Last Sunday, we saw the Gunners put in perhaps their worst performance of the season thus far. Arsenal threw away a 2-0 lead at Vicarage Road to draw 2-2 with the bottom-of-the-table Watford side; the Watford side that just lost 8-0 to Manchester City, might we add.
Unai Emery’s men looked to make that match a distant memory with the visit of Aston Villa. The Villans on their part came into the game looking for their second win of the campaign.
As it turned out, the Gunners were involved in a 'game of the season' contender for the second weekend in a row as they ground out a 3-2 win over an impressive Aston Villa.
Shockingly, the visitors would open proceedings as John McGinn latched onto an El Ghazi cross in the 20th minute. Just before the break, Ainsley Maitland-Niles would shockingly see red, picking up a second yellow card in the space of 41 minutes.
It was only later, well into the second half, that a 10-man Arsenal would equalize through a Nicolas Pepe penalty. But 90 seconds later, Villa would find themselves back in the lead with a Wesley poke from six yards out.
It took Arsenal until the 81st minute to equalize as Calum Chambers chipped past Tom Heaton from close range. The winner would eventually be scored by Arsenal’s main marksman Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang through an inventive free-kick.
Here are 5 talking points from Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa.
#5 Bukayo Saka starts
After an impressive mid-week performance against Eintracht Frankfurt, Bukayo Saka was rewarded with a starting place against Aston Villa. The 18-year-old is the third youngest player ever to start a Premier League game.
The youngster was the only shining light in a dreadful first half for the Gunners. Saka didn’t look afraid of the bright lights, as he was confident enough to play like he was still at an U23 match.
Unfortunately for him, Arsenal went down to 10 men and Unai Emery had to sacrifice one of his attackers to bring on Calum Chambers. Emery would take off the youngster at half time, bringing an end to the 18-year-old’s promising first PL start.
In his 45-minute cameo, the 18-year-old completed one successful take-on, nine passes and attempted one shot on goal, without ever looking out of place.
#4 Positives for Aston Villa
Dean Smith would be wondering how his team came away from the Emirates with no points. The Villans pushed Arsenal to their absolute limit, going toe to toe with Emery’s men. Villa were also able to continue the trend of Arsenal conceding a lot of shots on goal, with them attempting 14 throughout the match.
Not many teams go to the Emirates and commit that many players forward, but that’s what Aston Villa did. And on another day, they would have taken all three points.
A notable performance came from, of course, Jack Grealish, who completed 35 passes and created four chances. John McGinn, the scorer of the first goal, also wreaked havoc in the final third, regularly making runs in behind the centre backs.
Aston Villa may not have a won a game on the road this season, but they can still take heart from this gutsy performance.
#3 Ainsley Maitland-Niles' red card
After already conceding a 1-0 lead, the Gunners found themselves down to 10 men as Ainsley Maitland-Niles received a second yellow card in the 41st minute. The sending off was made even more dramatic as Maitland-Niles was on the floor receiving treatment for at least three minutes, while John Moss held the impending yellow card in his hand.
Arsenal fans held their breath as Moss seemed to be in contact with VAR while Maitland-Niles was on the floor. But unfortunately for the fans, he would still brandish the yellow card.
It seems as though Maitland-Niles was yellow-carded not for the initial challenge, but for his follow-through. The 22-year-old’s studs were up high, perhaps indicating reckless play.
However, replays show he might have been the one who was fouled instead, as he did get the ball. Regardless, Arsenal played the majority of the game with 10 men.
#2 Nicolas Pepe's first goal
Nicolas Pepe has come under much criticism since the start of the Premier League season. The fact that he hadn't scored a goal before today was the source of many rival fans' joy.
The Ivorian arrived in London with much acclaim to his name, having scored 23 goals last season. The 24-year-old’s price heaped even more pressure on his shoulders, and life in the Premier League seemed tough for him.
At Lille, Pepe was the club’s penalty taker and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang afforded him the opportunity to take one here. Seemingly without a single nerve in his body, Pepe drilled the ball down the middle, waiting for Tom Heaton to move first.
Arsenal fans will be hoping this will be the first of many for the 24-year-old.
#1 Mattéo Guendouzi is coming of age
It appears the theme of Arsenal’s season thus far is the emergence of youth. Youngsters like Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka have all made their presence felt in the first team set-up.
Another name we must add to that list is Mattéo Guendouzi.
Yes, the youngster has been around for a season. But we shouldn't forget that the Frenchman is only 20 years old. Although young, the midfielder has shown himself to be very mature on the pitch.
Against a resilient Aston Villa team, Guendouzi was the only Arsenal player who dared to stand up and be counted. The Frenchman continuously sought the ball, looking to move it on quickly and create chances from deep.
When he saw his teammates weren’t doing much with the ball, he decided instead to run at the Villa defence, winning a game-changing penalty in the process. Guendouzi is a leader that is doing his best to drag this team with him.