Bukayo Saka scored the only goal in the first half as Arsenal went away to Villa Park to pick all three points, which strengthens their hold on fourth place in the Premier League.
Mikel Arteta had moaned about the club’s revised schedule but the Spaniard put all that aside to name a changed side for the test away to Steven Gerrard’s Villa side.
Bernd Leno replaced the injured Aaron Ramsdale while Emile Smith Rowe came in for Gabriel Martinelli.
The Gunners started on the front foot and pressed Villa into incoherence. Saka was terrorising the stand-in left-back, Ashley Young.
The first danger from the visitors came down the right flank but former Arsenal goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez was agile enough to pull off an excellent save in the 10th minute after Ezri Konsa diverted Saka’s cross towards goal.
It should have been one-nil to the Arsenal in the 18th minute after great interplay between Saka and Martin Odegaard but Smith Rowe got ahead of Alexander Lacazette and pulled his finish wide of goal.
John McGinn almost sent Ollie Watkins through on goal in the 21st minute but for a last-minute interception from Ben White. The goal Arsenal merited finally arrived in the 30th minute and unsurprisingly, it was Saka who got it. A scramble ensued in the Villa box from a corner and the ball dribbled out to Saka on the edge of the box.
The Arsenal forward hit a shot through a sea of legs and it was past Martinez before he could react. Tyrone mins caught Saka with follow-through and was shown a yellow card as Villa tried to get more of the ball and threaten the visitors. According to OptaJoe, “Bukayo Saka’s opener was Arsenal’s 2,000th goal in the Premier League with the Gunners becoming the third side to reach this milestone after Man Utd (currently 2176 goals) and Liverpool (currently 2002 goals). Landmark.”
The first half ended with Villa not having a shot on target. The second half started with more impetus from the Villa players and Gabriel had to be defensive sound to prevent a tap-in for Watkins in the 52nd minute.
Thomas Partey was booked for a rash foul on Matty Cash before Watkins’ left-footed shot took a deflection off Kieran Tierney before hitting the post. Nicolas Pepe came on for Saka as the winger’s energy waned.
Danny Ings could have done better with a lobbed pass from McGinn in the 85th minute but the substitute headed over. Arsenal held on through five minutes of added time to go four points clear of Manchester United with a game in hand.