The two sides of Arsenal win the points

Another team criticises Arsenal for celebrating a victory – too much in their eyes. Is a pattern developing?

A bright energetic high press game to start, followed by a defensive resilient display in the second half won the points.

DIgne was out and veteran Young was in and Buendia back in.

Ramsdale was out with a muscle strain, Martinelli was ill, and Smith Rowe took his place.

It was the 199th meeting between the sides. Arsenal lost their last two at Villa Park but won 3-1 at the Emirates earlier in the season.

Buakyo Saka: Arsenal’s star player, and targeted by Villa

Arsenal dominated the first half and deserved more than a one goal margin. An early attack saw Partey pass to Saka who crossed to Odegaard who passed it on to Smith Rowe who fired over, followed by a Smith Rowe break ending with Partey firing straight at Martinez.

A Saka cross was sent goalward by Konsa bringing a sharp reflex save from Martinez followed by neat interplay between Odegaard and Saka but Smith Rowe and Lacazette’s got in each other’s way.

Saka and Smith Rowe hugged the wide touchlines, effectively meaning the Villa backs couldn’t come forward as much as they wanted. And Partey and Xhaka blocked forward passes to Buendia and Coutinho.

Villa’s first real attack was on 20 with an in swinging cross which White did well to clear.

Saka took a long time discussing with Cedric a free kick given for a foul by Young. A quick ball on the right was crossed and from a Xhaka header Ramsey poked it into the path of Saka who shinned it low through a Nottingham Forest of legs and past Martinez, who saw it late.

MIngs caught Saka late with a dive for the ball and was yellowed; along with McGinn who pushed Lacazette in the ensuing melee.

Xhaka got booked needlessly with a tap on Buendia’s ankle and a slight push.

Arsenal continued their dominance at the start of the second.

Saka broke forward but the threat was snuffed out by three Villa defenders in the box.

McGinn had a chance from an Odegaard mistake, but his shot bent round the outside of the post.

At the other end, Saka took a delicate touch and fired it round the post.

But as the half wore on, Arsenal retreated into defence, understandable given the exertions of Wednesday.

Villa’s two best efforts were from John McGinn who curled a shot close from outside the area, and from Watkins whose shot inside the area hit Tierney’s knee and onto the outside of the post.

The defensive organisation was such that Villa’s only shot on target in the second half was Coutinho’s free kick in the last minute of injury time – well saved by Leno.

Mikel Arteta said: “You can see the connection they have. It is phenomenal to watch. If you want to be a top team, you have to win home and away. We are doing that consistently and we have to continue. We really want [to finish in the top four] and we are going to give it a go.”

Villa coach Gerrard said: “It was a tough first half because we allowed it to be tough. I think we were indecisive in the things we tried to do. I think our performance lacked belief. It wasn’t until after half-time that we showed we can be better.

“I don’t think teams like Arsenal are a step too far. But there is a gap we need to close. We are working on that.”

Premier League: Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 1

Aston Villa: 1Martínez, 2Cash, 4Konsa, 5Mings (Booked at 33mins), 18Young, 41J Ramsey (Booked at 15mins, Substituted for Bailey at 69’minutes), 6Douglas Luiz, 7McGinn (Booked at 34mins),10Buendía (Substituted for Traoré at 69’minutes),23Coutinho, 11Watkins (Substituted for Ings at 82’minutes)

Arsenal: 1Leno, 17Cédric Soares (Booked at 57mins), 4White, 6Gabriel, 3Tierney, 5Partey (Booked at 65mins), 34Xhaka (Booked at 45mins), 7Saka (Substituted for Pépé at 69’minutes), 8Ødegaard (Substituted for Holding at 86’minutes), 10Smith Rowe, 9Lacazette (Substituted for Nketiah at 78’minutes)