Even after five wins on the spin, Mikel Arteta will not be satisfied. The head coach is constantly looking for ways in which Arsenal can improve — and that will be no different now, despite his side sitting top of the Premier League with a 100 per cent record ahead of Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford.
Hot on their heels are Manchester City — and the differing manner of their wins last night underlines how much further Arsenal have to go as they continue to grow.
The Gunners had 22 shots on their way to three points; City had 17. But, while City demolished Nottingham Forest 6-0, Arsenal could only manage a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa.
It should have been more emphatic — and Bukayo Saka will still be wondering how he did not end up on the scoresheet, after blowing two great chances in the first half.
As it was, Arsenal needed Gabriel Martinelli to score the winner with just 13 minutes to go after Douglas Luiz had cancelled out Gabriel Jesus’s opener.
“The goal of Gabi Martinelli I think is a really difficult technique, the height of the ball, the angle he is getting, the way he is approaching the ball — and he still managed to hit the target — and that always gives you a chance,” said Arteta.
The truth is, though, Arsenal should have killed last night’s game long before Martinelli struck. It is the next step they need to take over the course of this season as they look to establish themselves back in the top four.
The best teams in the country are utterly ruthless, as highlighted by City’s Erling Haaland-inspired rout of Forest, and that must be the target for Arsenal. They certainly have the attacking talent to blow teams away, and the number of chances they are creating suggests there should be more to come.
“It’s the most difficult thing in football, to score goals, but today we had some big, big, big chances and we didn’t put them away but, obviously, the intention of the players is to score,” added Arteta.
“We are working on it all the time and I think we are getting much better and, as always, there is room for improvement.”
Had it not been for Martinelli’s winner, Arsenal risked having their unbeaten run come to an end last night.
That would have been unjust, as they were utterly dominant against Villa, particularly in the first half, when Jesus opened the scoring after ex-Gunners goalkeeper Emi Martinez spilled a deflected cross.
The chances continued to come after that, but the goals did not, and when Luiz curled the ball home straight from a corner in the 74th minute, it looked as though Arsenal had blown it.
There is, however, a new feel about Arsenal this season and, just as they did against Fulham last Saturday, they hit back as Martinelli converted a Saka cross just three minutes later.
“It was such a good game until this moment (the equaliser),” said Granit Xhaka. “We can finish the game before as well, but we didn’t. We have to learn about it. You can’t always concede and comeback like Fulham or today. So we have to try to finish and to kill the game before that.
“But it’s even better if you win in this way. With the atmosphere and the people around, the feeling is very good.”
After their win last night, spirits at Arsenal are rightfully high — but Arteta will know there is still plenty of room for improvement.