Emile Smith Rowe excels as Arsenal sweeps uninspired Aston Villa

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Emile Smith Rowe excels as Arsenal sweeps uninspired Aston Villa


If Arsenal manage to maintain this level, they will change their mind shortly. Aston Villa was shoddy here, but in large part because Mikel Arteta’s players did it, outdoing them in every area imaginable and deserving a greater margin of victory.

Where Arsenal worked on Monday night, this time around, they reveled; Thomas Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Emile Smith Rowe were the beneficiaries but each member of their team suffered the physical and technical blows of his counterpart.

This meant that Villa’s recent grip on this game had been brutally broken and, based on that evidence, anyone predicting that he poses a threat to Arsenal in the Premier League’s long-term pecking order can think again. . They have lost three games in a row while Arteta can enjoy a 14-point comeback from the last six games. A late goal from substitute Jacob Ramsey, yet superbly taken, flattered the visitors.

Given the growing rivalry between these clubs, it was no surprise that the proceedings started with an advantage. Villa had enough confidence in his station to make two offers for Smith Rowe during the summer; in goal they could bring in a keeper, Emi Martínez, whom Arsenal would have preferred not to lose and there was always the added context that the previous three encounters had turned in their direction.

Within 30 seconds of kick-off, Ollie Watkins, battling Gabriel Magalhães after Aaron Ramsdale recovered the ball near his 18-yard line, caused a short-lived skirmish that occupied half of the players. of field. He was booked and the atmosphere, already hot, was getting higher.

Arsenal are used to quick starts here – this was no exception and their lead was well indicated. Alexandre Lacazette had saved them from defeat to Crystal Palace on Monday and was rewarded with his first top-flight start to the season, floating around 10th place to support Aubameyang. In the fourth minute, Aubameyang missed an overhead kick from an awkward angle and the ball ran towards Bukayo Saka, whose cross offered him the chance. Saka billowed high and wide, but the tone was set.

Nuno Tavares, starting a Premier League game for the first time due to Kieran Tierney’s bruised ankle, then galloped into the box but let his cruelty show by blazing. Arsenal continued to arrive and Martínez, falling to the ground under low pressure as a high ball fell close to him, was fortunate enough to see Smith Rowe’s piledriver blocked.

Villa couldn’t handle Arsenal’s tempo and set pieces provided a similar ordeal. Partey’s temperamental long-range shot is sometimes ridiculous, but, two minutes before his goal, he came terribly close to six yards striking against the post after Saka’s free kick was only halfway through. clear. When he scored, the contact was more complicated. Tavares had seen another wide deflected shot and, from Smith Rowe’s corner, Partey rose to the near post. He connected with the shoulder rather than the head, but Martínez was slow to respond and the ball wiggled into its far corner.

Thomas Partey puts Arsenal ahead in the first half against Aston Villa. Photographie : Alex Pantling/Getty Images

The lead was well deserved: if Arsenal had not quite matched the tornado that destroyed Tottenham, it was not far. By the half hour, they should have scored again when Tavares found Saka unmarked with a wonderfully sloping pass from the left. Saka allowed Martínez to save with his feet and Villa, second behind absolutely everything, temporarily spared further damage.

They continued to court him, however, and were punished again in overtime. The ball came out for a throw-in, with Craig Pawson ready to blow the whistle, but VAR had studied a challenge from Matt Targett on Lacazette that had the crowd screaming for a penalty as the play was choppy. After examining his sideline monitor, Pawson correctly ruled that Targett had crossed his opponent to take the ball. Half still had life: As Martínez parried Aubameyang’s kick, he was helpless in the face of an emphatically converted rebound.

Arsenal’s task was to maintain this level of performance; Villa’s needed to improve significantly on their poorest offering of the season. Dean Smith introduced Leon Bailey and the impact was immediate, albeit short-lived.

Watkins tested Ramsdale at his nearby post, then, six minutes into the restart, Ben White made a crucial block from Danny Ings, but the hosts were still much sharper.


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The point was proven when Smith Rowe intercepted an undercooked pass from John McGinn deep in his own half and then headed for Villa’s territory. Within seconds, Tavares had played the ball into Aubameyang, whose first stroke encountered Smith Rowe’s lung stroke in the inner left channel. While his finish owed something to fortune, with the eventual shot hitting Tyrone Mings and coming off a post, the move was a testament to the goalscorer’s intoxicating mix of industry and sheer quality.

The match was set for Villa, and when they finally created a clear opportunity, Ramsdale saved Ings to make sure they remained starved of oxygen. Aubameyang demanded a flying save from Martínez and Arsenal seemed more likely to find a fourth before, out of nowhere Ramsey curled up with precision. It didn’t change much at night on both sides.

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