‘We had words’ - Steven Gerrard and John McGinn offer instant reaction to Aston Villa loss against Arsenal
It was a frustrating afternoon for Steven Gerrard and his side at Villa Park.
The England international struck through a crowd of bodies on the half hour mark to put the visitors into a deserved lead at the break.
Villa showed signs of improvement in the second half, but could only muster one shot on target, and ultimately couldn’t find an equaliser against a Gunners side who reaffirmed their Champions League qualification ambitions with a valuable three points.
For Steven Gerrard’s men, it’s now two defeats in a row, with the Villans sitting ninth in the table.
Here’s all the reaction to Saturday’s result...
What did the pundits say?
After a relatively flat display from Villa, much of the praise understandably went the way of the visitors.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Michael Brown gave Mikel Arteta’s men high praise for the progress they have made this season.
He said: “Arteta has the knowhow. But what you felt was whether he’d get the time. Would he stick to the tactics, would he get the players to come in and fill those roles? Ultimately, he’s come in and started to get somewhere.
“He set the tone with the big players, Aubameyang moved out. Now it is about recruitment. Liverpool went out and spent big money on a centre-back and a goalkeeper who came straight in. Can Arsenal do that to the same level? That would be the difference for me.”
Reflecting on Saka’s decisive goal, the former Tottenham midfielder added: “Aston Villa couldn’t clear their lines from this wide free-kick. It falls kindly, central for Saka. He’s on fire.
“The goalkeeper might think he could do better; he might not see it well, it is windy, but he should save it, but a wonderful strike and start for Arsenal.”
Gunners legend and Match of the Day pundit Ian Wright delivered a succinct and typically impassioned take on the action, tweeting: “Yesssssss Arsenal!!! 3 big ones!!!”
Focusing in on Villa’s display, Brown said at half-time: “Villa can blame the referee, but look at the top of the pitch. Philippe Coutinho, Emi Buedia, Ollie Watkins, no shots on target. Arsenal have had 58% possession.
“They’ve got to be better”.
What did the players say?
Match-winner Bukayo Saka was quick to emphasise just how important the three points were for his Arsenal side.
Speaking to BT Sport, he said: “To win today was big. To get the result and three points makes us really happy. The goal set us up; we created a few chances before and after, but that goal put us in the driving seat.”
Speaking to Match of the Day, he added: “It’s very, very, very satisfying. I thought we created a lot. We started very well. The early goal helped us get into the game, but we need to start finishing games to prevent things from getting too nervy.”
Reflecting on a second consecutive defeat for his side, Villa midfielder John McGinn told BT Sport: “It is disappointing. The first half was frustrating; Arsenal were comfortable on the ball and it took us far too long to get involved in the game. Second half, it was much better, but when you give teams a head start in this league it is difficult to come back.
“We weren’t good enough on or off the ball and showed Arsenal too much respect. We had words at half time to be more aggressive, to get after them more. We had chances, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“We want to be where West Ham are, that is the target and it is about sticking on the same page.”
What did the managers say?
In a typically frank appraisal of his side’s display, Villa boss Gerrard expressed his disappointment at Saturday’s loss.
Speaking to BT Sport, he said: “It was a tough first half because we allowed it to be tough. I think we were indecisive in the things we tried to do. I think our performance lacked belief. It wasn’t until after half-time that we showed we can be better.
“We deserved to be behind in the first half. We were second best. We set up to be aggressive but lacked belief in what we were doing. I thought certain individuals lacked belief. It’s hard to execute a game plan if not everyone believes in what you are doing.
“We were less indecisive in the second half and off the back of that created four interesting moments. The performance was a lot more positive.
“The league doesn’t lie. Certain teams are ahead of us at the moment and there’s a reason for that. We’ve got to grab it off them, believe in what we’re doing and get support from up above.
“I’m emotional, I care, I don’t like getting beat.”
Speaking to Match of the Day, Arsenal boss Arteta said: “It’s a very big win for us. I thought we played fantastically well, but we didn’t put the game to bed when we had the chances. Then you suffer, but we showed the resilience to win.
“Villa are a very good team and to come here is always extremely difficult. We managed to do the things we wanted to do in the match and I think we deserved to win the game.
“The connection between the players and the fans is exceptional and that gives you a lot of energy and belief. There’s still 10 games to go and you can see how small the margins are. The key is that we are there [in the top four] and that we believe we can do it.”