Arsenal reinvigorated their push for a first Premier League title in two decades and retook top spot on Saturday with a thrilling 4-2 win at Aston Villa thanks to two late goals.
With a high-quality attacking game going into added time at 2-2, Arsenal midfielder Jorginho saw a looping shot come off the bar and bounce off the head of Villa’s Argentina World Cup-winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez for a cruel own goal.
Minutes later, with the final whistle about to go and Villa piling forward – Martinez included – Arsenal broke forward again for Gabriel Martinelli to stroke into an empty net for the Londoners’ fourth in front of their delirious fans.
The result put the Gunners back on top with 54 points after 23 games, three points above Manchester City who go to Nottingham Forest later on Saturday for their 24th match.
It was Arsenal’s first win in four Premier League games and followed a dispiriting midweek loss at home to Manchester City who had pared back an eight-point gap from a month ago.
“From this game, we took an unbelievable lesson for all of us. We just need to believe until the very end that we can achieve everything,” said Oleksandr Zinchenko, who had made it 2-2 with his first ever Premier League goal earlier in the game.
At a packed and raucous Villa Park in the Midlands, Ollie Watkins had fired home the hosts’ opener – and his fourth goal in as many games – in the fifth minute after a scintillating run into the box and jink past defender William Saliba.
Bukayo Saka struck back for Arsenal with a fine left foot drive from inside the area in the 16th minute, before Philippe Coutinho restored Villa’s lead with a low shot in the 31st following a clever dummy from Emiliano Buendia.
Zinchenko then levelled for Arsenal in the 62nd minute with a low drive past former Arsenal keeper Martinez.
Ahead of the thrilling finale both sides missed gilt-edged chances, Martin Odegaard pulling wide for Arsenal when he looked certain to score and Villa’s Leon Bailey seeing a shot tipped onto the crossbar, before Arsenal struck to claim the points.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said he demanded higher standards from his team during a halftime chat.
“In the second half, we outplayed them, we created chance after chance, we dominated absolutely the game. We needed a magic moment and Jorginho produced it,” he said.
Villa striker Watkins was left scratching his head after the defeat left his side 11th with 28 points from 23 matches.
“It’s one of those games where you have to look back and go over it but in the moment you don’t really know what happened. A good team like Arsenal punished us at the end of the day. I don’t know really what went wrong,” he said.
The game, watched by Hollywood star Tom Hanks, was a disappointment for Villa manager Unai Emery who had appeared to get his tactics right in the first half and would dearly have loved to secure victory over the team he once managed.
“I am frustrated, it’s not good,” he said, chiding keeper Martinez for throwing caution to the wind and going forward at the end.