Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal tenure has been a rollercoaster but performances like this one against Aston Villa at the Emirates show their is light at the end of the tunnel
Finally it all came together for Mikel Arteta as Arsenal produced a scintillating victory at the Emirates.
They blew Aston Villa away with an all action performance full of energy, passion and quality with what felt like a tantalising taste of Arteta’s vision and potential as Arsenal manager.
Thomas Partey scored his first goal for the club, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored from the rebound of a controversial VAR penalty for his seventh goal in eight games and Emile Smith-Rowe capped a brilliant display with a third.
Villa looked shell-shocked, unable to keep pace with Arsenal and the home fans even taunted the returning Emiliano Martinez with taunts of “Aaron Ramsdale – he’s better than you” as the Villa keeper had a night to forget.
Portugal under-21 left back Nuno Tavares was outstanding, Partey bossed midfield and Smith-Rowe was everywhere as the victory pushed Arsenal back into the top half of the table.
It was a rip-roaring atmosphere under the lights which was stoked up by the game being played at a lightning pace as Arsenal’s first half display in particular was as good a 45 minutes as they have produced under Arteta.
Plus it was quite some reaction to Arsenal’s very lacklustre and flat draw against Crystal Palace on Monday night but if the players are prepared to dig in, accept they must do better then that is also a strong message about their mentality.
They pinned Villa back right from the start and the visitors were uncharacteristically poor which must leave Dean Smith wondering where last season’s promise has disappeared.
It cannot all be about Jack Grealish’s departure even though any team would miss him. They looked ragged, disorganised and only got better in the latter stages as Arsenal tired and substitute Jacob Ramsey got a late consolation. But it was too little too late.
Arsenal were excellent throughout as they started fast – and got quicker. Aubameyang, Partey, Bukayo Saka and Tavares – in for the injured Kieran Tierney – missed early chances.
But finally the breakthrough came after 23 minutes. It had been coming. Emile Smith-Rowe put over a corner, Partey tried to flick a header towards goal, the ball eventually came off his shoulder and it beat Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez who should have saved it.
Eventually the second arrived – and in controversial fashion. Matt Targett went through the back of Lacazette with a clumsy challenge in first half injury time, referee Pawson let play go on during a lengthy VAR check and eventually the penalty was awarded.
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Then, into the sixth minute of stoppage time, up stepped Aubameyang who saw his spot kick saved by Martinez but the Arsenal captain smashed in the rebound. Martinez sunk to his knees in despair and the Emirates came alive again.
Villa’s players were fuming at both the award and because only two minutes of injury time were held up. However, the penalty was actually awarded at precisely 46 mins 56 secs so the half time whistle had not gone and there was time for the rebound.
Arsenal did not let the pace drop and a third came after 56 minutes when John McGinn gave the ball away, Aubameyang’s clever flick released Smith-Rowe and his shot deflected in off Tyrone Mings to deceive Martinez.
Villa substitute Ramsey got one back with the clock ticking down but Arsenal were well worth their win and, on nights like these, there is hope and a bright future for Arteta.