- Arsenal expose Villa’s defensive system
- Thomas scores debut goal with glancing header
- Smith Rowe seals victory on the end of excellent move
As they say on the terraces, they were always going to have a party when Thomas Partey scored a goal. It had taken 40 matches and 49 shots for Arsenal’s star midfielder to find the net but when the moment finally arrived, it marked the start of a Friday night to remember for Mikel Arteta and the fans of this club.
Composure in midfield, control in defence and menace in attack: Arteta could not have asked for more from his players here, aside perhaps from a clean sheet.
The nature of Arsenal’s performance rubbished the notion that Aston Villa might be worthy of replacing them in the upper echelons of the English game, and it felt symbolic when the exceptional Emile Smith Rowe struck the third goal for the home side.
Villa had dared to make two bids for Smith Rowe this summer, both of which were laughed off by Arsenal, and the visitors could not get close to the 21-year-old on the pitch either.
This was another statement performance by the youngster, who is surely on the verge of an England call-up, and it came on the day he declared that he would love to stay at Arsenal “forever”.
Smith Rowe scored one and assisted one for Arsenal, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang striking the other on the rebound after Emiliano Martinez had saved his first-half penalty.
All over the pitch Arsenal were in control, from Partey in midfield to Ben White in defence and Smith Rowe in attack, and Villa offered little to suggest they are capable of reaching these levels themselves.
Dean Smith’s side appeared to be playing a different, slower game in the first half, when they could not compete with Arsenal’s energy and intensity. At half-time the shot count read 14 to zero, and only Jacob Ramsey’s late strike brought any light on a dark night for Villa’s head coach.