Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa: Dominant Gunners back to winning ways
Arsenal returned to winning ways and moved into the top half of the Premier League with a well-earned 3-1 victory over Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium.
Mikel Arteta's side had been held in back-to-back games but Friday's win never seemed in doubt after Thomas Partey deservedly put them in front with his first goal for the club.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added a second just before half-time from a rebound after Emiliano Martinez had saved his penalty, which was awarded after VAR intervened.
Villa substitute Jacob Ramsey pulled one back late on after Emile Smith Rowe had further extended Arsenal's lead, as the Gunners stretched their unbeaten league run to six matches and condemned their opponents to a third loss on the bounce.
Aubameyang had a goal rightly ruled out for an Alexandre Lacazette foul in the build-up and Partey turned a shot against the crossbar in a dominant start from Arsenal.
The hosts deservedly took the lead with 23 minutes played, when Partey got away from John McGinn and guided Smith Rowe's corner past Martinez.
Former Arsenal keeper Martinez produced a fine save to deny Bukayo Saka from a one-on-one on the half-hour mark, but he was beaten for a second time from the penalty spot right at the end of the first half.
After being asked to check the pitchside monitor, Craig Pawson adjudged Matt Targett went through the back of Lacazette to win the ball and Aubameyang fired past Martinez at the second attempt after his former team-mate kept out the initial spot-kick.
Villa squandered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 against Wolves last week, but any hopes of a comeback of their own were extinguished by a Smith Rowe strike that deflected in off Tyrone Mings.
Ramsey curled a delightful shot past Aaron Ramsdale eight minutes from time following some nice play from fellow substitute Leon Bailey, though that proved nothing more than a consolation.
What does it mean? Dominant Arsenal finally get the better of Villa
Villa had won their past three league meetings with Arsenal and were seeking a fourth victory in a row in this fixture for the first time since September 1962.
Dean Smith's side were only a point behind their opponents ahead of kick-off, but there was a huge gulf between the sides in north London, particularly in the opening 45 minutes, as the Gunners moved up to ninth.
Arsenal outshot their opponents 14-0 in the first half – the first time they have stopped a side having a shot against them in the league since Burnley in May 2018 – but Ramsey's late strike meant it was not quite a complete performance from Arteta's men.
Thomas gets the Partey started
Partey's opener, which came off his shoulder rather than his head, was his first goal for Arsenal from his 49th shot on what was his 40th appearance in all competitions.
That was the third successive league goal the Gunners had scored from a corner, as many as the whole of last season, and set them up for a routine victory.
Smith Rowe runs the show
Villa's defenders were unable to cope with Arsenal's fluid attack, with Axel Tuanzebe in particular struggling as he was sacrificed at half-time in a desperate attempt from Villa to change things.
Smith Rowe made the most of the visitors' terrible defensive display, the young midfielder pulling the strings with a game-high four key passes, which included an assist for Partey's opener to go alongside a goal of his own.
Arsenal take on Leeds United in the last 16 of the EFL Cup on Tuesday before travelling to Leicester City in their next Premier League match a week on Saturday. Villa have a nine-day rest ahead of hosting West Ham.