For Pep Guardiola, the biggest challenge will be convincing his Manchester City players the Premier League title race is not over after Sunday’s win over their nearest rivals.
Arsenal were second-best in every way you look at it as they were blown off the park by an impressive Aston Villa side to the tune of a 3-0 scoreline in their Premier League clash at the Emirates.
As expected, Arsenal fielded the same line-up as the one that handed Manchester United a 1-0 loss a week ago and many were fully expecting them to continue on their merry way. However, it did not pan out that way as they were well and truly beaten on a wet and soggy night in North London.
The warning signs were there from the first minute when Villa took the lead, or so they thought when John McGinn’s effort was cancelled out after VAR intervened.
After that, Arsenal controlled possession without really making the former Gunners keeper Emiliano Martinez work at all.
Aston Villa then took the lead from a Bukayo Saka own goal and many thought that it would be the rocket to get us started.
Similar to nearly every game this season, Alexandre Lacazette had a glorious chance to pull us back level, however, his header went sailing over the bar.
Thomas Partey was a halftime substitute as he picked up a thigh problem and Dani Ceballos was introduced. Without the physical presence of Partey or Granit Xhaka, the Gunners were overrun in the midfield as Villa did as they pleased.
Two goals from Ollie Watkins in three minutes put an exclamation mark on what was a superb Villa performance and one that was fully deserved as they bossed proceedings and moved up to sixth on the table.
It was without a doubt the worst performance under Mikel Arteta and he is going to have two weeks to figure things out thanks to the international break.
Many fans on social media are calling for his head already and it is silly to even contemplate that at this stage. Let us not forget he is ten months into his first managerial role – why is he expected to have the side shoot straight up the table with virtually the same team that Unai Emery faulted with?
Relax everyone, it is going to take time, although some fans are not as patient as I am.
So, what are the takeaways from a performance like this?
Aubameyang must start playing through the middle.
I feel like I have been saying this for weeks now and for me, Aubameyang is wasted out on the flanks. He needs to play through the middle so that he is the one getting on the end of that delightful cross from Kieran Tierney.
Arteta has stuck with Lacazette long enough, it is time to give Aubameyang a run of games through the middle.
Nicolas Pepe must be starting in place of Willian.
When the team sheets came out, I must admit I was shocked to see the Ivorian on the bench and Willian starting.
Pepe has done everything asked of him so far this season, while Willian has barely fired a shot. Surely now Pepe deserves his chance.
We now realise how important Partey is to our midfield, too.
In the first half, we had a foothold in the middle of the park even though we did concede a soft goal.
However, in the second half, once Partey was taken off, we had no presence in the middle of the park as Mo Elneny and Ceballos were in charge of starting our attacks and defending our back four which meant Villa simply did what they wanted.
Hopefully, his injury is not a major one or we could be in trouble.
Give William Saliba a chance.
If a result like this is going to do anything, it is going to make the manager think about his team selection. Now clearly Saliba is our future or at least we think he is, so why not give him a chance now?
Yes, I know he is young and raw, but he deserves an opportunity to show what he can do in the league as playing U/23’s is not going to cut it.
We now have two weeks to stew on that horror show and will travel to face Leeds United in what will be anything but a cakewalk.
After a performance like that, Arteta has time to figure out what went wrong and how to rectify it because there is no hiding from what they dished up.
If we have any hopes of a top-four finish, there can not be a repeat of what we saw against Aston Villa.