Aston Villa needed just 46 seconds to put the ball in the back of the net, only to have it wiped off the board. John McGinn lashed a left-footed finish past Bernd Leno after Jack Grealish picked him out atop the penalty area, but Ross Barkley was standing in an offside position halfway between McGinn and Leno. Martin Atkinson eventually went to the field-side monitor to have a look and determined that Barkley had obstructed Leno’s view of the shot. There are legitimate questions to be asked over whether or not Leno had any chance of making a save as the ball was hit with such power and placement from close range, though that particular nuance does not factor into the rules involving offside decisions.
It was Aston Villa who were next to put the ball in the goal, again, this time by way of an own goal charge to Bukayo Saka in the 25th minute. Matt Targett played the ball across the face of goal for Trezeguet at the back post. If not for Saka’s failed intervention, the Egyptian would have had a tap-in himself.
Arsenal’s best chance at a first-half goal came in the 42nd minute, but Alexandre Lacazette headed the ball well over the crossbar from six yards out. Kieran Tierney delivered the chance on a platter, but the Frenchman couldn’t make anything of it.
Arsenal needed a fair bit of time to come to life in the second half, and they failed to make it last even when they did so.
Aston Villa weathered the brief storm and hit back in rapid fashion not long after Nicolas Pepe missed the Gunners’ best chance to pull level at 1-1. Barely 60 seconds later, Villa connected a diagonal ball from Douglas Luiz and a volleyed cross from Barkley with the head of Watkins for a sensation team goal and a 2-0 advantage.
Seconds later, straight from the restart, Aston Villa pranced down the field and came within a foot or two of making it 3-0. Grealish got on the end of a cross from Barkley and hammered it low and toward the far post. Leno was fully beaten, but Dani Ceballos raced back to the goal line to boot it clear just in time.
Two minutes later, Watkins succeeded in making it 3-0 as Aston Villa carved the Arsenal defense to pieces with a devastating counter. Former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez threw the ball out to Grealish who carried forward before playing Watkins in behind for the one-on-one finish, which he took with expert precision.