The pivotal period of this game, you felt, came around an hour in. Arsenal were knocking at the door in search of an equaliser. Crosses came and went. Chances whistled past either post. For a while, it felt like Aston Villa might have to settle in for a long and painful rearguard. At which point, they seemed to come to a crucial realisation. They were better than Arsenal. And so in a rampant, crushing climax, they set about proving it.

As Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley began to run the game on strings, as Ollie Watkins picked off the two goals that would turn a victory into a rout, Arsenal were stripped bare again and again, beaten not just on tactics and technique but on application. Marshalled by Tyrone Mings at the back, orchestrated by Douglas Luiz in midfield and brilliantly drilled by manager Dean Smith, Villa won their duels and won their second balls, leaving Arsenal choking in their dust.

Related: Arsenal v Aston Villa: Premier League – live!

Continue reading...