Given that Arsenal were the first game of this matchweek and that subsequent results have seen Tottenham Hotspur slump to a 1-0 defeat to West Ham United and Manchester United were subjugated to a humiliating 0-5 debilitation to Liverpool, fans could be forgiven for forgetting that Arsenal also played this week.
Heading into the match, there were only two noticeable absentees; the obvious absence of Granit Xhaka was accompanied by the often ominous lack of Kieran Tierney, who missed out with a bruised ankle.
Following their rather tepid 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, Arsenal decided to reward Alexandre Lacazette with his first start in the league this season and saw Bukayo Saka return to the starting XI.
Arsenal started at blistering pace. As often become the norm with Arsenal, fans expected a fast-start that would eventually peter out, however, Arsenal did not stop running, barely giving Villa a second on the ball.
It didn’t take long for the hosts to take a deserved lead. Following a close chance earlier, which saw him hit the post, Thomas Partey was on hand in the penalty area to head in (well, shoulder/back) his first-ever goal for the club, which bounced beyond former-Gunner Emiliano Martínez.
Arsenal did not stop there, with Bukayo Saka forcing a spectacular save from the Argentine former-Gunner and a myriad of other chances that came Arsenal’s way. Villa couldn’t lay a finger on them.
Controversy beckoned as Alexandre Lacazette was fouled in the penalty area which led to a VAR decision (which some interpreted as a call for half-time) and an Arsenal penalty.
Aubameyang stepped up and his penalty was saved by the former-Gunner Martínez, but the Arsenal captain was on-hand to tap-in the rebound and Arsenal doubled their lead.
The second-half saw Villa come out of their shell somewhat, but Arsenal never really looked like they were in trouble and soon found themselves three goals to the good when Emile Smith Rowe (a target of Aston Villa’s this summer) broke forward and his deflected effort bounced in for three.
Villa were able to scrape a consolation goal, with a very well-taken effort from Jacob Ramsey, which denied Arsenal a well-earned clean sheet.
The chants towards Martínez of “Aaron Ramsdale, he’s better than you” or “You’re just a shit Aaron Ramsdale” echoed around the Emirates Stadium as the final whistle blew.
It was perhaps Arsenal’s best overall performance under Mikel Arteta. The win over Tottenham in the North London Derby was perhaps more impressive, but the performance of the team was virtually unparalleled in every department.
The team pressed with a ferocity that bordered on the obsessive, hunting in packs and not giving Villa a single second in possession.
There were a number of star performers on the night, but the performance of Nuno Tavares will likely give Arsenal fans hope.
Following his arrival from Benfica, Arsenal fans were told that the Portuguese full-back was perhaps more bad than good, but his performance on Friday night showed his true quality. An asset going forward that managed to keep Villa’s right-hand side totally quiet all game with a mean cross that often caused the defence some issues.
Thomas Partey will be delighted to have his first goal for the club. Though it didn’t come in the form of the rocket-like howitzer that he has been threatening for so long, it did nevertheless take a huge weight of the Ghanian’s shoulders. And that’s not all, his overall performance was one of utter domination, combining well with Albert Sambi Lokonga and keeping the Villa attack (notably Arsenal’s summer target Emiliano Buendía) quiet.
However, the performance of Emile Smith Rowe showed why Arsenal were so keen to tie him down to a long-term contract this summer. The England youngster was utterly unplayable on the night and perhaps gave new boy Martin Ødegaard a nudge to show who will have the main spot in the team if form continues and was rightly rewarded with a goal to boot.
It was an unforgettable night for Arsenal, but consistency makes teams and a new test presents itself in the form of Leicester City in the Premier League next, where Youri Tielmens, Jamie Vardy and co. lie in wait.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
4.) Ben White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
20.) Nuno Tavares
5.) Thomas Partey
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga (Maitland-Niles 73’)
7.) Bukayo Saka
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Martinelli 91’)
9.) Alexandre Lacazette (Ødegaard 68’)
1.) Bernd Leno
16.) Rob Holding
17.) Cédric Soares
31.) Sead Kolašinac
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
25.) Mohamed Elneny
8.) Martin Ødegaard
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
Aston Villa team:
1.) Emiliano Martínez
4.) Ezri Konsa
16.) Axel Tuanzebe (Bailey 45’)
5.) Tyrone Mings
2.) Matty Cash
7.) John McGinn
6.) Souglas Luiz
3.) Matt Targett
10.) Emiliano Buendía (Ramsey 68’)
20.) Danny Ings (El Ghazi 77’)
11.) Ollie Watkins
Aston Villa subs:
12.) Jed Steer
30.) Kortney Hause
18.) Ashley Young
19.) Marvelous Nakamba
8.) Morgan Sanson
41.) Jacob Ramsey
31.) Leon Bailey
35.) Cameron Archer
21.) Anwar El Ghazi