Football Features

Arsenal’s woes are far from over as Trezeguet’s shotgun strike gives Aston Villa hope of survival

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:47, 21 July 2020 | Updated: 9:52, 30 March 2021

In an intense night of football, Aston Villa beat Arsenal 1-0 at Villa Park.

The Gunners came into the game with a mountain of hype around them having just dispatched the two best teams in the country back-to-back. Excuses could be made as to why they beat a Liverpool side that had lost their edge since winning the title, but repeating the feat against a very hungry Manchester City in an FA Cup semi-final? That was for real.

So obviously when they came up against an Aston Villa side that had won just once in their previous 13 (yes, thirteen) Premier League games, it seemed obvious that Arsenal would blow the Villains away and pick up their sixth win in the last eight.

After all, Mikel Arteta had worked his magic on the squad and they were now a serious team capable of serious victories again. The banter era of Arsenal was over and if the Spaniard got backing in the transfer market then the Gunners would once again contend at the very top of the Premier League table in 2020/21.

But of course, the banter era of Arsenal is not over. Things don’t change that quickly. Mikel Arteta has worked wonders, to be sure, but he’s still not got Arsenal to the place where they are comfortable being the dominant side in a game against an opponent sitting deep and hitting on the break. The wins over City and Liverpool saw the Gunners sit back and hit on the break, which is a much easier thing to train than instituting a genuine passing system full of positional play and intelligent movement.

So better times will come, for sure, but they’re not here yet. And in many ways Aston Villa were just about the worst possible opponent to stretch Arsenal where the fabric is running thin and the stitching is coming loose.

Aston Villa came into this game knowing that they were in the relegation zone and anything less than a win would see them head into the final day of the season stuck in that bottom three and not depending on themselves for their future. That is a horrible place for Dean Smith’s men to be in, and they came into this game determined to avoid it.

Watford getting blattered earlier in the day was the first motivator for Villa, not only did it mean they could go level on points with a win but it meant that they only had to win 1-0 to leapfrog the Hornets on goal difference.

Villa began the game as though they knew that. They sat deep and blocked off passing lanes, they threw bodies in the way and made sure they were always aware and alert of the position of Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

And they took the lead with a moment of genuine inspiration. A Jack Grealish corner just short of the half-hour mark was flicked on by Tyrone Mings. Trezequet was back in space but would have to take it down and try to engineer some space to shoot. Well, he would have done if he was a normal footballer. Trezeguet is not normal, he is a true maverick. Scorer of both the goals in Villa’s aforementioned solitary win in 13. And when he saw the ball falling out of the sky he contorted his body, cocked his leg back like a shotgun and then let fly with a shot that packed so much ferocity you actually want some TikTok kid to soundtrack it with a shotgun blast. BLADOW. Emi Martinez could do nothing, it was an unstoppable ripper and if it does turn out to be the goal that keeps Aston Villa in the Premier League, it was worthy of that.

After that, Villa did their usual thing: sit deep and let Captain Jack carry them up the field. To his credit, Trezeguet did chip in with a game-high 5 tackles, but it was Jack Grealish who took his side on his shoulders, winning 5 fouls (for once only good enough for 2nd on the pitch), creating 3 chances (including what should have been an assist with a gorgeous run and pass to Keinan Davis) and completing 3 dribbles (both game-highs).

Meanwhile at the back the defence hung on for dear life, with Tyrone Mings recording a game-high 8 clearances. but managed to thwart the Gunners for the most part. Eddie Nketiah struck the post with a lovely header, but beyond that Pepe Reina was untroubled as Arsenal were prevented from having a single shot on target.

As if that wasn’t bad enough for the Gunners, the defeat means the highest they can place is 8th. They will finish outside of the top six for the first time in 25 years, a quarter of a century! They will end the season with just four away wins, which equals a club record for a single season. They cannot qualify for the Europe through the league and will have to hope for luck in the FA Cup. And they have finished below Tottenham for the fourth-straight season. The Tottenham that had a crisis, sacked their best-ever manager and hired José Mourinho, and then had another crisis. They will also register their lowest-ever points total in a 38-game Premier League season.

Arsenal have enormous promise under Mikel Arteta, but their woes are far from over. There is much work still to be done, and the same can be said of Aston Villa. Although at least for Dean Smith and his side… it’s all in their hands. They know that if they beat West Ham on the final day of the season, they will play Premier League football next season.

All thanks to some great defending and a shotgun named Trezeguet.