From the Emirates Stadium – A physical Aston Villa side survived a VAR review for a penalty after barely five minutes when Bukayo Saka was wrestled to the ground inside the penalty area, the referee deciding against penalising Tyrone Mings.
The aggressive approach continued, a mixture of fouls both crunching and cynical keeping the game from flowing in the first 20 minutes – although the home side made the most of the staccato rhythm to get behind a flat-footed defensive line on multiple occasions, and really should’ve been comfortably ahead well before half time.
The inevitable opener came after half an hour when Emi Martinez spilled a deflected cross straight into the path of Gabriel Jesus, who gobbled up the chance after being frustrated by some last-ditch defending previously.
Arsenal continued to be frustrated – a fantastic save from Martinez keeping out a Gabriel Martinelli thunderbolt just before half time the highlight – into the final 20 minutes, when Villa brought on Douglas Luiz and Philippe Coutinho in a break for an away corner.
Luiz took the corner…it went straight in.
It felt like a return to the bad old Arsenal, running the game without finishing off a markedly inferior opponent, until they charged up the field and took the lead back in the blink of an eye – Martinelli finishing from close range after good work on the right by Saka.
The last 15 minutes were frantic, and Villa always looked in with a chance of snatching something in the chaos – especially when Aaron Ramsdale went down with a hamstring injury, causing consternation among the home fans (how much do you trust Matt Turner? You might find out soon). There was no capitulation though, and Arsenal still have the only 100% record in the league.
GK: Aaron Ramsdale – 5/10 – Didn’t have much to do except, well, that. Don’t concede straight from a corner, mate.
RB: Ben White – 6/10 – Did well on the ball, which was about all he was asked to do.
CB: William Saliba – 7/10 – Really looks like the centre-back Arsenal have waited (and waited, and waited) for.
CB: Gabriel – 7/10 – No repeat of Saturday’s howler, looked completely comfortable.
LB: Kieran Tierney – 6/10 – Solid enough, but not the two-way presence he looked when fit in previous seasons.
CM: Albert Sambi-Lokonga – 6/10 – Showed why he’s needed a couple of injuries to get into the lineup, but also showed why it’s not a disaster if he’s there.
CM: Granit Xhaka – 8/10 – In the form of his life right now. There might be a question mark over the third midfielder spot, but the other two are playing absolute blinders right now.
CM: Martin Odegaard – 7/10 – Continuing his sparkling start to the season. If this team keeps growing with him, Arsenal may have a captain and midfield lynchpin for years to come.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 7/10 – A tricky one to judge. Played well in a good performance, but (again) should’ve scored and fluffed his lines. That newly-habitual wastefulness hasn’t cost Arsenal…yet.
ST: Gabriel Jesus – 8/10 – Overshadowed a little outside of north London by some Scandinavian bloke scoring nine goals in August for the club he just left, but that’ll suit him just fine. Another very good game.
LW: Gabriel Martinelli – 8/10 – Nearly scored the best goal ever scored by a human being at the end of the first half. Actually scored a perfectly reasonable goal in the second.
SUB: Takehiro Tomiyasu (65′) – 5/10
SUB: Emile Smith Rowe (81′) – N/A
SUB: Rob Holding (88′) – N/A
SUB: Eddie Nketiah (88′) – N/A
Manager: Mikel Arteta – 6/10 – Subs didn’t do much to change the game, but he’s set his team up well.
GK: Emi Martinez – 3/10 – Dropped a (deflected) cross for the opener, started time-wasting after about 15 minutes, weak for the winner. Not a happy return, but did make one absolute worldie to stop a Martinelli thunderbolt.
RB: Matty Cash – 4/10 – Taken behind the woodshed by…Granit Xhaka? Earns a point back for some great last-ditch defending.
CB: Ezri Konsa – 4/10 – Bullied.
CB: Tyrone Mings – 4/10 – Bullied.
LB: Lucas Digne – 5/10 – At least didn’t do anything especially wrong.
CM: John McGinn – 4/10 – Allegedly on the pitch.
CM: Boubacar Kamara – 4/10 – Absolutely nowhere in the midfield battle, completely overrun.
CM: Jacob Ramsay – 4/10 – See above.
RW: Leon Bailey – 5/10 – Had a little joy against Tierney, but certainly didn’t do enough to give anyone sleepless nights.
ST: Ollie Watkins – 4/10 – Not helped by a complete lack of service, but was well marshalled by Arsenal’s centre-backs.
LW: Emi Buendia – 4/10 – Came off midway through the second half; one fo the first indications that he was present.
SUB: Douglas Luiz (73′) – 7/10
SUB: Philippe Coutinho (73′) – 6/10
SUB: Danny Ings (83′) – N/A
Manager: Steven Gerrard – 4/10 – Moment of genius in bringing on a corner kick specialist aside, Villa were set up poorly, didn’t appear to have any plan to deal with…well, anything, and should’ve been absolutely demolished.