Arsenal made Monday night’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace feel like a distant memory as a superb display against Aston Villa saw Mikel Arteta’s side run out 3-1 winners.
Friday night kick-offs have the potential to be tarnish entire weekends or set them off to a jubilant start, and fortunately it was the latter on this occasion as the Gunners produced one of their best 90 minutes under Arteta.
An electric first half started as it finished with Alexandre Lacazette pulling the strings in the hole. Connecting all the attacks with some lovely one-touch play that got the midfielders involved and saw Villa’s wing-backs pushed back into their own half, Arsenal dominated.
Thomas Partey came within a whisker of opening his account as he smacked the post, although he wasn’t to be denied moments later as he shouldered one in from a corner that Emi Martinez couldn’t keep out.
Arsenal: 4 talking points from huge 3-1 Premier win over Aston Villa as Thomas Partey nets his first goal for Mikel Arteta’s side on Friday night
Arsenal pummeled the visitors’ with efforts aplenty yet couldn’t find a crucial second goal until referee Craig Pawson was advised to check the VAR monitor in the dying seconds. Matt Targett’s foul on Lacazette handed the hosts a crucial stoppage time penalty.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his spot-kick saved but the rebound fell kindly to him as he rifled the ball home to secure what was a vital, and deserved, 2-0 lead.
Villa unsurprisingly changed their shape after the break and as they pushed for a route back into the game, Emile Smith Rowe started and finished a swift counter attack to put Arsenal firmly in the driving seat.
There would sadly be no clean sheet for Aaron Ramsdale and the back four as Jacob Ramsey’s incredible finish from outside the box reduced the lead to two goals, one that Arsenal held on to.
What a win. What a performance. What an improvement. And plenty to talk about.
1. The Importance of Arsenal Scoring Just Before Half-Time
Arsenal were faultless in the first half. You’d have to be a real cynic to pick holes in what may go down as the best 45 minutes seen under Arteta.
The downside? It was only one goal.
Bukayo Saka should have done better having been found by Nuno Tavares’ superb ball across. His finish was rushed as Martinez had already gone to ground, with his outstretched leg preventing the goal. Partey also struck the woodwork in a half where Arsenal recorded 14 shots and an xG of 2.45, while Villa’s sat at 0. That number being the result of them not having a single shot.
It was near enough perfect. But this is the same side that looked good value for their solitary goal lead against Palace only to retreat into their shells and invite pressure on. Would it happen again?
There will be some contention over the penalty award. While it’s soft, Targett went through Lacazette clumsily. It’s a penalty.
Aubameyang mopped up at the second attempt and for a team that showed mental fragility in their previous outing, to have grabbed the two goal advantage felt like a gigantic turning point. While we’ll never know how pivotal that goal may have proved, we can assume based on history that it was just that.
Speaking of penalties…