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Friday, March 31, 2023

Saka strikes as Arsenal firm on fourth place

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Arsenal secured their grip on fourth place in the Premier League thanks to Bukayo Saka’s first-half strike in Saturday’s 1-0 win against Aston Villa.

Arsenal’s five-match winning run was halted with defeat to Liverpool in midweek, but the Gunners made a strong response at Villa Park.

A bright start for the visitors was rewarded when Saka fired home from the edge of the box with half an hour played, bringing up Arsenal’s 2,000th goal in the competition.

Read Also: Arsenal beat Watford to keep Premier League top-four bid on track

Ollie Watkins skimmed the post in the second half but Arsenal, without Aaron Ramsdale and Gabriel Martinelli through injury and illness respectively, saw out another win.

Former Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez did well to stop Ezri Konsa from putting into his net, having earlier denied Thomas Partey, but the visitors soon found a breakthrough.

Villa failed to clear their lines and Saka’s drive from 20 yards found a way past Martinez, who saw the ball late and could not get enough contact on it to keep it out.

Emile Smith Rowe fired a tame shot at Martinez early in the second half and Arsenal were given a warning when Watkins’ shot deflected off Kieran Tierney and hit the post.

But Villa, who had lost three and won three of their previous six heading into this contest, could not seriously trouble back-up keeper Bernd Leno as Arsenal held firm.

What does it mean?

Arsenal had lost their last two away league meetings with Villa, but this is the type of fixture the Gunners’ current crop are making a healthy habit of winning.

Mikel Arteta’s side have now won five league away games on the spin for the first time since May 2015, leaving them in a strong position to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

They are four points clear of Manchester United and six ahead of West Ham, with both rivals having played a game more than Arsenal, while Tottenham are also six points back.

What’s next?

Arsenal return to action after the international break with a trip to Crystal Palace on April 4, while Villa travel to Wolves two days prior.

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