The Gunners arrived at Villa Park without two of their key players on the starting line-up as the race for a top-four finish took another turn on Saturday afternoon
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The 20-year-old’s strike marked the 2000th First League Goal scored by the Gunners while it was Saka’s ninth of the league season at an individual level.
Instead, they failed to put pressure on their hosts, with Bernd Leno’s most notable save coming in the final seconds.
Mirror Football analyzed five talking points from a low-key affair at Villa Park.
Arsenal shake off midweek nervousness
The Gunners saw their long unbeaten run come to an end on Wednesday night after being beaten by Jurgen Klopp Liverpool in the Emirates.
The defeat raised fears that Arsenal’s top-four hopes could soon be dashed as they have three of their next four away games, but they allayed those fears a bit with a win at Villa Park.
Loss to Liverpool hardly came as a shock and while Arteta would have loved to pull off an upset against the Reds, he would have known meeting Steven Gerrard’s side was a far more winnable game.
Victory in the Midlands means the Gunners extend their lead in fourth place to four points over their nearest rivals Manchester United having played a game fewer than the Red Devils.
With Ralf Rangnick’s men out of action until the beginning of April, Arteta can now rest assured that there will be a lot of daylight between the two teams for a short time.
Ramsdale injury gives Leno window opportunity
The current Arsenal number one was sidelined against Villa with a hip injury, leading to a surprise for the Gunners faithful when they saw Bernd Leno’s name in the starting XI.
The German was once arsenal The first-choice keeper for several seasons before Ramsdale’s arrival triggered his definitive departure from Emirates, but late call-up to the starting line-up offered the 30-year-old a chance to place himself in the showcase.
Given his lack of first-team minutes since Ramsdale’s signing, Leno appears keen for a new summer challenge and is evaluating every option with the ultimate goal of earning his way back to the national team after being sidelined by most of the current ones German squad.
Leno was rarely used early but was a commanding presence in his box when it came to dealing with Villa’s corners.
His best moment came when he was forced to leap over the head of his own defender to catch a threatening cross into the box, but his save with the last shot of the game means he delivered when his side needed it most needed.
Saka flawless again
Superlatives that have not yet been used on Saka are in short supply and the reason for his appearances is just like this.
The winger is such a consistent performer that there is little mention of his youth, no longer seen as a young talent but as the first name on the Arsenal squad sheet.
The Gunners academy graduate scored the first goal of the game but Villa’s warning signs were seen long before that as Saka gave both Tyrone Mings and Ashley Young a torrid time. Man.
Saka’s alternate fouling was a constant theme of the competition as Villa’s backline appeared to take turns kicking shots out of the England star, who was chatting with referee Andy Madley as he walked off at half-time.
He was finally replaced with just over 20 minutes to go for Nicolas Pepe after a cameo appearance in the second half which saw Saka again as Arsenal’s number one threat.
Villa’s midfield fight
The first 45 minutes passed on little positive note for the hosts but if there was one thing Gerrard could encourage it it was the performance from John McGinn.
The Scotland international was his trademark of combat as he attempted to nullify threats posed by fellow midfielders Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka.
McGinn carried those efforts into the second half, while Jacob Ramsey and Emi Buendia upped their game to match their teammate’s standard.
Buendia made an excellent recovery run to thwart what could have been an Arsenal second when Saka found himself in an acre of space in the Villa half after swiping Ramsey’s bag.
Scoring threat seemed to elude the hosts for much of the clash, but as the game progressed, Villa’s midfield was the springboard for sustained attacks.
Smith Rowe is in top form
Emile Smith Rowe is currently Arsenal’s top scorer this season but Saturday’s clash against Villa gave him his first start in exactly a month.
The England international has had to play second fiddle to Gabriel Martinelli in recent weeks but the Brazilian was eliminated from the game after a positive result Covid-19 Test Smith Rowe was there from the first whistle.
The midfielder’s first chance of the game fell on the midfielder’s right shoe after it was superbly pulled up by Martin Odegaard, who fired high over the bar from the edge of the box.
Central to what seemed to be everything positive for his side, the 21-year-old found Saka in plenty of space to spark another move that led to a Gunners chance.
While elusive to score, he bonded with his teammates in a fantastic way.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/arsenal-aston-villa-saka-fourth-26507211 Aston Villa 0-1 Arsenal: Bukayo Saka fires Gunners' top 4 charge - 5 talking points