There were contrasting emotions after Aston Villa – Arsenal as Mikel Arteta revealed how ‘hurt’ he felt about the Gunners not being able to finish in the top six, while Villa have dragged themselves out of of the relegation zone with 90 minutes of the season to go.
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A narrow 1-0 win for Villa arrived via Mohamed Trezeguet’s first half strike, as Dean Smith’s side defended well and aside from an Eddie Nketiah header against the post they never looked like letting their lead slip.
Speaking to reporters via Zoom after the game, Arteta was disappointed with the defeat which confirms that Arsenal will finish outside the Premier League’s top six for the first time since 1995 and for the fourth season running will finish below north London rivals Tottenham in the table.
“It has to hurt and we have to suffer,” Arteta said. “Because it is not good enough for this football club and that is why we have to put it right. We know the challenge that is really big. We are facing it and really excited about what we have ahead of us. We need to transmit this enthusiasm and passion because there are going to be some ups and downs. Unfortunately. Today is a down. Sometime it is good to see the reality and then go again, and move on, and improve.”
Arteta and Arsenal can now only qualify for the Europa League by winning the FA Cup on August 1, and although he is disappointed with the defeat at Villa, the wins against Liverpool last week in the PL and Man City in the FA Cup semifinal at the weekend seemed to take it out of his team.
As for Aston Villa, this huge win sets the foundations for a great escape on the final day of the Premier League season, as they didn’t allow Arsenal a a single shot on target and they’ve now taken seven points from their last nine to move up to 17th place in the table. They are above Watford on goal difference by one goal, and are three points ahead of Bournemouth by three points and one goal.
For Villa the equation is simple: win at West Ham and unless Watford beat Arsenal or Bournemouth beat Everton by a bigger scoreline on the final day, they are safe.
ProSoccerTalk asked a relieved Dean Smith, who got Villa promoted via the playoffs last season, if these all-or-nothing situations are one his team thrives in and if it benefits them heading into the final day
“I certainly hope so. We’ve got enough players who have been through one-game situations before in their final last year. I said the last four games were our [playoff] semifinals and now we are through to the final. We will certainly be ready for it but we know there can be no complacency. There was no celebrating from the players tonight, just the relief and satisfaction for the performance,” Smith said.
Aston Villa have given themselves a superb chance of staying in the Premier League, while Arsenal cannot qualify for the Europa League via the Premier League but can by winning the FA Cup.
Life is all about perspective and even though both clubs believe they should be in a much better situation than they’re currently in, they both are one win away from grabbing a ‘get out of jail free’ card.