Aston Villa hosted Arsenal on Saturday hoping to build on their impressive win over Manchester City, and they did just that with an excellent 1-0 win over the Gunners.

John McGinn's seventh minute goal proved defining, and has left Villa fans daring to dream. Unai Emery's side are now just two points off the top of the Premier League, having added yet another twist to what is shaping up to be a frenzied and wide-open title race.

For the Gunners, it was a third league defeat of the season, and to make matters worse for the suspended Mikel Arteta he wasn't there to exert any influence. Martin Odegaard wasted two of their better chances to level matters, but in truth despite piling forward in the second half the visitors struggled to cut open their opponents.

To compound matters for Arsenal, there was a late Kai Havertz equaliser ruled out for handball. Here are the talking points from Villa Park....

1. Bailey delivers again

Leon Bailey's current deal at Aston Villa expires in 2025 - and on the basis of this past week the club would be well served to get it extended.

Having scored the late winner against Manchester City on Wednesday, the Jamaican winger was again at the heart of a pivotal moment on Saturday night. The game was only seven minutes old when he sped down the right hand side before picking out John McGinn with a composed cutback, and the skipper did the rest.

It turned out to be match-defining. The 26-year-old is currently among the league's most in-form players, and the powers at be at Villa Park will by now be wary of his growing reputation.

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2. Villa for the title?

In the build-up to this clash Martin Keown, a former player of both clubs, boldly stated that a Villa win would cement the notion that they were genuine title contenders.

The table doesn't lie. Unai Emery's men remain third, but are just two points off new leaders Liverpool. Despite the widespread perception Villa don't have the squad to go the distance, back-to-back wins over Manchester City and Arsenal is quite the statement.

It's now a remarkable 15 consecutive home wins for the Birmingham club. Increasing their points tally on the road has to be a priority and should they improve in that respect, especially given the apparent vulnerability of champions City, then a first top-flight title since 1980/81 will no longer appear impossible.

3. A tale of three keepers

While the jury remains out on Mikel Arteta's seemingly unnecessary gamble on David Raya, the irony of the man guarding the opposition goal tonight wouldn't have been lost on Arsenal fans.

Emiliano Martinez did endure a couple of ropey moments before producing a superb first half stop from Odegaard. It was a blunt reminder of the rise in stature of the 2022 World Cup winner with Argentina - who also produced his customary time-wasting as early as the 38th minute.

The 31-year-old spent eight years at the Emirates, sent on loan six times, before being released in 2020. You can't help but think that had the North London club shown more faith in him, then there would be no need for a conundrum over who should be their No.1.

4. Odegaard fluffs his lines

Martin Odegaard has developed into a pivotal performer under Arteta, not to mention club captain.

But despite scoring four times in the league this season, the gifted Norwegian needs to add to his finishing prowess if he is to elevate himself among the elite. Despite Martinez doing superbly to deny him in the first half, in truth the finish lacked conviction.

And after the break he fired wide from point blank range. The missed chances proved critical, and on such fine margins Premier League titles can be won and lost.

5. Arteta's wake-up call

A late winner at Brentford, a nervy finish before holding on against Wolves, and the midweek injury time ecstasy at Luton.

Those of course, are the kind of results you need to produce to be champions. But there is another school of thought - that if you keep playing with those levels of jeopardy then eventually you will drop points.

And tonight proved one hole that Arteta's side could not haul themselves out of. The Spaniard was forced to watch from afar at Villa Park and the reality is surely dawning on him. His side can ill-afford not to control matches if they want to reach the levels of consistency they crave.

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2023-12-09T19:42:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd