What Emi Martinez did three times after Aston Villa beat Arsenal as top four finish mapped out

Ollie Watkins has scored 19 goals in the Premier League this season, the joint-most in a campaign for Aston Villa along with Christian Benteke
Ollie Watkins has scored 19 goals in the Premier League this season, the joint-most in a campaign for Aston Villa along with Christian Benteke -Credit:Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Unai Emery announcing that Aston Villa are in contention for a top four finish might not have piqued the interest of many neutral reporters in his post-match press conference, but it was the answer which a few of us and supporters alike have been waiting six months for.

We've known it all along, but Emery's admission validates the fact that Villa find themselves in a glorious position to achieve what many thought was impossible before and during the start of the campaign. A win over Bournemouth next weekend would leave Tottenham six points behind fourth place before their run of games against Arsenal (H), Chelsea (A) and Liverpool (A). The momentum has swung in Villa's favour.

There will still be more twists and turns to come in the race for Champions League football, but a 2-0 win over title chasers Arsenal will do Villa's confidence the world of good after question marks began to surface over their form and capacity to battle domestically and on the continent in the final weeks of the season.

READ | Defiant Ollie Watkins reveals how Aston Villa 'proved a lot of people wrong' in Arsenal win

READ | Zaniolo, Arsenal return and Champions League - every word from Aston Villa's Unai Emery

Here are the talking points from Villa's memorable win...


Make no bones about it, Emery's Villa have dished out the best two performances Man City and Arsenal have faced this season. They schooled Pep Guardiola's treble winners at Villa Park, before then beating Arsenal through a very different type of performance a few days later.

Villa were never going to be able to dominate Arsenal across the whole 90 minutes on Sunday like they did with City back in December, but the Gunners were outclassed on home soil in the second half and could've been a goal behind before the break after Ollie Watkins his the inside of the post. Villa are the only team this season that Arsenal have not scored against in the Premier League after completing their third Premier League double over Arsenal last night, having also done so in 1992-93 and 2020-21.

"It's not for me, it's for Aston Villa," Emery said after full-time when questioned if the win was any sweeter because of his Arsenal connection. "Now we have 63 and we are closer to being in the top five. That is the only thought I had before the match.

"It was tough because Arsenal are having an incredible season. I've very proud of our work and the focus of the players, being demanding of themselves."

Asked if the win gives Villa a big boost for Champions League qualification, Emery said: "Yes. But today was the same three points we were playing for last weekend against Brentford when we were 2-0 up and drew. It's the same three points we'll play for next Sunday. If we are not consistent then we can lose. This is the level we want to be at."

Emi Martinez
Emi Martinez -Credit:Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images


Behind every top team is a world class goalkeeper and Villa have the very best in Emi Martinez. Without his saves in the first half of their Europa Conference League quarter-final first leg against Lille, Villa wouldn't be taking an advantage with them to France later this week. His save to deny Leandro Trossard what looked certain to be the opening goal on Sunday was crucial.

Arsenal haven't lost a home Premier League game after going ahead since losing 2-1 to Man City on January 1, 2022. It was crucial that Villa defended manfully before controlling more of the game as it developed. It was an Emery masterclass, but going away to a side challenging for the league title and one in fantastic form meant the Villa boss was also relying on some individual brilliance from his players to win the match.

Ollie Watkins - who scored his 19th league goal of the season yesterday - has to be in the running for the Premier League player of the season, so he'll likely scoop the club's player of the season award. But the amount of times Martinez has made crucial saves in games has made a huge impact in Villa's quest for Champions League football and Europa Conference League glory.

A few minutes after referee David Coote blew up for full-time, the Villa players headed over to the away end before they were serenaded by their fans. Martinez lapped up the celebrations by giving the Villa supporters three big fist pumps - he just couldn't help himself!



After a hugely important victory against a top team, it can be easy to gloss over the individual performances which made the team tick on the day. Morgan Rogers run himself into the ground and continues to mature in the Premier League, while Diego Carlos was a colossus in defence.

Nicolo Zaniolo, meanwhile, is a player who has been much-maligned during his season-long loan at Villa. He struggled at the start of his move from Galatasaray due to a number of reasons, but in the last two months Emery admits to have been working with a totally different player.

He said in his press conference that Zaniolo is training better and is concentrating more, plus his performances on the pitch have improved too. The Italian's display against Arsenal was his best in a Villa shirt and wherever he ends up next season, that performance will have raised his profile without a doubt.

Emery was seen encouraging and praising Zaniolo throughout the first half while he was playing off the left, next to the technical area, in the first period. He was replaced by Alex Moreno in the 80th minute - just minutes before Leon Bailey's opener - after feeling some discomfort and as he walked around the corner housing the travelling supporters, it would appear that every Villa fan clapped him on his way.

While Zaniolo would have expected more from himself this season, he has won Villa points from losing positions earlier in the campaign and Sunday proved that he has a role to play in the final weeks of the season.


This was Arsenal's first Premier League defeat since New Year’s Eve against Fulham. They had won 10 of their last 11 Premier League games, scoring at least twice in each victory, going into Sunday's meeting with Villa.

The Gunners conceded just four goals across those 11 games, taking 31 points out of a possible 33 and only dropping points in a 0-0 draw at Manchester City back in March. Mikel Arteta's side had also kept 14 Premier League clean sheets this season, at least five more than any other club.

The numbers and stats behind Villa's 19th league win of the season hammer home what an outstanding result it was on Sunday. But this is a group of players who aren't fazed by any opponent. In fact, they are fearless after a couple of hours in the meeting room with Emery, when he gives his players all the tools and information they need to get a result if they can carry out his game plan.

Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta -Credit:Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images


Few title hopefuls are defeated twice in the same season by the same club who are not competing with them for top spot. To be fair, without the amount of injuries Villa have suffered throughout the season, they'd be breathing down Arsenal's neck right about now.

Arteta credited Villa's performance after full-time, but also suggested that his side could have been 5-0 up by the break. There were 21 shots in the first half of this game with only Man City v Brentford in February seeing more first half attempts without a goal being produced in a Premier League match this season.

"We're obviously very disappointed with the result, especially with the way we have been performing," the Arsenal boss admitted. "The first half was one of the best halves we have played this season against a top team. We should've scored three, four, five, we haven't scored.

"In the second half, the game changes, we struggle to gain momentum, we struggle to get the ball into certain areas and we were very sloppy with the ball and the game was there with not much happening. A few corners for them and then we concede a very poor goal and then, on top of that, we were chasing it and then we concede another one and it was a painful loss.

"I think we played much better than we did against Brighton in the first half. Much better. I think we should've scored three, four, five goals in the first half and that would've been a very different game. That's not the case and we have to accept that and we have to praise the opponent, they beat us and we have to move."

Aston Villa players show their appreciation to the fans after beating Arsenal
Aston Villa players show their appreciation to the fans after beating Arsenal -Credit:Getty Images


Analysing possibilities and permutations is always a more enjoyable challenge after a Villa win, especially when their Champions League-chasing rivals dropped points over the weekend too. We'll start with the fifth place coefficient.

If Man City, Arsenal and Villa all progress in Europe, plus Borussia Dortmund are eliminated from the Champions League, then a win over Bournemouth next weekend could practically seal the deal for Emery's side. How exciting is that? The three Premier League clubs heading through would surely rack up more coefficient points than Bayer Leverkusen, who are likely to get past West Ham.

Liverpool could help boost England's coefficient by beating Atalanta, but after losing 3-0 at home, it's a tall order for them to go through to the semi-finals. It's important City beat Madrid because even if Bayern were to knock Arsenal out, the German giants would then face the Premier League champions. Villa and Leverkusen could be the only other English and German clubs left in European competition as long as Atletico Madrid complete the job against Dortmund.

So, by Thursday night, we'll know where England stands with the coefficient and whether they have the upper-hand heading into the last four of each of the three UEFA competitions. Now that Villa are on 63 points in the Premier League, they'd need one more win to hit 66. That's a total which Manchester United could only eclipse if they win all of their six remaining games, while Newcastle would need five wins and a draw to reach 66 points themselves.

The race for top four could go down to the wire, but Villa will want to increase their cushion to Tottenham in the next couple of games. While Spurs play against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool in their next three, they still have relegation-threatened Burnley and Sheffield United to play. Between those two games is a home clash against Man City.

Villa will increase the gap to fifth to six points if they beat Bournemouth, before they host Chelsea a week later while Spurs host Arsenal. So if Villa manage to claim back-to-back home league wins, Spurs could be as many as nine points behind Villa before they then play their game in hand at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, May 2, and then travel to Anfield on Saturday, May 5.

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