Football Features

Arsenal 0-3 Aston Villa: Five things learned as Wonderboy Watkins gives Villa a winning edge

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 21:51, 8 November 2020

In an incredible night of football, Aston Villa dismantled Arsenal 0-3 at the Emirates.

The match began with Villa having a great goal ruled out for a questionable offside call (the player was offside but wasn’t really interfering with play) but they didn’t let that stop them and still rampaged over Arsenal with three more goals and a clean sheet. What did we learn?

1. Wonderboy Watkins gives Villa a winning edge

Obviously Captain Jack Grealish is Aston Villa’s star man. No one could dispute the genius of the man with the colossal calves; the low-socked lothario who defenders can’t seem to touch unless he wants them to foul him, which they inevitably do.

But even with him last season, Aston Villa struggled. Teams realised they could key on Grealish and effectively shut Villa down, and the side had no regular source of goals beyond him. Enter Ollie Watkins.

The young man signed for Villa this summer and came into this game with 4 goals in 7 appearances including an incredible hat-trick against Liverpool in that 7-2 win. Tonight he put Arsenal to the sword, with two finishes that turned a nervy 0-1 lead into an 0-3 cruise. His first was a nice header but the second, a low leftie drive, showed the confidence oozing through this young man who has given Aston Villa the winning edge that will not only keep them up but potentially drive them forward to greatness.

2. The Aubameyang Problem

Arsenal fans want to play Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up-front, but the club clearly doesn’t have a creative enough player on the wing to cover for him. And when Arsenal play Aubemeyang on the wing, they miss his clinical quality up-top because Alex Lacazette

Obviously the way Mikel Arteta constructs the Arsenal attack, it leads to chances being created for the wide player. At least that’s how it should function in an ideal world. In reality what happens is Arsenal don’t create much of anything and Aubameyang wastes tonnes of energy doing the defensive work all wingers have to do and can’t effect the game in attack.

To illustrate: tonight against Aston Villa, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had 0 shots. Not 0 shots on target that can happen sometimes, but 0 shots at all.

So what does Arteta do? Well he either fixes the creativity issues in his midfield or he puts a greater trust in Reiss Nelson or Nicolas Pepe or, y’know, Mesut Ozil, to start games and allow Aubameyang to play in attack.

3. The Wall

When you think of Aston Villa, you think of the attackers, the forwards, the swashbuckling way in which they attack sides on the break. You think of Captain Jack Grealish. What you don’t think of is the wall in defence, the wall built on Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa.

And perhaps that was fair coming into this game, given how Leeds and Southampton cut them apart. But tonight at the Emirates we saw just how solid of a defensive pairing Mings and Konsa make. They denied Liverpool repeatedly, they blanked Leicester, and now they doused the Arsenal attack and made the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette look normal.

Mings is an absolute colossus. You wonder what is going through the minds of Manchester United fans watching him, given how they laughed at rumours United were linked with him. And Konsa has really emerged this season and was monstrous tonight with a game-high 6 clearances. And even the full-backs get in on the action with Matty Cash tonight also chipping in with 6 clearances and 3 interceptions.

Aston Villa’s Wall is wonderful in big games. Now they have to get it working against weaker opposition too.

4. Shot-shy Gunners

Mikel Arteta was appointed off the back of his working under and with Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger, but people always forget he spent even longer playing under Alex McLeish and David Moyes at Rangers and Everton respectively.

Arteta knows how to set a side up to not concede. He’s done it it many times to good effect against big teams like Arsenal’s last Premier League win against Manchester United. However he’s having more trouble setting Arsenal up to actually be creative.

Of the 13 shots Arsenal managed today, just 2 of them were on target. They barely bothered troubling Emi Martinez in the Villa goal. On the whole this season Arsenal have taken just 73 shots, that’s 15th in the league. They’ve created just 52 chances as well, also 15th in the league. They have an xG of 8.86, which is neatly mirrored in their goal total of 9. They are not creative enough and, quite ironically, the Gunners are shot-shy. It’s a real problem.

5. Ross Barkley looks at home

Ross Barkley has long been one of England’s most enigmatic talents. Obviously brilliant, but so undisciplined he was often hard to fit into a responsible and organised midfield. He had sporadic success at Everton and Chelsea, but never looked like he truly belonged.

At Aston Villa, however, he looks like he’s right at home. Playing with a mercurial talent like Captain Jack Grealish brings the best out of Barkley, and the solid platform and hard-work from Douglas Luiz and John McGinn allow him space to freedom to roar forward in attack.

Tonight he absolutely cooked Arsenal on the break, creating a game-high 6 chances and notching the game’s most impressive assist when he played Matty Cash’s diagonal pass back across the box first-time with his weak foot, giving Ollie Watkins a simple finish.


To say nothing of the majestic play he, Captain Jack Grealish and Matty Targett conjured up on the left flank to create the opening goal for Villa. A supreme example of the value of patience, the power of patience and the excellence of execution. It ended with an own goal but all the build-up play was flawless.

With Barkley playing like this, it’s no wonder that Villa are 3-0 against “big six” sides this season. A low-block playing to the strengths of their Wall of a defence and a counter-attack led by Captain Jack Grealish fully unleashes the magical and mercurial talents of Ross Barkley. Now they just have to make the deal permanent asap.