Morning all.

When Crystal Palace beat Liverpool in the early game yesterday afternoon, the door opened for Arsenal to put a bit of space between themselves and Klopp’s team. But, to achieve that, Arsenal, including Mikel Arteta, had to respect the opposition and be aware of the threat they posed. Villa aren’t 4th in the league without good reason.

Some of our best performances this year have been with Jorginho and Declan Rice in midfield, Jakub Kiwior at left back and Kai Havertz up top. Mikel Arteta left two of the three out and with Jesus in the side, Havertz dropped back into a position he struggled to grasp when he first arrived at Arsenal.

Leaving out Jorginho and Kiwior was like saying we didn’t need them both because we could win without him, after all, we’re the home team and we were facing a side we should beat. Our back four, which in the league has been so so good, was disrupted because of Zinchenko’s inclusion.

As I’ve said before many times, there’s a reason the saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ exists. Mikel Arteta changed something which wasn’t broken and with it, broke Arsenal.

Without Jorginho or perhaps Partey, Rice had less of an impact on the game. Gabriel had little to no support from his left back, a left back often spotted in central midfield. Jorginho ended up coming on from the bench but by then, it was too late as Villa had found their rhythm.

Chances came our way in the first half, the best falling Leandro Trossard but Martinez kept it out. Saka went close but not close enough and other than that, our football was a bit scrappy in and around the box. Villa dealt with what we had to offer with relative ease.

Half-time came and I’d hoped the players would come out with a bit more about them, possibly with a change or two of personnel too. If I hadn’t have already known, I’d have thought it was Arsenal who’d played on Thursday night rather than Unai Emery’s team because it was they who had a spring in their step.

Having already hit the woodwork twice, Villa finally took the lead in the 86th minute. Deserved too in my opinion. Sloppy defending allowed the ball through and across the penalty area where Bailey stood on his own. He made no mistake with his finish. We went in search of an equaliser but left gaps at the back. A swift ball to Watkins who was lurking just inside his own half unmarked and off he went towards goal. Raya was beaten for a second time.

I don’t wish to take anything away from Aston Villa who were in my opinion, the better team by far in the second half, but Arsenal were awful. Possibly the worst performance I’ve seen this season, definitely this year. The defending was woeful, partly because Gabriel was covering both central and left side of the defence and without the extra defence minded midfielder, there was no protection for the back four.

Unai Emery must have been licking his lips when he saw Zinchenko at left back and just Rice in midfield. If his plan was to absorb the Arsenal pressure and go half-time at 0-0 before going up a gear in the second half, then his plan worked.

Basically, what’s worked for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal for the last four months was ditched yesterday for something which simply wasn’t good enough and that’s on the manager. He took a risk with his team selection and it backfired. I think he let the game go on too long before making changes too. Two top quality midfielders on the bench yet we didn’t see either until the 79th minute of the game. In hindsight, I imagine Arteta wishes he’d made his changes at half-time because they might have made a difference to how the second half played out.

I don’t think Arsenal are out of the title race though, just like I don’t think Liverpool are either but both clubs now need Man City to drop points. That’s the tough part though as it’s usually at this stage of the season when Guardiola’s players are at their best. Strange things happen in football though as yesterday proved for both Arsenal and Liverpool.

Next up for Arsenal is Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.

Catch up in the comments.