Mikel Arteta’s men came into the match on the back of three wins in all competitions. They had eased past Dundalk in the Europa League before a battling 1-0 win at Manchester United and then another canter against Molde in midweek.
The north London side could have ended the latest round of fixtures before the international break in perfect fashion.
However, the loss leaves them 11th in the league, six points adrift of leaders Leicester City.
Despite this, there were three positives to emerge from an, admittedly, underwhelming display.
The three positives
Centre-backs marauding forward
What was prominent in the game was Arsenal’s defensive trio getting further forward. They managed to get into key attacking areas of the pitch and combined on a number of occasions.
Kieran Tierney, a full-back by trade, provided further evidence of his versatility by making overlapping runs. He sent in a handful of dangerous deliveries that on another day would have turned into assists.
Gabriel and Rob Holding were also a threat, with the former finding the latter to send a shot wide from close range.
No matter the result, both players’ positioning and awareness to be in and around the area should fill the Arsenal faithful with confidence in an attacking sense.
Substitutes made a difference
Nicolas Pepe, Eddie Nketiah and Dani Ceballos all made an impact after being introduced.
Pepe and Nketiah injected guile and pace going forward and looked a threat from wide positions. Pepe came close to pulling a goal back too, curling an effort just wide of the post.
Ceballos also made a telling contribution and was on hand to prevent Villa from extending their lead. The Spaniard made a vital intervention on the goal-line to deny a certain goal for Jack Grealish.
Arsenal did improve as the game went on. However, they approached the game on the back foot from the first whistle.
When they did up the tempo, they almost scored. Thomas Partey pressed John McGinn into an error and forced a save from Emiliano Martinez.
They were, however, too slow to press their opponents and allowed the away side too much time and space on the ball.
Villa’s opener was a prime example as Grealish, Ross Barkley and Matt Targett were allowed to take numerous touches on the edge of the Arsenal box. The ball was eventually delivered for Bukayo Saka to put into his own net as he desperately slid in.
Arsenal shouldn’t be too disheartened, however. Aston Villa put seven past the league champions, demonstrating they are capable of putting the league’s top sides to the sword.
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