The Warm Down: Villa complete league double over Arsenal. 
(Photo by Nick Potts - Pool/Getty Images)

Aston Villa get their 5th home win of the season as Dean Smith's side grind out a 1-0 win v Mikel Arteta's Arsenal.

Villa were quick to start, opening the scoring inside two minutes; Bertrand Traoré capitalised on Cedric Soares' mistake allowing Ollie Watkins to slot home his tenth Premier League goal of the season.

Arsenal struggled to respond having only one shot on target in the first half. The away side did look a threat from set-pieces but Villa defended comfortably. 

The Gunners were far better in the second half posing a number of threats to Villa's lead. It was one-way traffic as Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe asked questions of the Villa backline. The introductions of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Martin Ödegaard and Willian gave Arsenal greater scope going forward meaning Matty Cash and Trezeguet had their work cut out.

Despite Arsenal's dominance in the last 15 minutes a resilient back four and some superb saves from former Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez meant Aston Villa picked up all three points.

Watkins had two golden opportunities to put the game to bed but he couldn't convert.

Solid At The Back 

After Smith compared his team's defending to the standard of Sunday League following their midweek defeat to West Ham, it was vital that the defence stepped up to the impressive standards that have seen them earn several clean sheets this season.

With Arsenal piling on the pressure in the latter stages Villa defended with all their might. Matt Targett made some crucial tackles while Matt Cash and Trezuget were inundated with Arsenal's attacking quality but the pair held their own throughout. 

Martinez was also self-critical of his performance midweek. In order to put things right, he called on the forwards for additional time on the training pitch to put his wrongs right. His extra hours in training paid off as he kept his 11th clean sheet of the season. 

 

Watkins Strikes Again 

Ollie Watkins becomes the first Aston Villa player to score in three consecutive Premier League matches at Villa Park since Darren Bent in November 2011.  The 24-year-old is now up to double figures in the Premier League after he opened the scoring v Arsenal. Watkins is relishing his opportunity in the top flight and will be pleased to be finally on the scoresheet on a regular basis. Having faced criticism from a small minority early on in the season he has well and truly silenced his critics. 

Dean Smith will be pleased to finally have a prolific goalscorer this year having struggled last season with a combination of strikers. 

The Transformation

The result means that  Villa have now equalled last seasons points tally of 35 having only completed half of the season. After surviving on the last day of the season Villa have recruited well with former Arsenal goalkeeper Martinez being one of the stand-out performers. They've also transformed their defence and took the pressure of club captain Jack Grealish. 

Can boyhood Villa fans Dean Smith and Jack Grealish lead Aston Villa back to European glory this year?

 

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