Could Arsenal avoid the energy trap – evidenced against Palace?
Great to start at such a pace in attempt to blow away teams – but rewards must come within the first half hour. If not, the danger is drop off and drop back, with the opposition gaining ascendancy for the second half.
It appears lessons were learned from Palace. For example, Gabriel tackling outside the box, and Lokonga keeping the ball better.
It was a highly impressive first half performance. But the goal came at the right time on 24 – fortunate timing and a fortunate goal – coming off Partey’s shoulder, for his first Arsenal goal.
The other Arsenal goals came at exactly the right time.
Arsenal pressed in unison, and attacked with speed and flair, frequently switching the play from right to left. Smith Rowe and Tavares frequently found plenty of space behind Villa’s wing backs.
Alexandre Lacazette making his first Premier League start since April made a big difference as number 10, holding the ball up well. His experience was vital. Tavares and Lokonga came in for Tierney and Pepe in a 4-2-3-1.
Arsenal fan Ollie Watkins got booked in the second minute, tangling with Gabriel.
Arsenal’s pressure resulted in several attempts in the first 20 – Aubameyang’s off-target bicycle kick; Lacazette’s steal off Konsa – harshly judged as a foul; Partey hit the bar from a second ball after Saka’s free kick.
But on 23, Partey broke free from McGinn and guided the ball off his head and shoulder into the corner of the net.
Arsenal should have made it two when Tavares sent a diagonal ball across the area and Saka should have scored but Martinez saved with his boot.
But on the stroke of half-time Saka crossed, Targett cleared but Lacazette got a foot in, and it was kicked. Penalty awarded via VAR. Martinez who has a great record in saving penalties pushed out Aubameyang’s, but the Gabonese connected well on the rebound bouncing it over the prostrate keeper.
Villa changed to a 4-2-3-1 after half time with Tuanzebe off and Bailey on. Cash dropped back to make four at the back. And they looked more balanced and threatening as Watkins broke on the left, forcing a corner.
Arsenal passes started getting sloppy a la Place.
However, Villa’s pressing made them vulnerable to the counter. Smith Rowe won the ball and it found Aubameyang who sent the u-21 international away driving to goal. His shot hit the onrushing Mings, the deflection evading Martinez, hitting the post and in.
The goal curtailed the rising Villa revival.
But Arsenal reminded the crowd of their vulnerability. Ramsdale saved well from Beundia running into the area.
Partey and Gabriel missed challenges on Bailey along the 18-yard line and Ramsey fired into the top right corner. Ramsdale went mad with his defenders.
Soon after, a bouncing ball went across the area with Watkins just failing to connect. That would have sent jitters round the ground.
And as if to emphasise the thin ice, Partey slipped in the box and Ramsey fired wide.
Dean Smith said: “We were very poor in the first half. Not recognisable. We didn’t play well enough. We were dominated physically. We knew Arsenal start strong. We didn’t play well and didn’t win enough balls.
“If we’d gone in 1-0 down at half-time, I felt if we got the next goal we’d have a big chance. We were open to the counter attack – they had a bit of fortune with the third.”
Mikel Arteta said: “I’m satisfied the way we started – with tempo and urgency and aggression without the ball. We believed we could do it. The result on Monday was disappointing. We took the messages from Monday. Some moments [then] were good others not. We are the youngest team in the league. We have to find why and analyse it.
“Lacazette was terrific. I had already made a decision to play him today. His communication was great. He was tired – he has not played many minutes.
“Finally, Partey scores. He has been trying. He could have scored two.
On Smith Rowe, Arteta said: “He’s developing in the right direction.”
Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 0
Arsenal: 32Ramsdale, 18Tomiyasu, 4White, 6Gabriel, 20Varela Tavares, 7Saka,23Sambi Lokonga (Booked at 45mins,Substituted for Maitland-Nilesat 73’minutes), 5Partey, 10Smith Rowe, 9Lacazette (Substituted for Ødegaard at 68’minutes), 14Aubameyang (Booked at 66mins, (Substituted for Martinelli at 90+1’minutes)
Aston Villa:1Martínez, 4Konsa, 16Tuanzebe (Substituted for Bailey at 45’minutes), 5Mings (Booked at 27mins), 2Cash, 7McGinn (Booked at 32mins), 6Douglas Luiz (Booked at 84mins) 3Targett(Booked at 60mins), 10Buendía (Substituted for Ramsey at 68’minutes), 20Ings (Substituted for El Ghazi at 77’minutes),11Watkins (Booked at 2mins)