Arsenal just absolutely dominated Aston Villa, seeing them off with a comfortable 3-1 scoreline. Honestly, I think that final tally flatters the visitors a bit. Arsenal smashed them today. Thoroughly outplayed them. Villa did not have a shot in the first half and rarely troubled Aaron Ramsdale’s goal in the second. It was a great bounce-back performance from Mikel Arteta’s men. The kind of performance (like the Spurs win) that you hope the club can build on going forward.
It looked as if Arsenal would go in at half up just the one goal from Thomas Partey’s header off a corner. Sidenote: that was a clear plan from the Gunners — they looked to pick out Partey multiple times from corners and it was working. Bukayo Saka had an absolute gilt-edged chance, 1-v-1 with Emi Martinez from about 12 yards out that he somehow didn’t convert. Far be it from me to criticize Bukayo, but that’s the kind of chance that he absolutely has to bury. I said it a few times last season and I’ll say it again: finishing is the weakest point in his game. If he improves his finishing, he’ll be a top 10 player in the world.
Fortunately for the Gunners, they were up 2-0 at halftime thanks to a veteran move from Alexandre Lacazette. As the half ticked into stoppage time and with the ball bouncing around in the Villa area, he cleverly threw himself in front of Matt Targett. The Villa defender went through the back of Lacazette’s leg, and with the help of VAR, Arsenal had a penalty. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot was saved, but he put away the rebound to give the Gunners a well-deserved two-goal cushion.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half, Emile Smith Rowe put the match out of reach. He converted a semi-breakaway from midfield in (with a bit of help from Tyrone Mings). The Villa defender had done well to run the play down, but his deflection steered the shot off the inside of the near post instead of the far post, which is where ESR had lined up to shoot and where Emi Martinez was leaning.
There were strong performances all over the pitch tonight from Arsenal — I don’t think anybody was below a 6 of 10. Quite the difference from Crystal Palace where I think the best performance was a 6 of 10. Nuno Tavares had a blinder with Kieran Tierney missing out because of a minor knock. Gabriel and Ben White were both really good. Thomas Partey was excellent. Emile Smith Rowe was excellent. Sambi Lokonga was very good. Missed chance aside, Bukayo Saka looked much more like the attacking threat we know he can be. And Alexandre Lacazette had his best performance in ages for the club.
Jacob Ramsey’s stunning late goal aside, the only negatives for Arsenal tonight were both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coming off with knocks. Lacazette appeared to have a muscular issue [UPDATE: Mikel Arteta said it was fatigue for Lacazette], and Aubameyang’s looked like cramp. Fortunately, the Gunners have eight days until they travel to Leicester City to get healthy. Sure, there’s a match with Leeds United in the Carabao Cup at the midweek, but I was already expecting heavy rotation from Mikel Arteta. Now, it will just be even heavier.
That’s 6 unbeaten for Arsenal in the Premier League. Today’s performance was magnificent. Some of the others, less so. But I’ll take a run of points over no points any day.