Arsenal lost 1-0 in the Premier League away at Aston Villa on Saturday, making it three consecutive matches in without victory in the competition.
Having seen their seven-game unbeaten run come to an end in controversial fashion against Wolves last time out, a response was needed and Mikel Arteta named the same front three as he had done at Molineux with Nicolas Pepe keeping his place ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
It took just 74 seconds for the hosts to nod themselves in front with a helping hand from Cedric. The full-back’s slack pass to Gabriel was pounced on by Bertrand Traore, who found Ollie Watkins in the box. The striker’s effort took a fortunate deflection to beat Mat Ryan.
The final ball was lacking on numerous occasions for Arsenal who struggled to create in wide areas. Matt Targett and Matty Cash stood firm.
Arsenal player ratings vs Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday
Granit Xhaka came closest when his free-kick was tipped over the bar by Emiliano Martinez, although Villa could easily have been 2-0 up were it not for Traore going for a cheeky lob when clean through on goal.
Arsenal were the dominant side in the second half as the pace of their play improved, doubling up in wide areas and having significantly more joy. As before, the final ball lacked and the finishing was slack, while some aimless crosses into the box for nobody didn’t help.
It wasn’t quite kitchen sink but Arsenal threw everything that had at Villa in search of an equaliser. One that wasn’t forthcoming.
Arsenal Goalkeeper & Defenders Ratings
Mat Ryan (GK) – 8/10 – Conceded his first Arsenal goal before even having his first Arsenal touch. His fault? Not at all as the deflection cruelly took the ball out of this reach. Apart from that, his distribution was good, so too his handling of crosses, and he showed bravery to stand tall for Traore’s effort. Made some vital saves.
Hector Bellerin (RB) – 6/10 – Who was he crossing to? There were a few odd occasions where he flung a ball into the box, lacking in other ideas and options.
In a defensive sense, he handled the threat of Grealish very well with Saka helping him double up. Didn’t give Villa much joy down that flank.
Rob Holding (CB) – 5/10 – Despite getting turned inside out by Traore on one occasion, Holding didn’t do much wrong. He could have been tighter to Watkins for the goal, sure, yet in his defence the chance wasn’t expected to come as easily as it did.
Some sloppiness and mistakes crept into his game as the match wore on.
Gabriel (CB) – 6/10 – You can tell he isn’t fully match sharp yet, as some of his pressing out from the back caused a few nervy moments. That aside, he didn’t do much wrong and was a solid presence in the back four.
Cedric Soares (LB) – 4/10 – Made the mistake for the first goal when he expected his centre-half to bizarrely overlap, painfully under-hitting his pass. He improved as the game wore on but the deficiencies he has being a right-footed full-back on the left side that had been forgotten about in the previous weeks were evident here.