In a significant blow to their Premier League title aspirations, Arsenal succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa, with Mikel Arteta urging his team to "keep believing" despite the setback. The loss at the Emirates Stadium saw Arsenal miss a crucial opportunity to reclaim the top spot in the league, especially after rivals Liverpool also dropped points.

The match, dominated by Arsenal in the first half, saw a dramatic shift in momentum in the second half, with Aston Villa capitalizing on two critical errors. Substitutes Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins, scoring his 19th league goal of the season, delivered the decisive blows that left Arsenal two points behind leaders Manchester City.

Arteta, reflecting on the match, emphasized the quality of Arsenal's first-half performance, which he described as one of the best this season. However, he acknowledged the costly shift in the second half, stating, "It should have been three or four but it didn't happen and momentum shifted in the second half and we conceded two very poor goals. Now is the moment to stand up as a leader and a character to make yourself count. Now it's a big test for us."

The defeat was further compounded by defensive lapses that also haunted Arsenal in their recent Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich, where they similarly gifted goals. With a crucial second leg looming, Arteta highlighted the importance of the upcoming match: "But we have a beautiful opportunity that hasn't happened for this club for 14 years to go to the semi-finals of the Champions League. It cannot come at a better moment."

Unai Emery, Aston Villa's manager and Arteta's predecessor at Arsenal, expressed satisfaction with the result but downplayed its personal significance, treating it as crucial as any other victory in their campaign.

Following the match, Arteta faced criticism over his team selection, notably the decision to start Leandro Trossard over Gabriel Martinelli. When questioned about this choice, Arteta bluntly justified his decision by stating, "Because I'm the manager and I decide the line-up." His response underscored the pressures of managing a team contending for the title and facing unexpected setbacks.

As Arsenal's path to the Premier League title grows increasingly challenging, Arteta remains focused on rallying his squad. The upcoming fixtures against Wolves, Chelsea, and Tottenham not only test Arsenal's resilience but also their ability to rebound in the title race.

Meanwhile, the broader implications of their recent performances and the strategic decisions made by Arteta will continue to be scrutinized as the season approaches its climax. The next few weeks are crucial for Arsenal, not just in their domestic league but also in Europe, where they face a formidable opponent in Bayern Munich.