Two teams that were evenly matched during the first half hour of the game were divided by a rapid fire three goal within 4 minutes salvo by the Gunners. Those goals ended the game as a contest and left our unbeaten league start to the season in tatters.
So Arsenal remain unbeaten at Villa Park this century against us and we will need to beat them once again in the return fixture to compensate for this disappointing home defeat.
If Clark had scored with his 23rd minute opportunity Arsenal may have had their confidence dented and feared a second defeat within a week. But two goals is hard enough to come back from and a third was way beyond us against a team like Arsenal. Fortunately they were content to retain possession and by so doing keep their 3 goal cushion during the second half. We offered little to no threat to their defence and our goal was one of damage limitation once they took the game away from us. They ended up having a very comfortable afternoon at Villa Park and the ball was rarely at the feet of a Villa player during the last hour of the game.
Our home form does continue to be a major concern. We have a 100% record away from home this season but have claimed just one win from 4 home games in cup and league this season. This was always going to be a tough game for us. We would all have been more than happy with 10 points in the bag at this stage of the league campaign before the season got under way. But it would have been nice to see us top the table.
Our confidence level at Villa Park remains at a low-ebb and the goals we conceded yesterday shattered our brittle confidence. We ended this game performing in the way we have done more often than not in recent seasons. We had arrived in numbers hoping to see us give something approaching the display we produced at Anfield but were undone by Arsenal’s crisp passing.
This was a bad day at the office but it can be seen as a one off as things stand. We should not concede three goals too often this season or be struck down by a virus and we should take confidence from what we had achieved up until yesterday rather than dwell on one defeat.
Our title race is not over yet nor is our quest for a top 4 spot or to finish in the top half of the table. We missed Westwood yesterday and continued to be without our captain along with his replacement of last week. But our start to the season continues to mirror our start to the season of 1980-81. We also lost our fifth game back then. Our aim is now to produce another solid away performance against the table toppers next weekend and to avoid emulating our last league champions by losing our sixth game as well.
My player ratings from a game that left us still standing above yesterday’s opponents in the league table are:
Brad Guzan – 6 – Beaten three times but had little chance with them.
Alan Hutton – 7 – Another solid display. Headed a Weimann corner wide of the post on 17 minutes.
Philippe Senderos – 6 – A decent performance against his former club.
Ciaran Clark – 6 – Started well and might have scored on 23 minutes when a Cleverley free kick found him and his header was kept out by Szczesny at his near post. He might have had more luck had he tried for the far post but was unlucky to see his strong shot charged down by Oxlade-Chamberlain on 57 minutes from a Cleverley corner.
Aly Cissokho – 6 – Stuck out a foot to turn a Gibbs shot that was going wide in for their third. But he had Oxlade-Chamberlain behind him and waiting to pounce had he done nothing.
Kieran Richardson - 6 – A steady enough display.
Carlos Sánchez – 5 – A last minute replacement for the ill Westwood so his preparation would not have been as he would have wanted. Carlos was not given the space he was looking for and did look off the pace of the game for much of it.
Fabian Delph – 7 – MOTM - The best of our midfield unit. Played a nice one-two with Weimann on the edge of the box and forced a decent save from Szczesny on 3 minutes.
Tom Cleverley – 7 – A solid display on a difficult afternoon.
Andreas Weimann – 7 – Andi was replaced at half time. We missed his energy, hard running and potential goal threat in the second half.
Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Not the type of display he would have hoped to produce to celebrate his new contract at Villa Park but he was starved of service. Two good runs one in the first half and the other on 55 minutes led to bookings for opponents who had clearly identified his pace as our main threat.
Jack Grealish – 6 – Replaced Weimann for the second half. It is never easy to come on when the game is already all but lost and Jack did take a little time to get into the game but he was not alone in that. He showed some nice touches, posed some threat to defenders and was not overawed by the situation he found himself in.
Charles N’Zogbia – Replaced Richardson on 77 minutes. Not on the field quite long enough to merit a rating.
Leandro Bacuna – Replaced Sánchez on 86 minutes. Another who did not get the game time to gain a rating.
Win the league Villa!