EPL

John McGinn insists Villa will keep feet on ground after another impressive win

By Sports Desk December 10, 2023

John McGinn insists Aston Villa will remain level-headed despite being touted as Premier League title contenders.

Villa captain McGinn scored the winner as Unai Emery’s side beat Arsenal 1-0 on Saturday evening to move two points off the top of the table.

The victory also extended Villa’s winning league run at home to a club-record 15 games.

The fighting victory over Arsenal came just three days after reigning champions Manchester City fell by the same scoreline at Villa Park, leading plenty of voices to install Villa firmly into the title race this season.

“It’s a huge win but we’ve got to keep our feet on the ground,” McGinn told VillaTV.

“These teams are used to being up and around there and we’re not. We need to try and manage the games as best we can going into a really busy spell.”

Former Gunners boss Emery said he had to be “clinical” with his substitutions having opted to name the same Villa starting XI in both games.

The tiredness in some of his players was clear to see as Saturday’s clash progressed, but Villa held on and McGinn was keen to praise the effort of the whole squad.

“A big shout to all the boys who came on,” he added.

“It’s not easy coming into a game like that. Arsenal have scored a lot of late goals this season, so we had to be switched on and really concentrate.

“The tiredness from the past two weeks started to kick in and there were some dead bodies out there – me included – but it was an absolutely monumental effort. It wasn’t pretty at times but they’re a great side. What a week.”

Arsenal thought they had salvaged a point when Kai Havertz bundled home from close range in the last minute, only for his effort to be chalked off for handball.

It was another contentious decision that went against Mikel Arteta’s side – with the Spaniard refusing to be drawn on either that call or a strong penalty claim for a foul on Gabriel Jesus that was ultimately waved away by referee Jarred Gillett and the VAR.

The result meant Arsenal slipped off the top of the table but captain Martin Odegaard, who missed two of a number of fine chances for the visitors, said heads will not be allowed to drop following the setback.

“We have to look to the next one,” he said.

“The games are coming so quickly now so it’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to get back to working hard to improve and bounce back in the next game, and that’s what we’re going to do now.

“I think we didn’t deserve to lose this game, but at the same time, we could have done better, especially in front of the goals. We gave them an easy goal and we were a bit sloppy in front of goal as well, so it’s annoying and frustrating.”

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    Mikel Arteta is not setting a points total he believes will deliver the Premier League title – but the Arsenal boss has warned the rest of the season may have to be perfect if they are to do so.

    The Gunners travel to bottom club Sheffield United on Monday night knowing victory will once again see them close to within two points of Liverpool at the summit.

    Reigning champions Manchester City are also locked in the three-way tussle for the title as Arteta aims to bring the Premier League crown back to Arsenal for the first time in 20 years.

    Asked how many points might be required to win the league this season, the Spaniard replied: “You always ask me this question and I never get it right.

    “The demands, you might have to win every game. I don’t know. I have no clue.

    “There are a lot of games and we are all going to have crazy schedules and this league might be different to last season. Anything under 90 points I think it (winning the league) would be very difficult.

    “We have to improve in every aspect, that is all, all managers try to be better in what we do.”

    Arsenal were top of the table at this stage last season and led the pack for a total of 248 days before ultimately slipping behind City in the run-in.

    “I think we are where we deserve to be,” Arteta said on Arsenal’s current standing.

    “We could probably be a little bit better in terms of the points that we have deserved in the league

    “Being (back) in the Champions League is another step – that makes obviously the challenge more difficult and the amount of injuries that we had I think we are going good but we want to do better.

    “The target is clear. It’s to be better every day so that when it comes to the weekend, earn the right to win and do everything you possibly can to win the game.

    “This is the focus and the way I see them training every day gives me  more confidence and more reasons to believe that we have a good chance because they really want it.”

  • Now he is winning games – Pep Guardiola talks up Phil Foden’s impact on Man City Now he is winning games – Pep Guardiola talks up Phil Foden’s impact on Man City

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    Nobody expected anything other than embarrassment at the Etihad Stadium for Erik ten Hag’s stumbling Red Devils, yet Marcus Rashford’s scorcher gave them a shock half-time lead.

    United were under the cosh for large periods before and after the break, finally buckling as 23-year-old Foden scored a superb leveller in the 56th minute before then firing City ahead 10 minutes from time.

    Erling Haaland added gloss in stoppage time but there was no doubt who the star of the show was in Sunday’s important 3-1 victory for Guardiola’s title-chasing team.

    “He is right now this season (one of the best players in the Premier League),” the City boss said of man-of-the-match Foden.

    “He’s been the best so far. I always had the feeling he would score goals, in training sessions, always I had the feeling but now he is winning games.

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    Foden helped the treble winners get out of a hole on Sunday after City fell behind for the 12th time in the league this season.

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    The result put them back within one point of leaders Liverpool ahead of next weekend’s mouth-watering battle between the sides at Anfield.

    “We have Copenhagen on our mind and we will have time after to talk about Liverpool,” Guardiola said ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

    “We have a lot of points still to play for and different places to go.”

    United bowed out of Europe before Christmas so there are no distractions before Saturday lunchtime’s return to Premier League action at home to embattled Everton.

    The injury-hit Red Devils have regressed during Ten Hag’s second season and sit an eye-watering 19 points behind leaders Liverpool, who they face in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

    Similarly concerning is the fact that sixth-placed United are 11 points off Aston Villa in fourth and six behind fifth-placed Tottenham, which could yet be enough for Champions League qualification.

    But Ten Hag does not believe United are that far behind City when not beset by injuries and felt key decisions hurt his battling side on Sunday.

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    “I saw it back, it was very soft, but you will understand when you are on a full-speed run, if you get a little touch then you are out of control and I think that is what happened.”

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    “I think also we showed, for instance, in the cup final against them when it’s really close but don’t forget City, in this moment, are the best team in the world.”

  • ‘We call him the sniper’ – Phil Foden lives up to nickname in Manchester derby ‘We call him the sniper’ – Phil Foden lives up to nickname in Manchester derby

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    Foden cancelled out Marcus Rashford’s brilliant first-half opener with a fine strike of his own 11 minutes after the break.

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    Walker, asked about Foden’s stunning equaliser, told Sky Sports: “You know when he comes in on his left foot…we call him the sniper, because he likes to shoot.

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    Foden then switched over to the left side, from where he scored his second and earned City a big victory in their Premier League title challenge.

    Walker added: “The second, probably coming off the left-hand side, you don’t really see Phil in that position but for him to find the corner as he has done, I think that just shows his flexibility.

    “He’s even been trusted down the middle as well this year, which I think is a big part of the responsibility he has taken on. We lean on him and we need important players like him.

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    Foden, who now has 18 goals in all competitions for City this season, said: “That’s my aim, to turn up in the big games.

    “That’s what I want to do and I think this season I’m proving that. I just need to keep working hard on the training pitch and keep putting performances like that in, keep working hard.

    “I understand what it means for the fans, a derby at the Etihad, it means everything for me. To score as well is even better, but overall to get the win was the most important thing today.”

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