In the spring sunshine at Villa Park, Arsenal rode a strong first half display to beat Aston Villa and boost their top four hopes.
This was one of the most comfortable 1-0 wins you will ever see.
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Bukayo Saka’s first half goal was enough for Mikel Arteta’s side to secure a 10th Premier League win from their last 13 games, as Villa were second-best throughout.
Mikel Arteta’s side dug in and made sure they bounced back from their midweek defeat to Liverpool.
The win sees Arsenal cement fourth place as they have 54 points, as they have a game in-hand over Manchester United and West Ham in the top four battle and sit six points above north London rivals Tottenham.
Aston Villa vs Arsenal final score, stats
Aston Villa 0-1 Arsenal
Goals scored: Saka 30′
Shots: Aston Villa 8, Arsenal 10
Shots on target: Aston Villa 1, Arsenal 3
Possession: Aston Villa 46, Arsenal 54
Three things we learned from Aston Villa vs Arsenal
1. Young phenoms dazzle down the right: Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard linked up brilliantly in the first half to set the tone for this win. They almost got in a few times before Saka scored the all-important goal and the young duo are coming of age to lead this top four push. Arsenal are solid defensively and have Partey and Xhaka holding things down in midfield but it is Saka and Odegaard (plus Smith Rowe) who hold the X-factor. When Odegaard and Saka play well, Arsenal usually win.
2. Villa play scared: Steven Gerrard’s decision to start with Buendia as an extra man in midfield as he sacrificed Danny Ings up top seemed to set the tone for this subdued display. This was a very anti-Gerrard performance from Villa. They didn’t play with any gusto, should have been 3-0 down at half time and they were too scared to keep the ball or try to go forward. It was very much a safety first display, even though in the second half they were much better when they did throw caution to the wind. This display was even stranger as Gerrard’s side had a full week to prepare for it compared to Arsenal having less than 48 hours. They’re still having a decent season as they push for a top 10 finish, but this was lackluster. That’s putting it nicely.
3. Robust Gunners look set for fourth: They still have a few big tests to come (Tottenham away, Chelsea away, West Ham away and Manchester United at home) but this feels like a huge win in their top four push. Arsenal were without Aaron Ramsdale in goal but looked as solid as ever as Bernd Leno came in and did his job, while Gabriel and Ben White continue to look reliable and durable at center back with Xhaka and Partey shielding them expertly. Arsenal are now a consistent team and even if sometimes they struggle to score goals, you get the sense they will hang in most games and that they aren’t going to be their own worst enemies. That is a huge culture change and that is why with 10 games to go they are the favorites to finish fourth.
Man of the Match: Thomas Partey – Dominated midfield, shielded the back four and was key in Arsenal getting a clean sheet.
Gunners grab deserved lead
Bukayo Saka was set free down the right early on and he found Martin Odegaard who set up Smith Rowe but he sent his shot over the bar.
Emiliano Martinez was then forced into a fine stop as a cross deflected of Ezri Konsa and the Argentina goalkeeper pushed the ball wide.
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Saka did put Arsenal ahead in the first half as a quick free kick routine caught Villa napping and Saka’s shot from the edge of the box went through a crowd and beat Martinez.
Villa finally get going
In the second half Villa whipped in a few dangerous crosses and were more direct, as John McGinn curled a shot just wide.
Ollie Watkins’ shot deflected off Kieran Tierney and hit the post, as Villa continued to crank through the gears late on.
A few more crosses into the box caused some concern for Arsenal, but Leno pushed away Phillipe Coutinho’s free kick late on as Arsenal held on to win with relative ease.