Aston Villa 2-4 Arsenal: Player ratings as late show sends Gunners back to Premier League summit

Martin Odegaard celebrates a dramatic victory for Arsenal
Martin Odegaard celebrates a dramatic victory for Arsenal / Clive Mason/GettyImages

Two stoppage time goals sent Arsenal back to the Premier League summit with a dramatic 4-2 victory away to Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.

Villa twice took the lead only to be pegged back each time before a thrilling, ding-dong contest entered its frenzied closing stages. Jorginho's fiercely struck long-range effort cannoned off the crossbar, onto the back of former Arsenal goalkeeper Emi Martinez and into Villa's net in the 92nd minute.

Martinez was forward for a last-minute corner when Fabio Vieira set Gabriel Martinelli speeding into Villa's half as the substitute rolled Arsenal's fourth goal into an unguarded net.

63 hours after losing top spot to Manchester City, Arsenal fell behind against Villa inside the opening five minutes of the lunchtime kick-off. Matty Cash robbed Oleksandr Zinchenko to spark a swift counter-attack which Ollie Watkins, isolated against William Saliba, ruthlessly capped off by picking out the bottom corner.

If Arsenal's response to their midweek setback was sluggish at the start of the match, the Gunners rapidly regained their composure after Villa's early opener.

Tyrone Mings had been forced into a desperate clearance against his own crossbar to deny Eddie Nketiah a tap-in before heading a cross to the top of Villa's box after 15 minutes. Bukayo Saka walked onto the loose ball, battering a fearsome strike into the roof of the net guarded by his former teammate Martinez.

Villa, much like Arsenal, had their buildup picked apart by the opposition press in their last home match. However, Emery's charges stuck to his principles. Boubacar Kamara - damningly at fault against Leicester City a fortnight ago - confidently received the ball in his defensive third, starting a surgical thrust up the pitch which concluded with Philippe Coutinho sweeping the hosts back into the lead in the 31st minute.

The narrow 4-4-2 Villa expertly slipped into off the ball forced Arsenal onto the flanks. Seemingly unconvinced by the option of Leandro Trossard on the left, the Gunners heavily favoured Saka's right flank. Ben White put a cross in from that wing which Nketiah nodded onto the bar after the interval.

It was more scheming down the right which earned the corner that led to Zinchenko's equaliser. Martin Odegaard received the short set piece, rolling a pass for his Ukrainian colleague to rattle the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Both sides conspired to score four sumptuous goals but Odegaard passed up the chance to find the net with a comparatively mundane sight of the sticks. Nketiah hounded Ezri Konsa off the ball, rolling it back for his captain to walk onto. Granted the freedom of the penalty box, Odegaard dragged his shot wide of Martinez's goal in the final 15 minutes.

Leon Bailey came within the width of the crossbar of fully punishing Odegaard's error, skipping down the right flank and drilling the ball towards the top corner which Aaron Ramsdale tipped onto the post.

Mikel Arteta had lamented Arsenal's lack of efficiency during a winless run of four consecutive matches coming into the contest but his side snatched three crucial points at Villa Park to keep the race for the Premier League title in their own hands.

Aston Villa player ratings (4-4-2)

Ollie Watkins has scored in four successive league appearances for the first time in his career / GEOFF CADDICK/GettyImages

GK: Emi Martinez - 4/10 - Scarcely saw the crisp shots struck by Saka and Zinchenko let alone had a chance of saving them. Cruelly consigned to the role of Arsenal's match-winner before their breakaway fourth.

RB: Matty Cash - 7/10 - Stepped right onto Zinchenko to win the ball back for an opening goal that owed a great deal to the proactive full back.

CB: Ezri Konsa - 5/10 - Increasingly nervy as the match wore on.

CB: Tyrone Mings - 6/10 - Buoyed by a new contract, Mings repeatedly threw his significant frame in the way of the ball.

LB: Alex Moreno - 5/10 - Often resorted to fouling Saka when Arsenal's star boy ran at him.

RM: John McGinn - 6/10 - More industrious than dexterous as he clogged up the middle of the pitch with a narrow starting position.

CM: Douglas Luiz - 7/10 - Locked onto Granit Xhaka as the Swiss midfielder constantly tried to dart into Villa's box.

CM: Boubacar Kamara - 7/10 - Comfortable accepting the ball under pressure deep in his own half, driving Villa forward.

LM: Philippe Coutinho - 6/10 - On his first Premier League start under Emery, Coutinho provided a convincing argument to suggest he warranted more minutes going forward.

ST: Emi Buendia - 7/10 - Buzzing between the lines, knitting together Villa's attacking sequences.

ST: Ollie Watkins - 7/10 - Playing with his chest puffed out, Watkins repeatedly got the better of Arsenal's defensive duo.


Jacob Ramsey (63' for Coutinho) - 5/10

Leander Dendoncker (67' for Luiz) - 5/10

Leon Bailey (67' for Buendia) - 5/10

Jhon Duran (78' for Moreno) - N/A

Lucas Digne (78' for Watkins) - N/A


Unai Emery - 6/10 - The dogged discipline of Emery's side began to slide after the half-time break but Villa warranted at least a point.

Arsenal player ratings (4-3-3)

Mikel Arteta was up against his predecessor Unai Emery on Saturday afternoon / GEOFF CADDICK/GettyImages

GK: Aaron Ramsdale - 6/10 - Beaten by the pace and precision of Watkins' opener and unsighted as he dove the wrong way when Coutinho rolled Villa back in front, Ramsdale kept Arsenal level with a brilliant reactive stop at the death.

RB: Ben White - 5/10 - Scampering forward to overlap Saka far more often than normal, trying his best to unbalance Villa's disciplined rearguard.

CB: William Saliba - 4/10 - After such an imperious start to his Premier League career, Saliba has looked more like a 21-year-old in their first season of English top-flight football every week.

CB: Gabriel - 5/10 - Unsettled when isolated against Watkins.

LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko - 5/10 - Took his set-piece goal well but was less convincing from open play. Guilty of turning over the ball for Villa's opener, Zinchenko's trademark drifts infield invariably saw him wander into a crowd of claret and blue.

CM: Martin Odegaard - 7/10 - Grew into the game as the lines between Villa's setup widened.

CM: Jorginho - 4/10 - Amid the midfield swamp, Jorginho struggled to keep his head above the surface.

CM: Granit Xhaka - 4/10 - Managed to get nutmegged by Buendia's dummy in the buildup for Coutinho's goal. Tightly shackled by Luiz going forward.

RW: Bukayo Saka - 6/10 - As ever, Arsenal's go-to option in possession but the 21-year-old can't always do it all on his own - even if he gives it a good go.

ST: Eddie Nketiah - 4/10 - Not for the first time in recent weeks, Nketiah was guilty of passing up more than one sight of goal.

LW: Leandro Trossard - 3/10 - Shunned by his teammates for much of the match as Arsenal leaned towards the right.


Gabriel Martinelli (68' for Trossard) - 5/10

Takehiro Tomiyasu (79' for White) - N/A

Fabio Vieira (79' for Xhaka) - N/A

Rob Holding (90+5' for Odegaard) - N/A

Kieran Tierney (90+5' for Zinchenko) - N/A


Mikel Arteta - 4/10 - Watched on from the touchline as his side repeatedly and predictably funnelled the ball to Saka in a one-dimensional display which was fortuitously decided by two late goals.

Player of the match - Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)

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