Arsenal 0-2 Aston Villa: Gunners lose ground in enthralling title race

Aston Villa registered a 2023/24 Premier League double over Arsenal following a 2-0 success at the Emirates, courtesy of goals from Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins. The stunning result in the capital leaves Unai Emery’s side three points in front of Tottenham Hotspur – but with Spurs still with a match in hand – and Arsenal now two points adrift of Manchester City at the top of the table.

As it happened

Unbeaten in 11 Premier League matches, Arsenal produced a scintillating level of unparalleled attacking dominance throughout the opening quarter-hour, as Emiliano Martínez denied the in-form figure of Kai Havertz before Gabriel Jesus – without a goal in 75 days – inexplicably planted his header wide at the back post.

However, despite their superiority in the final third, Villa came close to breaking the deadlock six minutes before half-time as Watkins struck the inside of the left-hand post. In an all-action finish to the first half, Martínez produced one of the saves of the season to deny Leandro Trossard’s close-range strike from hitting the back of the net.

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Despite accumulating 13 attempts on goal, Arsenal begrudgingly trudged back to the dressing room with nothing to show for their endeavours in the final third.

Amid a period of inactivity in front of goal across the opening 15 minutes of the second half, Villa manager Emery called upon the services of Bailey – considerably unlucky not to be named in the visitors’ eleven.

Nonetheless, it was one of the Villans’ starters who came incredibly close to the game’s opening goal as Youri Tielemans’ stunning curling effort from the edge of the penalty area struck the frame of David Raya’s goal before agonisingly dropping onto the foot of the post.

Amid only one shot on target in the second half, the former Arsenal manager’s tactical genius paid dividends with only six minutes left in regular time as Bailey’s inconspicuous run to the back-post allowed the Jamaican international to slot home Lucas Digne’s cross into an empty net.

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Unbelievably, Watkins put the game to bed not long after as he comfortably held off Emile Smith Rowe before clinically lifting the ball atop of Raya – on-route to celebrating his 19th goal of an unforgettable Premier League season.

The lineups

ARS: Raya; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Ødegaard, Rice, Havertz; Trossard, Saka, Jesus

AVL: Martínez; Konsa, Torres, Carlos, Digne; McGinn, Rogers, Tielemans, Zaniolo; Diaby, Watkins