An inspired first-half performance helped Arsenal beat Aston Villa 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
Goals from Thomas Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Emile Smith Rowe were good enough to fire Mikel Arteta’s side into the top half of the table, extending their unbeaten run to six Premier League games in the process.
The Gunners were fast out of the traps – clearly keen to prove a point to head coach Arteta after throwing away a lead against Crystal Palace on Monday night – and Nuno Tavares, on his first Premier League start, was particularly bright early on.
Villa, meanwhile, looked bereft of confidence and totally at-odds with Dean Smith’s wing-backs system; Arsenal’s relentless pressing ensuring they had no time to settle into the game.
Arsenal were rewarded for their pulsating start when Partey glanced home Smith Rowe’s corner, moments after he’d hit the woodwork from a Bukayo Saka set piece, before referee Craig Pawson awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Matt Targett was the guilty party, sliding through the back of Alexandre Lacazette, and Aubameyang made it 2-0 – although he had to settle with tucking in the rebound from his penalty after a smart save from Emi Martinez.
Villa changed shape at the break and immediately looked brighter, finally allowing Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins a couple of chances on goal. But a dreadful pass from John McGinn allowed the home side to break away, and Smith Rowe fired home via a deflection off Tyrone Mings.
Arsenal could have added to their advantage as they continued to hold court, before Villa bagged themselves a classy consolation with just under ten minutes to go when Jacob Ramsey placed a laser-like shot into the top corner.
Here’s how both sets of players rated on the night…
Aaron Ramsdale (GK) – 8/10 – The speed of Ramsdale’s distribution helped Arsenal dominate the first half. Looks a far more assured keeper than in the past and didn’t deserve to lose his clean sheet.
Takehiro Tomiyasu (RB) – 7/10 – Always available to support Saka, looking to stretch Villa wherever possible. Looks a very good signing.
Ben White (CB) – 6/10 – Galavanted effortlessly through Villa’s spine in the first half and was generally assured. Made a couple of good blocks.
Gabriel (CB) – 7/10 – Led by example and and set the tone for Arsenal’s intense closing down, before having a slight wobble in the final ten.
Nuno Tavares (LB) – 7/10 – A first Premier League start brought about a very encouraging display from Tavares – at both ends.
Bukayo Saka (RM) – 7/10 – Will be a little miffed that he couldn’t slot past Martinez when clean through in the first half, but was inventive on the ball and created plenty.
Thomas Partey (CM) – 8/10 – The kind of display Arsenal fans have been waiting for. Bullied Aston Villa’s midfield into submission.
Albert Sambi Lokonga (CM) – 6/10 – Lacks a bit of finesse, composure and technique in the vital moments, but you couldn’t fault Lokonga’s overall display.
Emile Smith Rowe (LM) – 9/10 – Arsenal’s future will be bright as long as Smith Rowe is among their ranks. Wonderful performance.
Alexandre Lacazette (ST) – 8/10 – Caused Villa all sorts of problems in the first half, dropping into the hole and totally negating any impact McGinn or Douglas Luiz may have.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – 8/10 – A little fortunate to see his saved penalty land at his feet, but looked so much better running off the shoulder of Villa’s centre backs. Great flicked assist for Smith Rowe’s goal.
Martin Odegaard (AM) – 6/10 – The tempo of the game seemed to drop after Odegaard’s introduction, through no fault of his own. Did alright.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (CM) – 5/10 – A quiet 15 minute cameo.
Gabriel Martinelli (ST) – N/A
Emiliano Martinez (GK) – 6/10 – Showed his penalty saving prowess to deny Aubameyang, and was extremely unfortunate to see the rebound fall into his path. Could he have done better with the first? Maybe.
Ezri Konsa (CB) – 5/10 – Pulled from pillar to post in the first half as Arsenal ran riot. Never really recovered.
Axel Tuanzebe (CB) – 4/10 – A torrid opening 45 minutes for Villa saw a swift system change from Smith and a hooking for Tuanzebe.
Tyrone Mings (CB) – 6/10 – The best of Villa’s defenders, but that doesn’t really say much. Did okay in the face of strong adversity.
Matty Cash (RWB) – 4/10 – We’re so used to seeing Cash influence games but he was a bit of a passenger throughout. Kept losing the ball in the first half.
Douglas Luiz (CM) – 5/10 – Crowded out in the first half as Lacazette evaporated any space he may look to work in, but did have a smidge more of an impact after Villa’s change in shape.
John McGinn (CM) – 3/10 – A bizarrely awful showing from McGinn. Didn’t ever match the tempo of the game, was denied any space or time on the ball and lost Partey at virtually every set piece. Sloppy pass allowed Arsenal to counter for a third.
Matt Targett (LWB) – 5/10 – Gave away the penalty, looked a bit hacked off with the referee throughout and didn’t ever get the better of Tomiyasu.
Emiliano Buendia (AM) – 4/10 – Chuntered away to himself after being hooked in the second half but can really have no complaints. System didn’t help him.
Danny Ings (ST) – 4/10 – It’s a bit of a feast or famine scenario with Ings; he delivers the good in spades full or is barely noticeable. The latter was evident here as he struggled to break the shackles of White and Gabriel.
Ollie Watkins (ST) – 6/10 – Got into the game a little more in the second half after drifting out to the left wing. Had a decent effort saved by Ramsdale.
Leon Bailey (RW) – 6/10 – Villa brightened up after Bailey’s introduction saw them revert to a 4-3-3. Drew a few fouls and was the one who looked capable.
Jacob Ramsey (CM) – 7/10 – Placed a superb shot into the top corner after Arsenal failed to clear their lines. Classy.
Anwar El Ghazi (AM) – N/A