#3: Off to a flying start
In the midweek defeat to West Ham, Villa started slowly and never really got going.
Dean Smith pointed out how lethargic the team had been and no doubt impressed upon the players that a quick start was a must against Arsenal – and boy did they deliver it.
An arrowed ball from Emi Martinez (more on him later) to Bertrand Traore started the move, and the Burkina Faso international quickly latched onto a lose ball from Arsenal left-back, Cedric Soares, to skip past Gabriel and cross into the box, where it was put away by a red-hot Ollie Watkins via a deflection to give Villa a lead within 75 seconds.
That’s now 10 goals in 21 games for Watkins in the league and it was the perfect start for Villa, which turned out to be the all important winning goal.
#2: Martinez back to his old self
Martinez has had a superb season and was arguably the best signing any club made in last summer’s transfer window.
Against West Ham, he will be the first to admit he didn’t play to his usual standard, as certainly one if not both of Jessie Lingard’s goals should have been saved.
There wasn’t much doubt that he would return to the form fans have been accustomed to and in many ways, Arsenal were the perfect next opponents for him.
After 10 years at the club, Martinez finally got an extended run in the Arsenal first team at the back end of last season and didn’t put a foot wrong, winning two trophies (FA Cup and Community Shield) in his last two outings for them.
Having been demoted back to second choice at the start of this season, Villa made a move to offer him first team football and he hasn’t looked back since.
To follow up a clean sheet at his old home with another one today will have pleased him greatly and he showed his former boss what they’re missing with two fine saves today.
The first from a Granit Xhaka free kick, showing great athleticism to claw the ball away from heading into the top corner.
The second showed off his reflexes, sticking a foot out to divert Nicolas Pepe’s shot after it deflected off Ezri Konsa.
Martinez’s determined display ensured Villa gathered a well earned 11th clean sheet of the season.
#1: King Mings
Tyrone Mings has come in for some extremely harsh and quite frankly over the top criticism from some section of the Villa fan base in recent weeks.
Accused of being too much of a liability, some fans on social media – where nuanced, rational discussion seems non-existent half of the time – have suggested he needs replacing.
Today he put in a colossal performance at the back, playing out when he could, but clearing the danger when needed.
Towards the end of the first half, an Arsenal counter attack saw them outnumber the Villa defense in a three-on-two attack.
Alexandre Lacazette broke through the middle with Bukayo Saka on his right and Pepe to his left.
Mings initially closed off the pass to Saka whilst steadily closing down Lacazette and when the pass was attempted, Mings had positioned himself perfectly to intercept.
As the second half wore on, Arsenal put a number of crosses into the box, but Mings and his partner at the back, Ezri Konsa, made sure they got their heads to it.
It wasn’t just aerially where Mings proved vital, as he slid in to stop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from connecting with Saka’s low cross at the near post.
The most vital contribution came midway through the second half though.
Arsenal play-maker, Emile Smith Rowe, who was largely well shackled by John McGinn and the ‘marvelous’ Marvelous Nakamba, produced one moment of quality when receiving the ball on the edge of the Villa box, moving past Konsa in one fluid movement and pulling the trigger.
He needn’t have bothered, as Mings was on hand yet again to put in a vital block to protect his keeper; cementing his man of the match award from the BT Sport commentary team.
This was the perfect response to a disappointing midweek performance against West Ham and with games still in hand, Villa remain in the hunt for European football next season.