Four things Arteta got wrong as Aston Villa bothered Arsenal to hand City a title benefit.

Four things Arteta got wrong as Aston Villa bothered Arsenal to hand City a title benefit.

Aston Villa bloodied Arsenal’s nose with a spectacular counter-attacking performance, giving Manchester City the advantage in the Premier League title race.

Mikel Arteta’s team lay siege to Villa’s goal in the first half and would have gone up if Emiliano Martinez hadn’t been on the pitch. In addition to making solid stops from Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus, and others, the World Cup winner made a point-blank save from Leandro Trossard, who connected precisely with a cut-back from ten yards out.

Against the run of play, Ollie Watkins capitalised on a misunderstanding in the midfield and drove a low effort across David Raya but off the inside of the far post. In the second half, Arsenal appeared to emerge from the dressing room as a completely different team, with no menace or threat to speak of.

Villa gained with confidence and thought they had taken the lead when Youri Tielemans curled a beauty that sailed past Raya, slammed the crossbar and post, and rolled away safely. Arsenal were frantic, leaving themselves utterly exposed on the other end.

“How many attackers Mikel?”

Lucas Digne‘s dangerous cross found Leon Bailey at the back post, despite the doubt between Raya and his defenders. The Jamaican international slotted home with confidence and ease. Arsenal, already wounded, regained possession of the ball but repeated the blunder.

Watkins latched onto a long ball from Tielemans but, unlike his first-half effort, waited for Raya to hit the ground first before scooping a wonderful finish above the Spaniard to end the match and potentially Arsenal’s title challenge – Daily Star Sport examines what Arteta did wrong at the Emirates Stadium.

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Given Villa’s threat on the counter-attack, most managers would advise their players to exercise care when rushing forward in pursuit of a goal…but not Attacking Arteta. The Spaniard’s initial eleven included five attack-minded players.

Martin Odegaard, Kai Havertz, Leandro Trossard, Bukayo Saka, and Gabriel Jesus formed a pacey front line. Declan Rice was the only defensively focused player in their middle, and he was seen storming forward on multiple occasions.

It confined Villa to their own half while also leaving the Gunners wide open on the counterattack. While all of Arsenal’s attackers are technically excellent, they have missed the precise passes that Jorginho can provide from deep, especially when confronted by a low block of opponent defenders.

Hybrid Zinchenko

The former Manchester City defender was called up against the Champions League contenders after being benched by the developing Jakub Kiwior. With Arteta choosing to prioritise his offensive talents, Zinchenko was had to step forward with Rice to assist shield the backline.

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It appeared to be an excellent decision as Villa struggled to gain any traction in the center of the pitch. In the second half, the Midlanders were obliged to go long to avoid the North Londoners’ packed midfield, where William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes were eager to pounce on any long ball.

However, in the attacking phase, the Gunners appeared to miss the rare overlapping run that Kiwior is known for in key phases of the game, especially when the Villa defensive compacted.

Changing the approach

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Given Arsenal’s first-half domination, you’d assume Arteta’s advice would be to “continue as you are”. However, Arsenal became impatient and began lofting balls up to Havertz.

As tall and powerful as the German is in the air, he excels when the ball is on the deck. Pau Torres, Ezri Konsa, and Diego Carlos are all powerful in the air, so placing Havertz against the formidable three made little sense.

Four things Arteta got wrong as Aston Villa bothered Arsenal to hand City a title benefit.