Arsenal continued their impressive run of form, securing a fourth win in six, by seeing off Aston Villa at the Emirates as playmaker Emile Smith Rowe starred once again
Aston Villa completed a league double over Arsenal last season but the Gunners went some way to exacting revenge with a comprehensive victory in north London.
Mikel Arteta’s side failed to score against the Midlands outfit last term, but more than made up for that with a 3-1 victory at the Emirates.
It was no more than they deserved with Arsenal as brilliant as Villa were poor, especially in the first-half.
The hosts went in two goals to the good at the break thanks to Thomas Partey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Dean Smith made some tweaks at half-time and saw a reaction from his side, but Emile Smith Rowe’s deflected effort on 56 minutes killed any hopes of a comeback.
Jacob Ramsey’s fine late effort was little more than a consolation.
Here are five talking points from north London.
1 More steps in the right direction
They haven’t always been impressive, but it is a results business and Arteta is certainly producing after a poor start.
Arsenal haven’t tasted defeat since late August as their ascent up the table continues.
Wins over Burnley and Norwich were expected whilst they were potentially lucky to leave Brighton with a point.
Another three points over Villa, which were well deserved, extends their unbeaten run is all competitions to seven and will continue to breed confidence.
Arsenal are clearly on something of a journey and they have spoken about the need for patience, but performances like this will convince the players and the Emirates faithful that they are on the right path.
Arteta’s side are just one point from the top four, albeit having played a game more, but that seemed unfathomable just a few weeks ago.
2 Fast starters
On Monday night the Gunners blew their opponents away and deservedly took the lead early on.
It was a similar story four days later, although the goal took longer to come, courtesy of Partey.
Arteta’s side will want to make a habit of starting with a bang, getting themselves on the front foot early on.
For the most part this is a positive, asserting themselves on the contest from minute one, especially in front of a home crowd, sets the tone.
Arsenal will need to ensure they take advantage though. Their goal tonight came just as Villa seemed to have weathered the storm.
Crystal Palace were able to grow into the contest on Monday as Arsenal’s energy, understandably, dropped.
If the Gunners want to begin games at 100mph, as has been the case this week, seizing on that advantage will be key.
3 Formula flop
Dean Smith was seemingly in constantly dialogue with his coach Craig Shakespeare during the opening 45.
No doubt those conversations were centred around trying to grab a foothold in the game and halt the hosts.
Villa started with a 3-4-1-2 formation with Emi Buendia playing in the hole behind the strikers. The system’s lack of width was exposed though as Arsenal continued to get in behind.
The half-time stats made for grim reading for anyone from Villa Park and changes were invariably made at the break.
In truth Villa had given themselves too much to do and it will probably be a while before Smith turns to that formation again.
The improvement in the second-half was noticeable, but also brief, and no doubt have the Villa boss questioning why he didn’t set his team up to start the way they finished.
Ramsey, one of Smith’s second-half subs, at least game the visitors a brief reason to cheer.
4 A dose of passion
It just means that little bit more when you’re a local lad. Smith Rowe claimed the north London derby win this year was one of the best days of his life.
He scored that day and he was again on the scoresheet on Friday night.
Even during the dark days over the past year or so he and fellow academy graduate Bukayo Saka have been seen as bright lights.
Their performance levels and desire have rarely, if ever, dropped below the standards required.
Smith Rowe reeled away after netting Arsenal’s third and was mobbed by his teammates, but had a moment to himself where he grabbed the club badge.
If the Gunners are to again become a major force in England, they won’t just need Smith Rowe’s quality, but his personality too.
5 Lacazette’s reward
The Frenchman came off the bench to fire home a last gasp equaliser for the Gunners against Crystal Palace on Monday night.
Lacazette’s arrival was crucial and it shone a light on his uncertain future. Arteta was quizzed during the week on whether his striker would pen a new deal before it expires this summer.
Prior to Friday night Lacazette hadn’t been afforded a single Premier League start, but his efforts earlier in the week saw him play from the start.
He certainly contributed and underlined his importance to this Arsenal side. Lacazette, with the intervention of VAR, helped earn his side a penalty and his all round play and movement was certainly a plus.
He was forced off with an injury scare, but the reception he received from the home crowd upon departing underlined his reputation.
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