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Arsenal 0-2 Aston Villa: Paul Merson believes Premier League title race is over for Gunners after shock home defeat

Arsenal missed the chance to return to the top of the Premier League after being beaten 2-0 at home by Aston Villa; Paul Merson believes the Gunners' title chances are over with Mikel Arteta admitting his side face a "big test" and must react, starting against Bayern Munich on Wednesday

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Paul Merson believes there is no way back for Arsenal in the title race following their 2-0 loss to Aston Villa at the Emirates

Paul Merson believes Arsenal's Premier League title chances are "100 per cent" over with Mikel Arteta admitting his side face a "big test" following Sunday's 2-0 home defeat by Aston Villa.

Arsenal's hopes of winning the Premier League for the first time since 2004 were dealt a huge blow by former boss Unai Emery, whose Villa team scored two goals late on to claim an impressive victory at the Emirates.

The Gunners would have returned to the top of the Premier League with a win and were even handed a boost before kick-off when Liverpool slumped to defeat against Crystal Palace.

But Arsenal's shock loss to Champions League-chasing Villa has once again handed the initiative to Manchester City, who are now two points clear at the summit after thrashing Luton on Saturday.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Aston Villa's win against Arsenal in the Premier League

While there are still six games to play, Merson thinks his former side are now out of the race.

"For me, it's gone - 100 per cent," he told Sky Sports.

"It's completely turned on its head now. Man City put pressure on them by playing first and they couldn't handle it. But take nothing away from Crystal Palace and Aston Villa they were absolutely outstanding."

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'Arteta picked the wrong team'

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Sky Sports' Gail Davis and Joe Shread discuss Arsenal's damaging defeat to Aston Villa at the Emirates

Arteta made three changes to his side following Tuesday's 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard replaced Jakub Kiwior, Jorginho and Gabriel Martinelli as Kai Havertz moved into midfield. It was a decision that left Merson slightly perplexed.

"I said before the game I didn't like Arteta's decision with the team he picked.

"Keep on playing the same team that wins every week, don't have the wool pulled over your eyes for a 25-minute cameo against Bayern Munich. Jesus comes on and does well and he moves Havertz.

"They've won nine of 10 with Jorginho and Havertz playing where they were. It was a bench today that if it wasn't going right, he didn't have anyone. Usually, you have [Leandro] Trossard and Jesus to come on.

"He did it against Southampton last season (3-3 draw at home) when he left Jorginho out last season. The pressure gets to everybody. That's where you need a Pep Guardiola who keeps cool."

Arteta: The moment is now | 'We have to react'

While Merson was pessimistic about Arsenal's title chances, Arteta believes his side are still in the mix but insists they have to react - starting against Bayern in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"We can't control [Manchester City]. What we can control is that when we have the run we had when you win, win, win, win, it's easy. The moment is now. After this blow, it's how we react. Now it's a big test for us," Arteta said.

"We have the best opportunity to react against Bayern Munich. The team has to show it. If you want to win, you have to overcome these situations.

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

"In any other league in the world, if you won the number of games in a row that we did, you would be six or eight points clear. That is not the case here. That is the challenge."

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Mikel Arteta says Arsenal prove their mental strength after their Premier League defeat by Aston Villa and wants to see a reaction against Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday

The Gunners missed several chances in the first half before their lack of composure in the final third was eventually punished late in the game by Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins.

Emiliano Martinez producing a sensational save to deny Leandro Trossard from close range was a standout moment but Arsenal struggled to get going after the break.

"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," Arteta said.

"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.

"When you are at this level, you have to punish them, it is not like you can do that for 90-95 minutes against a top opponent.

"If you can't do that then at least don't concede. We couldn't do that.

"We have to be more patient in the second half to find our moments. We were trying to do that with the changes but that's when we conceded."

Neville: Arteta must stop the balloon from bursting

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Gary Neville says Arsenal are already in a much better place than this time last season, but it's about how they react following their disappointing 2-0 loss to Aston Villa

Sky Sports' Gary Neville at the Emirates:

"It feels a huge day in this season's title race. A wonderful second half from Villa, Emery and all his players. They were outstanding. They completely turned the tables, they played and they played and they played - and wore Arsenal down.

"Arsenal didn't seem to have the answer. A big, big job now for Arteta this week to make sure that isn't the balloon bursting on this season."

What's next?

Arsenal travel to Bayern Munich for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday; kick-off 8pm. The first leg finished 2-2.

Their next Premier League fixture is live on Sky Sports at Wolves next Saturday; kick-off 7.30pm.

Live: SNF

Aston Villa visit Lille for the second leg of their Europa Conference League quarter-final on Thursday; kick-off 5.45pm.

Villa then return to Premier League action at home to Bournemouth next Sunday; kick-off 3pm.

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