Martinelli’s strike against Steven Gerrard’s woeful Aston Villa keeps Arsenal top Gunners
Arsenal 2, Aston Villa 1
Not since the days of Highbury have Arsenal started a Premier League season with five consecutive victories, and rarely since then have their supporters felt as buoyant about their team as they do right now.
Mikel Arteta’s side remain at the top of the table, momentum intact, thanks to this spirited victory over an Aston Villa side that continue to appear disjointed and disgruntled.
The pained look on Steven Gerrard’s face, after Arsenal had scored their second goal just moments after a Villa equaliser, said it all for him and his struggling team.
Gerrard’s team posed a threat at times in the second half but were utterly outclassed in the first, when they largely resorted to simply kicking Arsenal’s players as often as they could.
Villa’s second-half goal, scored by Douglas Luiz directly from a corner, brought them level after Gabriel Jesus had struck in the first half. Gabriel Martinelli soon restored Arsenal’s lead, prompting yet more enthusiastic celebrations from the home crowd.
Arsenal’s opener arrived from Jesus, courtesy of an ugly error by Emiliano Martinez, the former Arsenal goalkeeper.
Martinez spilled Granit Xhaka’s deflected cross and Jesus was there to smash in the rebound.
More opportunities were to follow and Villa looked like a team without a plan.
Perhaps most encouraging of all for Arsenal was the performance in midfield of Albert Sambi Lokonga, who was brought into the side owing to injuries to Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey.
Lokonga struggled at times last season but here he was controlling the midfield with swagger.
It is obvious that Villa are currently less than the sum of their parts – hence the mounting pressure on Gerrard – but there is still considerable quality in this team and Arsenal could not relax.
Gradually Villa began to threaten more frequently, and their goal arrived in the 74th minute.
It was Luiz’s first kick of the ball, having come on as a substitute, and Aaron Ramsdale could only flap a hand at the inswinging corner.
As was the case against Leicester City and Fulham, though, Arsenal responded quickly to conceding.
Within three minutes, Martinelli had converted Saka’s cross at the back post, and Arteta’s side were back in control – and back on top of the league.
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