ASTON VILLA 1-0 ARSENAL
- Goals: Ollie Watkins (£6.3m)
- Assists: Bertrand Traoré (£5.9m)
- Bonus: Watkins x3, Emi Martinez (£5.2m) x2, Matt Targett (£4.8m) x1
Emi Martinez (£5.2m) helped Aston Villa to their 11th clean sheet of the league season with three save points at home to former club Arsenal.
A nine-point score in Gameweek 23 makes it seven times, from 21 appearances in this campaign, that Martinez has returned over six points.
Despite conceding three goals on two occasions in the past five Gameweeks, Dean Smith’s side have recorded shut-outs in each of the other three fixtures.
On the goalkeeper and his side’s defensive performances, Smith explained:
“He [Martinez] was disappointed on Wednesday, he felt he’d made a mistake for the goal. Certainly didn’t make any mistakes today. That’s 11 clean sheets, I think the most we’ve had for a long time. He’ll be happy with the people in front of him, who protect him really well. But when he’s called upon, he makes good saves. We’ve been very good at holding onto leads. There’s a doggedness about the players, a great team spirit. You could hear them at the end, the last five minutes; it was the noise you want to hear on a football pitch when people are trying to protect a one-goal lead.” – Dean Smith
After their immediate return to winning ways, Villa travel to Brighton in Gameweek 24 and have two fixtures outstanding – against Everton and Spurs – that require rearranging.
They could also have another game for the re-schedulers to deal with if Sheffield United beat Bristol City in the FA Cup fifth round next Wednesday.
There are FPL options from back to front in the Villa squad and, once the fixture schedule is updated, heavy investment can be expected for Martinez and his colleagues.
Ollie Watkins puts Villa ahead against Arsenal
Ollie Watkins (£6.3m) is timing his recent form nicely, in light of future Double Gameweeks.
He scored after two minutes by pouncing on an early mistake from Arsenal left-back Cedric (£4.6m) whose backwards pass to Gabriel (£5.0m) allowed Bertrand Traoré (£5.9m) to nip in and tee-up the forward.
Crucially, Watkins now has four goals in his last five matches, securing bonus points for the first time since Gameweek 8 on Saturday considering his effort proved to be the winning goal.
“Bit of confusion at the back for them. I’ve hit it, I think it’s come off my left foot, hit the defender and then gone in. But I’ll take that.” – Ollie Watkins on his winning goal
Villa boss Smith has been as much of a fan of Watkins this season as his owners have of late. His gut-busting, selfless style helping to transform Villa’s fortunes and making him a key, undroppable figure for the team.
“He’s in double figures for goals now in the Premier League, which is fantastic in only 21 games. The distance he covers in a game is tremendous, at a high speed. I don’t think any centre-halves this season have had a second to rest on the ball when he’s about. He’s got a good knack of knowing where the net is and being in the right place. We started at a good intensity. We charged down balls from Arsenal and pounced on errors.” – Dean Smith
Those considering how to invest in Aston Villa moving forward will certainly be wondering how Watkins has compared to Jack Grealish (£7.8m) of late.
Against Arsenal, the FPL midfielder managed just two points following an injury-time yellow card making for a seven-point disparity between their two Gameweek scores.
Still, Grealish has 30 points across his last five matches (six per game), and was Saturday’s top creator (four key passes) while Watkins has 29 (5.8 points per game).
Arguably, those numbers suggest an attacking double-up is hardly a ridiculous prospect, especially considering Villa’s remaining fixture rearrangements.
But the case for Watkins is certainly there, considering he has effectively matched Grealish’s output over the last five matches for a saving of £1.5m.
Thomas Partey was forced off through injury in Gameweek 23
Arsenal’s run of impressive attacking displays is looking more and more distant from each week to the next.
Following their blank at Villa Park, the Gunners now have just one goal in their last three matches, after netting 10 across the four outings prior to that.
Accordingly, owners of Leeds defenders might be tempted to start them in Gameweek 24 while Manchester City’s impressive back-line is set to host the Gunners in Gameweek 25.
Arteta still believes Arsenal have something to offer in attack though, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.3m) approaches the required fitness to consistently start matches again.
“We completely dominated the game. We dominated every department and we should have won the game. I’m extremely disappointed to lose and the way we lost it. We were the better team. We controlled every department but we gave them the ball. We gave them another three big chances. Then when we had to score the goal, we didn’t find the right pass or the right shot. They were better in the boxes and that’s how you win games. We created enough opportunities.” – Mikel Arteta
Team expected stats from Arsenal vs Aston Villa
Despite Arteta’s feelings on the encounter, it was Villa who racked up the higher ‘expected goals’ figure in the early Gameweek 23 kick-off.
Thomas Partey (£4.9m), meanwhile, could be sidelined again after leaving the pitch with an injury in the second half. Arteta explained:
“He had a muscular issue. We had to take him off, he could not continue playing.” – Mikel Arteta
Aston Villa XI (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Targett, Mings, Konsa, Cash; McGinn, Nakamba; Grealish, Barkley (Ramsey 76′), B Traoré (Trezeguet 66′); Watkins.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ryan; Cedric (Odegaard 65′), Gabriel, Holding, Bellerin; Xhaka, Partey (Willian 73′); Pepe, Smith Rowe, Saka; Lacazette (Aubameyang 58′).