Thomas Partey scored his first goal for Arsenal as the Gunners beat Aston Villa 3-1 to extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League to six matches on Friday.
Partey’s first half header broke the Ghana midfielder’s goal drought in his 40th appearance in all competitions since his move from Atletico Madrid 12 months ago.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged Arsenal’s second goal when he converted the rebound after his penalty was saved. Emile Smith Rowe put the result beyond doubt early in the second half as Arsenal climbed to ninth place in the Premier League.
After losing their first three league games, Arsenal have gradually recovered their equilibrium.
Successive draws against Brighton and Crystal Palace had brought renewed pressure on Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, but this was a tantalising glimpse of what they could be under the Spaniard.
“I’m proud of the team. This is when we are good, when we play with real desire, real commitment and can have clear ideas of how to attack,” Arteta said.
“We are closer together as a team. This is what you get from young players. They need the consistency. That comes with experience and maturity.
“It has to happen now. They showed they can do it.”
They won’t find many opponents as obliging as Villa, who still looked shell-shocked after conceding three goals in the final 10 minutes to lose 3-2 against Wolves last weekend.
Jacob Ramsey’s late goal was no consolation for a Villa team on a run of three consecutive defeats.
“First half we got dominated physically, but I’m confused about the penalty,” Villa boss Dean Smith said. “It is a lower contact tackle. Does he touch the ball first or his leg first? I thought they were the ones we were not going to VAR for.”
Villa striker Ollie Watkins was fortunate to stay on the pitch after kicking out at Gabriel in the first minute. That was the only show of defiance from Villa as they were blown away by Arsenal’s sustained assault.
Aubameyang’s audacious overhead kick ran across goal to Bukayo Saka and the winger fired over from a tight angle.
Partey stabbed against the crossbar after Villa failed to clear Saka’s free-kick.
Arsenal’s relentless pressure finally paid dividends in the 23rd minute.
Partey rose above the flat-footed John McGinn to meet Smith Rowe’s corner with a flicked header that just evaded Emiliano Martinez’s despairing dive. Arsenal were rampant and increased their lead on the stroke of half-time.
Matt Targett’s challenge on Alexandre Lacazette was initially ignored by referee Craig Pawson, but after being urged to consult the pitchside monitor, he changed his decision and awarded a penalty.
Smith was incensed, although replays showed Targett caught Lacazette just before touching the ball.
Aubameyang’s spot-kick was saved by former Arsenal keeper Martinez, but the Gabon forward was first to the rebound and slotted in his seventh goal this season.
Villa considered a move for Arsenal’s Smith Rowe when they chased a replacement for Jack Grealish in the close-season.
They were unable to land the young midfielder and he showed what they missed out on with the latest in a growing list of influential displays.
Sprinting onto Aubameyang’s long pass, Smith Rowe drilled a fierce strike that deflected off Tyrone Mings and then the post on its past Martinez in the 56th minute.
Ramsey curled home from the edge of the area with eight minutes left, but the quality of the finish was at odds with the rest of Villa’s lacklustre display.