Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 0 - Report
John McGinn’s early goal proved enough as Villa beat Arsenal for a club record 15th consecutive home league victory.
The skipper fired home on the turn after collecting Leon Bailey’s cross to give Unai Emery’s men the perfect start.
Arsenal had much the better of it from then against a Villa team perhaps feeling the effects of Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Manchester City.
But they could find no way past the stubborn hosts who moved to within two points of the Premier League summit.
The question heading into the match was how Villa could follow up a performance against City less than 72 hours previously?
They did so with a win as ugly as Wednesday’s was beautiful, yet no less precious. It completed one of the most remarkable four day periods in Villa Park’s 126-year history, which has seen them beat last season's top two to break a record for consecutive home league wins which had stood since 1903.
They are the first Villa team to win their first eight home matches in a league season since 1932.
For much of the evening they were required to dig deep and occasionally ride their luck against a visiting team who, with their boss Mikel Arteta watching from the stands due to suspension, bossed possession for long spells.
Yet the Gunners were wasteful and Villa, though often under pressure, never blinked. They remain the only team in the top flight not to have lost any points from a winning position this season.
Emery stuck with the same starting XI as Wednesday but used his bench effectively to give his team just enough energy during a gruelling second half.
Before the opener, came a let-off for Villa. Bukayo Saka picked out the left wing run of Gabriel Martinelli with a crossfield ball and then ghosted in behind Lucas Digne at the far post to meet the return cross, his finish squirming well wide of the post.
Villa made no mistake with the move which saw them take the lead moments later. Boubacar Kamara found Youri Tielemans, who released Leon Bailey down the right with a first-time pass. The Jamaica international motioned to cut inside before darting to the byline which McGinn controlled with his first touch and then lifted into the net with his second on the turn. Villa Park celebrated as though this was the night the league title itself was on the line.
The hosts weren’t perfect and guilty, too often, of giving the ball away in their own half as the visitors gradually got a grip on proceedings.
Villa, however, were nothing if not dogged, while Arsenal were wasteful, Martin Odegaard shooting far too close to Emi Martinez from just 10 yards out having had time to pick his spot.
The Argentina international also pushed away a rising Gabriel Jesus effort and when he was beaten by Martinelli’s lob, having rushed out to meet the attacker, Diego Carlos was in the right place to stop the ball bouncing over the line.
Arsenal were wasteful in the final third but 10 minutes into the second half were almost gifted a leveller. Watkins’ presence at the near post unsighted Martinez at a corner and he fumbled the ball into the striker, Carlos and Kamara both getting a touch before the goalkeeper could grasp it in his hands again.
Odegaard then wasted another great chance when he side-footed wide before Villa had their first attempt on goal in a long time, Lucas Digne shooting straight at Raya. The visiting goalkeeper was tested again by a Watkins shot which he failed to hold with Moussa Diaby, who had replaced Bailey at the break, strangely deciding not to follow the shot in.
Arsenal finally had the ball in the net when Saka sprang clear and rounded Martinez but the goalkeeper immediately raised an arm to indicate offside and the raised flag proved his confidence well placed.
Emery had waited until 85 minutes to make a change against City but they were coming with greater frequency here. Matty Cash fired wide after beating Odegaard to the ball as the changes appeared to give the hosts the required boost of energy.
As the clock ticked toward 90 minutes the visitors thought they had a leveller but referee Jarred Gillet had spotted a handball in the build-up and after a lengthy VAR check his decision to rule it out proved correct.
7 GOAL Villa strike first. Boubacar Kamara finds Youri Tielemans, who knocks a ball through to Leon Bailey. He teases Gabriel before crossing for John McGinn, who scores left-footed on the turn.
Villa (4-4-2): Martinez, Konsa (Cash 66), Carlos, Torres, Digne (Moreno 77), McGinn, Luiz, Kamara (Dendoncker 66), Bailey (Diaby HT), Tielemans (Ramsey 56), Watkins Subs not used: Lenglet, Zaniolo, Duran, Ramsey, Marschall (gk).
Arsenal (4-4-3): Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko (Nelson 90+3), Odegaard, Rice, Havertz, Saka, Jesus (Nketiah 81), Martinelli (Trossard 70) Subs not used: Kiwior, Soares, Jorginho, Elneny, Walters, Ramsdale (gk).