einstein quote].

Whatever he has scribbled down in his office needs scrapping. There are elements to his style that work brilliantly – namely our defensive resolve and play out from the back – but as soon as we get over that halfway line, everything falls to pieces.

Nketiah is a real assest for Arsenal
Arsenal’s English striker Eddie Nketiah (Photo by WILL OLIVER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Youth Must be Given a Chance

Reactionary? Yes. Justified? There is only one way to find out.

Indeed, whoever can seriously make a case for none of Reiss Nelson or Joe Willock making the bench, at least, for the Premier League has to be brought to question. Arteta knows full well that Europa League group stages are a different kettle of fish to this level, but when you have players offering some different to a side that is screaming out for something different, overlooking their qualities is a decision that requires adequate reasoning.

Dani Ceballos came on for Thomas Partey and played essentially the same role. He and Mohamed Elneny acted as an awfully deep pivot and never offered support to the forwards, exactly the trait that Willock is best known for.

Willock hasn’t been impressive in the top-flight when given the chance, we have to admit. However, this is different midfield with a different dimension in Partey, so what’s to say he can’t flourish alongside him? A player of his ilk is desperately needed against sides sitting in a low block.

Is Willian deserving of a place in this team over Nelson? He had a good game against United but Nelson has a spark about him that needs unleashing in the Premier League. He was injured pre-Villa, in Arteta’s defence, but there has to be a serious rethink during the international break.