Mikel Arteta Reacts To The SET BACK In Their Title Aspiration, After A 2-0 Defeat At Home To Aston Villa.

Arsenal’s Premier League title ambitions took a blow on Sunday, as they lost by two quick-fire goals to Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium.

Mikel Arteta’s men were looking to continue their unbeaten start to 2024, but failed to take advantage to go back top of the table.

With Liverpool's 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace at Anfield earlier in the day, a chance to open up a gap on Jurgen Klopp's side presented itself, but the Gunners failed to capitalize.

The one thing Arsenal couldn't afford to do was allow current champions Manchester City to sneak ahead in the title race, but with the debilitating defeat at home to Aston Villa, the advantage is now firmly with Pep Guardiola's side.

The loss saw the Gunners gave up valuable ground in the title race, and them and Liverpool now have to play catch up behind leaders Man City who have 73 points from 32 matches, two points more than both teams in second and third place respectively in the title race, with six games left to go.

Man City can now clinch the Premier League title for a fourth straight season, and the fifth time in six seasons if they win their final six matches.

Arsenal  failed to find the back of the net despite dominating most of the game, against their former manager Unai Emery.

An excellent first-half performance saw them create numerous opportunities but couldn’t put one away, and that kept the Champions League-chasing Villans in the game, who struck the woodwork twice before hitting with sucker punches two minutes apart.

There was late drama with six minutes to go, as Leon Bailey tapped in at the back post to give the visitors the lead in the 84th minute.

Bailey has been directly involved in seven goals as a substitute in the Premier League this season (three goals, four assists), more than any other player.

Villa’s top striker, Ollie Watkins, then finished off a counter-attack in the 87th minute to take the game away from Arsenal 2-0, and ended the Gunners 11-league game unbeaten run since New Year's Eve.

Watkins has now scored 19 goals in the Premier League this season, the joint-most ever in a single campaign for Aston Villa along with Christian Benteke in 2012/13. Only Erling Haaland (20) has scored more goals in the competition this season.

Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta speaking after the defeat, highlighted where his players got it wrong following the defeat .

Arteta, speaking to Sky Sports, said: “Two very different performances. The first half was superb, one of the best halves we have played against a top team. It should have been three or four – or more.

“We didn’t put that score line up and didn’t reflect that second half. We lacked momentum. We didn’t have the flow we had in the first half and then we conceded two very, very poor goals.

“Credit to them, in the second half we were a bit unprecise with the ball, we weren’t able to do what we did in the first half. In the end we lost it so we have to congratulate them on the points.”

He also insisted that one bad result does not need to derail their season.

When asked if there was a danger their season could quickly fizzle out, Arteta replied: If one result (makes us lose our belief) then we are not strong enough. It's very simple. We (Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City) all have to play every three days, it’s crazy. 

“We had one of the best performances that we’ve had all season in the first half against a really good team.”

Arsenal now face a defining week in heir season as they travel to Bayern Munich on Wednesday for a place in the Champions League semi-finals with the tie finely poised at 2-2 after the quarter-final first leg at the Emirates last week, before a trip to Wolves on Saturday where they hope to put their title chase back on track.

Arteta has also demanded a positive response ahead of clash with Bayern Munich, he asked his side to respond ‘with character and leadership’ after Sunday’s damaging loss to Aston Villa.

"We have the best opportunity to react against Bayern on Wednesday. The team has to show it. If you want to win, you have to overcome these situations,"... said Arteta, who said captain Martin Odegaard was substituted with a ‘leg’ injury.

"With the games we had, this was going to happen. It is now about how we react. This is in our control.

"We knew this moment could come, it’s time to react and believe. We have to stand up, make yourself count with leadership and character - we don’t have any other option. Now is a big test for us.

"We just have to prepare, go to Munich with big belief - it’s a beautiful opportunity to go to the Champions League semi-finals so it couldn’t come at a better moment."

On the other hand, Unai Emery said his team win at the Emirates felt like a massive step in the Champions League race.

He downplayed the personal importance of the victory given his previous ties to Arsenal: "The victory is not for me, it's for Aston Villa. Now we have 63 points and we are closer to being in the top five. That is the only thought I had before the match....  Said the Spaniard.

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

"We were analysing our process as a team and we prepared this match as a very difficult match but to try to get three points.

"We were convinced on our own moments and we did it. But we needed high commitment."

On his team’s Champions League qualification hopes, Emery concluded: "Yes [it feels like a big step]. 

"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 Saturday. If we are not consistent then we can lose. This is the level we want to be at."

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