Arsenal put in an impressive performance as they earned a 3-1 victory over a disappointing Aston Villa at the Emirates to move into the top half of the table.
Following their dreadful start to the season, the Gunners came into the game on the back of a six game unbeaten run, although they had been held to draws in their last two outings against Brighton and Crystal Palace respectively.
Arsenal started the game really brightly though and were quick to get on the front foot, and went closest to opening the scoring in the 20th minute as Thomas Partey crashed a close-range effort off the bar following a set-piece.
However, just two minutes later the Ghanian would find the back of the net – his first goal for the club – darting to the near post to meet an Emile Smith Rowe corner as the 28-year-old’s downward header found its way past former Arsenal ‘keeper, Emi Martinez.
In truth, Aston Villa were all over the place at times in the first half and constantly gave the ball away in dangerous areas as Arsenal pressed their opponents into mistakes time and time again.
Just as it looked as the Villains would get into the dressing room only trailing by one, Alexandre Lacazette would beat Matt Targett to the ball in the area as the left-back attempted to clear. The Gunners’ penalty appeals were initially waved away, but referee Craig Pawson was eventually advised to consult the pitchside monitor and he pointed to the spot. Captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang stepped up, and while his penalty was saved by former teammate Martinez, the Gabon international followed up to tuck the rebound out of reach of the despairing Argentine’s reach.
Dean Smith brought on Leon Bailey at the interval in a bid to change the pattern of the game, and while they were somewhat improved, it would be Arsenal who would extend their lead 10 minutes into the second half. A loose forward pass by John McGinn was intercepted by Emile Smith Rowe, who, following a quick interchange of passes, received the ball back in space down the Arsenal left. With few options on, the England U21 international looked to curl his effort toward the far post, only for it to take a decisive deflection off Tyrone Mings to leave Martinez wrong-footed and unable to keep it out as it came off the inside of the near post and into the back of the net.
Villa did muster some late pressure, and with eight minutes to play, would pull one back through a stunning strike, as Leon Bailey drifted in off the right before fellow substitute Jacob Ramsey took the ball off the Jamaican to stroke home a wonderful effort into the top corner.
The visitors would have a couple of efforts that went close in the closing stages, though it was a thoroughly convincing and deserved win for Arsenal who moved up to ninth in the table, level on points with sixth-placed Manchester United, and manager Mikel Arteta was delighted with the aggresive nature of his side’s play.
“The way we started the game and the way we continued [were good],” he told BBC Sport. “We attacked them really aggressively, we won every duel. We were creative, a threat. I’m proud of the team, they played really well.
“This is how we have to play. This is when we are good, when we play with real desire, real commitment and can have clear ideas of how to attack them.
“We are closer together as a team. Our decisions were good. We have good players.”
The Spaniard admitted he was slightly worried that his side were only leading 1-0 after creating an abundance of first have chances.
“That was the worry. That [second] goal was really helpful. We deserved many more. Villa are a really good side. When they had a little bit of the ball in your half they can cause problems.”
The former midfielder fielded a number of young players, and he was impressed with their performances, picking left-back Nuno Tavares out for particular praise.
“This is what you get [from young players]. They can get you the level, they need the consistency. That comes with experience and maturity. It has to happen now. They showed they can do it tonight.
“It was really impressive what they did, especially Nuno Tavares. This was his first start. To play with courage, credit to the boy.
“We reviewed the Crystal Palace game, how we started and why we weren’t consistent in the game. We put it right today.”