Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has praised his team for their resilience in Birmingham against Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.
The Gunners spent only one match week in second place as they clawed their way back to the top with a resilient 4-2 win at Villa Park in the early kickoff of match week 24.
The game started with the hosts, Aston Villa, in charge. Led by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery, the Villas were a goal ahead in the fifth minute thanks to a brilliant Ollie Watkins goal. Bukayo Saka responded in the 16th minute, smashing home a volley from Tyrone Mings’ poor clearance.
Arsenal ended the first half on the back foot with Villa creating the most chances and dominating the game for large spells. The hosts scored in the 31st minute through another brilliantly worked move finished by Philippe Coutinho, who was only getting his first start in the Premier League since Emery became the club’s manager.
However, Arsenal clawed their way back to relevance in the second half from around the hour mark and their hard work paid off when Oleksandr Zinchenko finished a well-worked corner with a brilliant shot from outside the box to score his first ever Premier League goal in 92 appearances for both Manchester City and Arsenal.
Arsenal kept up the pressure and new signing Jorginho smashed a belter from outside the box in the 90th minute which hit the woodwork and was turned in unknowingly by Emiliano Martinez in goal for their hosts. That was followed up by a goal scored by substitute Gabriel Martinelli who tapped into an empty post following a fast break from a Villa corner kick which Martinez had gone up to attack along with every Villa player.
Arteta was overjoyed with the outcome of the game, stating that his boys showed great mental fortitude to brush aside the loss to Manchester City and reclaim their spot at the top of the league.
Speaking to Arsenal TV after the game, the Spaniard said: “It’s been a rollercoaster and very emotional at the end. I think we showed a lot of resilience, character and quality.
“The context of the game was difficult, with the performance that we had against City and getting nothing out of it. Then having to come here less than 72 hours later and finding ourselves 1-0 down after five minutes.
“We had to play the next 90 minutes and we had some difficulties in certain periods during the first half. Individually we brought the level right down and stopped doing the simple things right. At half-time we said we had to raise the individual level, we had to look each other in the face and we had to do much more if we wanted to come out and win this game.
“We altered one or two things and then we produced a very strong performance and probably should have won it earlier than we did.
“At some stage you’re going to have to win games in the 94th minute or the 96th minute. You’re going to have to score from set-plays, you’re going to have to score when you’re down to 10 men.
“It’s about winning in any context. We always talk about that and today we had a really difficult context, especially with what happened after five minutes. The team showed a lot of emotional qualities which are needed to be up there. I’m really happy with that.”