Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has praised Emile Smith Rowe for changing his lifestyle after the 21-year-old midfielder helped the Gunners to a thoroughly deserved victory over Aston Villa as they moved into the top half of the Premier League table. Thomas Partey headed in Smith Rowe’s corner for his first goal for the Gunners – having earlier hit the crossbar. Right at the end of the first half, Arsenal were given a penalty after a long video assistant referee review for a Matt Targett foul on Alexandre Lacazette.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty was saved excellently by former Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez, but the Gabon striker put home the rebound from close range. Villa improved on a thoroughly wretched first half, but Smith Rowe scored Arsenal’s third 11 minutes into the second half. He won the ball in his own half and then finished the move via a deflection and the post. The visitors got a consolation when Jacob Ramsey curled his first Villa goal into the top corner from 20 yards. They put on good pressure and created a few chances in the closing stages but it was too little, too late.
Villa saw two bids for England Under-21 international Smith Rowe turned down in the summer, with Arteta insisting he was never worried he would leave the Emirates Stadium. Smith Rowe now has two goals and two assists this season and Arteta has been pleased with the development of the academy graduate. This did not look like a game between two teams sitting next to each other in the table – but Arsenal were 12th and Villa 13th before kick-off. Arsenal are capable of good spells – like at the start of Monday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace – and good games – like the 3-1 win over Tottenham. This was one of the good games, well for 80 minutes.