Arsenal came flying out the blocks from minute one and they didn’t drop their tempo for the whole match.
It was night and day compared to Monday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace and Arsenal were worthy winners against Aston Villa. In truth it could, and probably should, have been more than 3-1.
As poor as Aston Villa were, Arsenal were excellent and this was a reminder of how dangerous they can be under Arteta when things click. It is why games like Monday’s draw with Crystal Palace are so frustrating, because supporters know what this team can do on their day.
This was certainly Arsenal’s day and the way they started signalled their intent for the whole game. They were sharp, quick and incisive with their passing, bypassing Villa’s midfield with ease.
Albert Sambi Lokonga and Thomas Partey had been at fault for both goals against Palace, but here against Villa they ran the midfield. Partey fittingly opened the scoring after 23 minutes and from there Arsenal never looked back.
It was 2-0 before half-time, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring the rebound from his penalty after Alexandre Lacazette had been brought down. It was no more than the Gunners deserved and the only question was, could they keep it going?
They did a good job of it, making it 3-0 just 11 minutes into the second half as Emile Smith Rowe finished off a slick counter with a deflected effort.
Unsurprisingly the relentless pace did drop a bit after that, partly because the excellent Lacazette and Lokonga went off with around 20 minutes to go, but by then the win was secure.
Now Arteta will want this to be the standard going forward. The handbrake shouldn’t be going back on.
Smith Rowe shines in front of Southgate
England manager Gareth Southgate said recently that Emile Smith Rowe was knocking on the door of his squad. Well, the 21-year-old is now banging on it.
This was a brilliant performance from the midfielder, who was deployed out left and caused Villa issues all game.
He linked play exceptionally well, but crucially his effort off the ball was equally impressive. He pressed and harried well, and that would’ve impressed the on-watching Southgate just as much.
In the end, Smith Rowe got the goal his game deserved. Fittingly, he started the attack by winning the ball back before tearing up the pitch to get on the end of Aubameyang’s flick.
His strike took a deflection off Tyrone Mings on the way in but, if anyone deserved a bit of luck tonight, it was Smith Rowe.
Arsenal shine without Tierney
It was a common theme last season that if Kieran Tierney was out injured, Arsenal struggled. Well, against Aston Villa, they showed signs they can cope without the Scot.
Nuno Tavares was given the opportunity to shine in the absence of Tierney and he took his chance with both hands.
He brought all the energy that Tierney does, bombing up and down the left flank with boundless enthusiasm.
Nuno caused Villa problems all night and he should really have had an assist, but Bukayo Saka fluffed his lines when he put it on a plate for him.
An assist was what the youngster deserved for a display that would’ve given Arteta confidence going forward that, if Tierney gets injured, it should no longer be a huge crisis.