Another 2-1 victory thanks to a winner from Gabriel Martinelli extended our 100% success rate so far this season to five wins from five. This is a feat we didn’t even manage to achieve during the invincible era, and a statistic from BBC Sport says that Arsenal have never finished outside the top two after winning the opening five games. Although some injuries left certain fans questioning whether we would win this fixture, Albert Sambi Lokonga stepped up after both Partey and Elneny were out with injuries. This was the only change from the side that beat Fulham, with Elneny being replaced due to a knee injury.
Despite a dominant first half performance, it was Villa who had the first real chance as Buendia hit a shot that flew just over the bar. This was closely followed by outrage as Saka has his shirt pulled several times before being pushed to the ground inside the penalty area, but a VAR check concluded no penalty. Our first attempt on target was from the main man himself, Gabriel Jesus, after a quickly taken free kick. The first half was very physical from Villa, who were lucky not to pick up any red cards in my opinion. At the thirty minute mark, Jesus scored after Martinez failed to properly clear a solid effort from Granit Xhaka as he put the rebound into the back on the net. We continued the first half and ended strongly, with a shot from Saka that was cleared in a chaotic scramble off the line.
Arsenal didn’t start the second half as strongly, with Saliba picking up a yellow card for a tactical foul on Ollie Watkins, but were soon back to dominating possession. Following an Arsenal corner, Martinez very strangely got Jesus in a headlock before falling to the ground as if he was the one who had been fouled. Arteta swiftly made his first change and replaced Ben White for Tomiyasu as it looked as though we would be defending out a 1-0 lead with us struggling to execute an actual goal, instead shooting just wide of the post or forcing Martinez into some awkward saves. This all changed, however, in the 74th minute after a Douglas Luiz corner curled straight into the goal, for the second time this season. Despite the fact it seemed clear that Ramsdale was being held by Watkins and couldn’t possibly have made the save, VAR allowed the goal.
Playing on equal footing didn’t last for long though, and just as the commentators were questioning whether Arsenal could restore their lead, Saka put in a beautiful cross to Martinelli who just managed to squeeze the ball in past Martinez, once again putting the Gunners in front and making the score 2-1. Arteta was forced into another change as Ødegaard was still suffering from a challenge from John McGinn previously, leaving a lot of us in fear as to his availability for the Manchester United game as he has been impeccable so far this season. Another concern is Aaron Ramsdale who seemed to go down clutching his hamstring, but as of now nothing has been officially released and we will just have to keep everything crossed that they will both be fit for Sunday’s game at Old Trafford.
It must be noted that both Gabriel Martinelli and Jesus put in an incredible shift across the 90 minutes; it is clear to see how well they work together and also with Saka, who has been creating more opportunities than executing them himself this season. Hopefully we will see him back to his typical goal-scoring ways soon as he singlehandedly carried the team last season. Ødegaard again proved why Arteta made him captain with another outstanding performance as he seemed to be everywhere for his time on the pitch. The manager really has unlocked his potential at Arsenal where it seems other previous managers failed.
Looking forward to Sunday, it seems that both Partey and Elneny will be unavailable, so we should expect to see Lokonga getting another much deserved start. It is still up for debate as to whether Zinchenko will be available, but these last couple of games have demonstrated how vital he is to the buildup and his ability to play all down the left hand side is essential, something Tierney hasn’t quite been able to match so far. Saliba seemed off form last night but we can hope for a better game for him against United and perhaps even see Eddie Nketiah get a bit more game time if the scoreline is in our favour as he undeniably had a huge impact off the bench.
Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson