Arsenal record ‘huge strike back’ in title race as Cole names star who made Emery ‘anxious’ in win over Aston Villa

Jorginho and Bukayo Saka of Arsenal

Arsenal have put the psychological pressure back on Manchester City thanks to their win over Aston Villa, with pundits agreeing on their title race status.

After a spell of bad form, Arsenal have seen their lead at the top of the Premier League table decrease in recent weeks. Going into this weekend’s fixtures, they had lost their place at the summit to Manchester City on goal difference.

But after a 4-2 win over Aston Villa, Arsenal have returned to the top for the time being. That said, it was far from an easy ride.

Arsenal actually fell behind twice, first to Ollie Watkins and then to Philippe Coutinho. However, they responded each time via Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

As the game entered stoppage time, though, Arsenal were able to run away with it. First, they went in front when Jorginho’s long-distance effort hit the woodwork and deflected in off the head of goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Then, Gabriel Martinelli finished off a counter attack by scoring into an empty net after a Villa corner for which Martinez had gone up.

Hence, Arsenal could breathe a sigh of relief but also celebrate their status as title contenders remaining intact.

Assessing how the result will affect the title race, ex-Arsenal defender Martin Keown told BT Sport: “Absolutely massive. Jorginho’s goal there, the opportunistic shot from distance, comes off the keeper. They just kept going.

“They showed a lot of character today, a lot of personality and I think they’re sweet these victories, when they come late, when you’re behind in games and you’re starting to think, on that journey home, ‘could this be our season?’

“I do think psychologically that’s a huge strike back for Arsenal after being on the floor a little bit before today.

“City now will look at that, have to digest it and know that they’ve got to respond. And Arsenal have still got that game in hand to come. So that’s been a really good reply from Arsenal today.”

Former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole also believes Arsenal are still well in the title race, and are in fact “in charge” of it as things stand.

Cole added: “Fantastic, we wanted a title race and Arsenal have given it. Asked a lot of question marks of this team, over the last year, six months, about their character, their personality. They showed it in abundance today.

“That man there [Aaron Ramsdale] made a crucial save, all playing their part.

“You win games, you need to stop the rot, but you couldn’t have done it in more of a healing way. Because what it does, forget about the three games you’ve lost now. This is such a lift off. It’ll lift the whole squad.

“The fans are joyous behind us and they feel now, ‘we’re back in charge’.”

There have been a few setbacks for Arsenal to deal with in February, and there were in this game too. But the way they responded impressed ex-England striker, Peter Crouch.

Crouch said: “If you want to be in the shake up at the end of the season for the title contention then you’re going to have to come through difficult moments. Credit to Villa, they were in difficult moments for Arsenal there today, and they answered them.

“And that is going to be huge for them in the race for the title this year.”

Villa couldn’t deal with Arsenal star Saka, claims Cole

By beating Villa, Arsenal got the better of their former manager, Unai Emery.

Tactically, Cole believed the Villa boss struggled to come up with a solution for one Arsenal man in particular.

Cole said: “Unai Emery, you feel for Villa first of all, give them a mention, they put up a good fight today.

“I felt he never quite got to grips with Saka, Emery. I think he was anxious.

“Lucas Digne coming in, it quelled it a little bit down that side, but Ben White and Saka right in front of us were excellent today. They really tore Aston Villa to ribbons.”

Arsenal are now on 54 points for the season from 23 games. Villa, meanwhile, are down in 11th place with 28 points after their latest defeat.

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