Dean Smith says his Aston Villa players “like to make history” after they completed a first top-flight double over Arsenal for 28 years.
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan conceded 74 seconds into his debut for the Gunners as Villa followed up a 3-0 win at Emirates Stadium in November with a narrow victory at Villa Park.
Former Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez started the move which led to Bertrand Traore pouncing on a mistake by Cedric Soares before Ollie Watkins scored with a shot that deflected off Rob Holding.
“That’s the first time we’ve done the double over Arsenal since the inception of the Premier League in 1992-93,” said Smith.
“These players like to make history as we’ve seen in the last couple of years.”
Boyhood Gunners fan Ryan, signed on loan from Brighton in January and starting in place of suspended first-choice keeper Bernd Leno, produced a fine save to deny Traore a goal on his return to the Villa side.
Martinez frustrated his former club further when the Argentine produced an excellent save to keep out Granit Xhaka’s free-kick.
Villa move up to eighth in the Premier League while Arsenal’s second successive defeat leaves them 10th.
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Watkins moves into double figures
Villa climbed above Tottenham and closed to within three points of fifth spot through Watkins’ 10th Premier League goal since joining from Brentford for a club record £28m in September.
Three of those goals have been against Arsenal, the 25-year-old scoring two in Villa’s 3-0 win in London earlier in the season.
After a barren run of games without a goal between November and January, there are clear signs Watkins is warming to playing at a higher level.
In netting Villa’s earliest Premier League goal since 2014, Watkins has four goals in his past five top-flight appearances after Cedric’s intended pass to Gabriel was way too short, allowing Traore to nip in and cross for the striker to score.
This was Villa’s sixth game in 18 days but there was little sign of fatigue as they worked hard to return to winning ways after being picked off by West Ham on Wednesday.
John McGinn and Jack Grealish were both denied by Ryan while Watkins forced the new Arsenal keeper into two further saves.
Burkina Faso forward Traore brought fresh energy after being a substitute on Wednesday, while Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings helped limit Arsenal to three attempts on target.
During a sustained period of Arsenal pressure, Mings did well to block Emile Smith Rowe’s goal-bound attempt and Matty Cash got in the way of Bukayo Saka’s shot.
“It was a real hard-working performance,” added Smith.
“We’ve got the quality to score goals but that was more like us – a real dogged display against a good offensive team.”
With 35 points from 21 games, Villa have equalled their tally from 2019-20 when they stayed up on the final day of the season.
Asked whether qualifying for Europe was a possibility, Smith added: “We’re not looking that far ahead. People talk about that and you fall flat on your face against West Ham.”
Arsenal once again struggled without their inspirational forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who started on the bench for the second successive game.
Gabon striker Aubameyang has been absent in recent weeks because his mother has been in ill health.
Since the captain last started for his club, the Gunners have gone out of the FA Cup and taken four points from four games in the league, where they are without a win in three.
Aubameyang came on for the final 30 minutes at Villa Park but, despite a spell of sustained pressure towards the end, Mikel Arteta’s side failed to score for the third time in five games.
After scoring against Wolves on Tuesday, Nicolas Pepe wasted two good chances while Martinez saved well from Hector Bellerin. Substitute Martin Odegaard blazed a late chance over the bar.
The Gunners, who had two players sent off at Wolves in the previous game, were unhappy when Konsa’s first-half foul on Saka did not result in a red card.
Ryan, Arsenal’s fourth keeper of the season, recovered from conceding early to produce some good saves but Arteta’s side remain anchored in mid-table after a 10th league defeat.
Arteta was frustrated by his side’s performance. “We gave them the goal and another three big chances,” said the Gunners boss.
“We created more than enough openings but when we had to score a goal we didn’t find the the right pass or the right shot. We should have won the game comfortably.”
Double joy for Villa – the stats
- Aston Villa have completed a league double over Arsenal for the first time since the inaugural Premier League season in 1992-93 under Ron Atkinson.
- Arsenal have lost three consecutive league games against Aston Villa without scoring a goal for the first time since August 1920-March 1922.
- Ollie Watkins became the first Aston Villa player to score in three consecutive Premier League matches at Villa Park since Darren Bent in November 2011.
- Mat Ryan became just the fourth goalkeeper in the competition’s history to concede within the opening two minutes of their full Premier League debut for a club, after Gavin Ward (Bolton Wanderers), Ian Bennett (Sheffield United) and Daniele Padelli (Liverpool).
- Ryan is the first Australian to appear for Arsenal in a competitive game since John Kosmina against Red Star Belgrade in December 1978 in the Uefa Cup.
Both teams have a full week to prepare for their next Premier League matches. Aston Villa visit Brighton next Saturday (20:00 GMT) and Arsenal host Leeds on Sunday, 14 February (16:30).
Player of the match
with an average of 8.15
Squad number5Player nameMings
Squad number11Player nameWatkins
Squad number10Player nameGrealish
Squad number18Player nameTargett
Squad number2Player nameCash
Squad number26Player nameMartínez
Squad number4Player nameKonsa
Squad number19Player nameNakamba
Squad number7Player nameMcGinn
Squad number15Player nameTraoré
Squad number17Player nameTrézéguet
Squad number20Player nameBarkley
Squad number41Player nameRamsey
Squad number33Player nameRyan
Squad number7Player nameSaka
Squad number32Player nameSmith Rowe
Squad number18Player namePartey
Squad number19Player namePépé
Squad number34Player nameXhaka
Squad number16Player nameHolding
Squad number11Player nameØdegaard
Squad number9Player nameLacazette
Squad number6Player nameGabriel Magalhães
Squad number2Player nameBellerín
Squad number17Player nameCédric Soares
Squad number14Player nameAubameyang
Squad number12Player nameWillian
More to follow
- 4KonsaBooked at 31mins
- 19NakambaBooked at 35mins
- 15TraoréSubstituted forTrézéguetat 66′minutes
- 20BarkleySubstituted forRamseyat 78′minutes
- 10GrealishBooked at 90mins
- 6Douglas Luiz
- 21El Ghazi
- 27El Mohamady
- 17Cédric SoaresSubstituted forØdegaardat 65′minutes
- 18ParteyBooked at 52minsSubstituted forWillianat 74′minutes
- 34XhakaBooked at 90mins
- 32Smith Rowe
- 9LacazetteSubstituted forAubameyangat 59′minutes
Match ends, Aston Villa 1, Arsenal 0.
Second Half ends, Aston Villa 1, Arsenal 0.
Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Tyrone Mings.
Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Granit Xhaka (Arsenal).
Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Martin Ødegaard (Arsenal).
Emiliano Martínez (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Willian (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Granit Xhaka.
Foul by Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal).
Trézéguet (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Jacob Ramsey (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Marvelous Nakamba.
Offside, Aston Villa. Jack Grealish tries a through ball, but Ollie Watkins is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Martin Ødegaard (Arsenal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.
Attempt missed. Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Jack Grealish.
Foul by Willian (Arsenal).
John McGinn (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Gabriel Magalhães (Arsenal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Granit Xhaka with a headed pass.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Matthew Cash.
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