Morning all.

Having been beaten by Wolves, I thought Arteta and his players would be up for yesterday’s game. I expected a big response, but was left disappointed. Our football in the first half was pretty poor, not helped by the rotational fouling committed by Villa but let’s not hide behind that because fouling is within the rules. Mind you, when a player has been booked and then commits another bad one by going through the back of an opponent, I always thought a red card should follow a second booking.

Cedric cocked up and Villa made us pay for it.

We enjoyed plenty of possession but the only real shots on goal came from Xhaka’s free kick which Martinez saved well and Ødegaard who did everything right but hit the target.

Mikel Arteta’s subs proved to negative other than Ødegaard. Willian was exceptionally poor, Aubameyang equally so. If that’s the best our captain can give his team then sell him. Willian has done nothing other than prove he should never have become an Arsenal player in the first place. With Martinelli on the bench and the team needing a goal, I really don’t know what Mikel Arteta was thinking when he opted for the older of the two Brazilian’s. One offers pace, forward passes and directness, the other, backwards and sideways passes. Honestly, I don’t know what Arteta sees in him.

On Boxing Day, however the introduction of ESR came about, his inclusion brought more energy to the football Arsenal played and perhaps it’s time he went one step further. Balogun and Nelson could do no worse right now than Aubameyang and Willian.

Our left hand side looked the more likely to bear fruit with Saka and Pepe yet that went because when Willian replaced Partey it was Pepe who got shunted to the right.

Credit to Aston Villa as they defended really well but I thought we made it easy for them. Pass, pass and another pass. Possession stats look great but we didn’t shoot enough, we weren’t direct enough and as Rio Ferdinand said, we really were “powder puff” in our performance.

Chris Kavanagh and VAR had another stinker as they missed a stonewall penalty when Martinez tugged at Lacazette’s shirt as the ball was crossed into the box and as said, Konsa should have been booked a second time after going straight through the back of Lacazette. Big decisions went against us again in the West Midlands and of course they can make a difference to the end result but Arsenal should be turning up and putting in a much stronger performance to win the game without having to look back at missed decisions to find an excuse. It was the same at Wolves, terrible decisions yes, but by the time Luiz was sent off, the game should have been out of reach for Wolves.

The last two fixtures have damaged our chances of securing European football. Not just because of the points, we’ve dropped too many already but the performance level dropped yesterday again just as we’re heading into a run of a hefty and difficult fixture period.

Leeds, Man City, Leicester City, Benfica, Burnley, Toots, West Ham and Liverpool.

Arteta said:

(It was a) really strong performance. We completely dominated the game, we dominated every department, and we should have won. But in the Premier League when you give a goal to the opponent – and we gave them another three opportunities to be fair, just giving them to them – and then you are not ruthless in the opponent’s box, you don’t win games.

Well, he picks the team, he goes through the tactics and he makes the changes.

Players like Willian, and Aubameyang in the form he’s been all season, aren’t going to win Arsenal football matches. Aubameyang, if he isn’t scoring goals, brings little to the team and so far this season, he’s been as bad as Ozil, the Ozil which was dropped from all squads. All Willian does is look for a safe pass and that isn’t going to make our attacking play more direct or penetrative. There’s a difference in bringing on both players when we’re winning and bringing them on when we’re chasing a game. Substitutes need to be guys who make a positive impact, not drag us backwards. Forget how Willian played for Chelsea and forget how Aubameyang played last season as it’s the here and now which counts.

Lastly, I thought Mat Ryan played well. Thank goodness.

Theres my penny’s worth. See you in the comments.