THREE THINGS LEARNED FROM ASTON VILLA VS ARSENAL
If Arsenal are going to accomplish their aim for the season. It will be important to bounce back from disappointment. The Gunners claimed their fifth away win on the bounce in a dominant 1-0 victory against Aston Villa.
The North Londoners remain in 4th place but more importantly open up a 4 point gap over Manchester United in 5th place having played a game more. The Villains stay in 9th. Here are three key takeaways from Saturday’s game.
Protect Saka at all costs
Bukayo Saka is one of the best players in the league. There, I said it. Question that? As I’ve written previously the hale ender is a player that every coach trusts to carry out the toughest function as a wide man. Saka is tasked with high volume progression, which means he has to carry out dribbles and play make, while also hold width. The youngster made 3 key passes only matched by his fellow academy graduate Emile Smith Rowe.
As much as Saka’s contributions are leading to good moments for his team, they are proving how dangerous he is, and teams are adjusting accordingly. Arsenal’s number 7 has been fouled 43 times this season. That is almost 20 times more than the next most fouled player (Alexandre Lacazette on 25). This is not Wilfried Zaha territory, however Saka is creeping into the top 10 and as a beacon of hope for the England national team, with a bright future, he should receive more protection from referees. We know players that provoke defenders get fouled very often but if they are not protected then it’s the attackers that are being penalised and therefore the fans, as it makes games less exciting as a spectacle.
Defensive structure is elite
I don’t need to tell you about the number of clean sheets that Ben white and Gabriel as a defensive pairing have won but I will anyway. 13 clean sheets. It didn’t matter about who was behind them today, or whether they had to play with Cedric Soares in the right back slot. Out of possession, everyone knows their job, Aston Villa were largely limited to aimless punts up field and down the channels and failed on the whole to gain meaningful territory.
Rob Holding, deep block, peak Arrigo Sachi style defender these days came on and knows that these days his limited role is to close out games and play to his strengths as a box defender. Leno came alive as his world class shot stopping ability was needed to stop an almost certain last minute equaliser from Philipe Coutinho. Not only are the Gunners tactically secure but every player is comfortable with his role and that can only bode well for the future.
Arsenal away support is special
There is something brewing at the Emirates. There is something stronger on the road. The away support always sound so raucous. It has been a consistent and growing trait this season. The connection between supporters and fans is more than it has probably been since our move from Highbury. Be it on the road or at home, the support is simply the best it has ever been in recent memory. A lot of that has to be down to the manager and Edu and their decision to place a significant focus on the culture of the club and the importance of the fans in that.
Take today for instance, when Bukayo Saka scored he ran in their direction and celebrated heartily with them, as did the rest of his team. It highlighted this strengthened connection between players and supporters. It shows how important both are to each other and to the progress Arsenal are making.
Throughout this season, you never stop hearing the away fans, whatever the match situation and in some cases it takes a lot to out-sing some of the opposition especially those at Villa Park but they did that this weekend and on many occasions. Forget all the negative naysayers that still exist on social media and get their fair share of attention. To understand how much things have changed at Arsenal, listen to the fans – at home or away and you’ll get a sense of something special growing.
Next up for the faithful and players? Selhurst Park after the international break. You can fully expect that the energy will be consistent!