Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tavares, Lokonga, Partey, Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Holding, Cedric, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Elneny, Pepe, Odegaard, Martinelli
Arsenal bounced back from disappointment on Monday night with a superb performance and 3-1 win over Aston Villa at the Emirates this evening.
Mikel Arteta made some changes from the team which drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace on Monday evening. There was a first Premier League start for Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga came into midfield, while Alexandre Lacazette was rewarded for his late cameo as both Nicolas Pepe and Martin Odegaard dropped to the bench.
Ollie Watkins picked up a yellow card in the first minute for a kick on Gabriel, and there was an early sight of goal for both Aubameyang and Saka as the two combined to cause Villa problems. Tavares was next to have a go, firing a shot over after a great run into the box, and Auba had the ball in the back of the net but Lacazette was penalised in the build-up for what the referee deemed a foul on a defender.
It was a bright start from the Gunners, matched by a crowd who were well up for it and behind the team. Tomiyasu had a pop from distance but again the ball flew over the bar, and Thomas Partey’s first Arsenal goal almost arrived when he reacted quickly to a breaking ball from a Saka free kick but his effort came back off the post.
Tavares had another shot which deflected out for a corner, from which Partey got that goal at last, flicking a header beyond Martinez to make it 1-0.
The lead was almost doubled when a fine Arsenal break down the left hand side saw Tavares play in Saka with just the keeper to beat, but Martinez was equal to his first time effort. McGinn and Mings went into the book for fouls on Lacazette and Lokonga, and a lovely pass for the Belgian set up Tavares for another shot but with his right foot he couldn’t trouble the keeper.
Villa tried to get back into it, but were faced by an Arsenal side that worked hard to win the ball when they lost it, and which presented much more threat. Partey headed over from a Saka corner late in the half, Lokonga picked up a booking for a tug on McGinn, and just as the half-time while was coming, there was a foul on Lacazette in the box.
The ref initially played on, but VAR checked, the ref himself checked, and pointed to the spot. Martinez saved the penalty, but it rebounded out to Aubameyang who finished with his left foot to make it 2-0.
Unsurprisingly, Villa made a half-time change, putting on Leon Bailey for Tuanzebe, and there was early danger, Watkins forcing Ramsdale into a save at his near post. Saka shot over after a corner fell to him outside the box, Ben White made a tremendous block from an Ings shot, while at the other end a good run and pass sent Saka behind but Villa defended well to deny him a real sight of goal.
Despite Villa’s improvement, Arsenal went further ahead in the 55th minute. Smith Rowe started it with an interception, we broke upfield, Auba played it behind for ESR to drive towards goal, his shot took a deflection and went in off the post. 3-0.
Targett was booked for a foul on Saka, and when Villa had their best chance of the game, Ramsdale made an excellent save to deny Buendia who was soon replaced by Jacob Ramsey. Martin Odegaard came on to replace a fatigued Lacazette in the 67th minute, Auba forced Martinez into a good save, before the impressive Lokonga made way for Ainsley Maitland-Niles with just under 20 minutes to go.
Villa took off Ings which I liked because he’s a dick, and the visitors got one back through Ramsey who fired into the top corner when the ball broke to him on the edge of our box. 3-1.
It was almost 3-2 moments later, but Watkins put the ball wide from a long throw, Luiz was booked for throwing the ball down, and there was some nervousness after Villa got their goal. However, Arteta’s men dug in, worked hard, defended well and with commitment. Martinelli replaced Aubameyang in injury time and there was late danger when Bailey curled a free kick just over.
In the end though, Arsenal were more than deserving of the three points, and there was a lot to like about the performance too.