Watkins celebrates at Arsenal
Grealish-Barkley link-up play
The best passing combinations, clever build-up and movement leading to chances didn’t come from the home side.
It was the exchanges of both possession and positions which was on show from Villa’s attacking duo Barkley and Jack Grealish.
There was enough understanding between them to fire in passes, receive first-time returns and keep looking for each other over longer distances, too.
Space was exploited constantly whether with direct passes or dribbles, and Arsenal had no response to the combination of power and technical excellence.
Inconsistency not just about Pepe
Mikel Arteta spoke in the week about the need for Nicolas Pepe to find consistency, not just game-to-game but even in spells within single games, if he wants to seal a regular first-team spot.
Perhaps his post-match talk here should echo those sentiments toward a few other players.
Willian lacked any impact on the match at all, Lacazette missed the game’s best chance for his team and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on the fringes of the game at best.
Off the bench, Dani Ceballos had a minimal effect on the build-up play, and he has already lost his spot in the side.
The Gunners have shown improvements, but there’s a strange predictability about their attack at times, which lacks variation, speed and a clinical edge at present.
McGinn had a goal ruled out for offside
Douglas Luiz, the monster in the middle
It wasn’t only about a difference in clinical edge at either end of the pitch.
In the centre of the park, Douglas Luiz was utterly dominant, majestic throughout and especially once Arsenal lost Thomas Partey at half-time to injury.
Winning back possession, covering runs from deep, having quality on the ball and spreading an outrageous ball left in the build-up to the second goal all showed his tactical and technical traits.
Villa have a much-improved side this season; Luiz was excellent for most of last term too, but with better players around him he’s shining even more when his team plays well.
Happy homecoming for Martinez
One of the sideshow stories of the game was Emi Martinez returning to the Emirates Stadium, where Mikel Arteta chose Bernd Leno over him in the summer as No. 1.
Simple terms: The Argentinian will be delighted, with a clean sheet and a win.
But the wider picture of the game also shows his performance as superior, more assured, and of course with a far better-functioning defence in front of him.
£20 million or so well-spent by ASton Villa – like most of their work in 2020.
The international break provides an unwelcome interruption to domestic action for most, but it does bring a natural cut-off point to assess each batch of games and plan the next phase for each team.
Arteta would have hoped to head into this one with his side in sixth place, but this dreadful home defeat leaves them in mid-table, with as many wins as defeats in the Premier League.
Perhaps in rebuild mode that would be acceptable to fans for a time, but only if it’s the established order ahead of them.
But Palace? Everton, who have a manager in place for roughly the same time themselves? Southampton, who went briefly top? Arsenal fans will feel they should be ahead of them all; it’s still relatively early in the season yes, but it’s also just about a quarter of the way through.
Games and weeks go fast, with Arsenal needing to find much more consistency and quality after the matches start up again.
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