I gotta tell ya – I absolutely loved yesterday’s performance by those Arsenal players up at Villa Park.

Yes, it was a tight encounter, yes we got by with a one goal advantage and yes, there were some scary moments towards the end, but what I saw yesterday hit me up with so much belief about the confidence and direction of the team that I am finally starting to think that top four is a very real possibility.

All of the questions we all had about this Arsenal teams was how they were going to respond to a disappointing loss at home to Liverpool. Would we see a sluggishness from the players? Would there be the familiar collapsing in on itself that we’ve seen from Arsenal sides over the years? Would the Arsenal team who sat back and held a low block resurface and make life uncomfortable? Or would we see a brave Arsenal team pressing higher up the pitch and pinning the full backs in?

And when the team was announced there was also some worry given we had more injuries and absences. Martinelli was ill and so didn’t make the match day squad, Tomiyasu was still out, whilst Ramsdale was confirmed to be absent with a hip problem which Arteta said would keep him out for a few weeks.

I saw some nonsense from a rubbish radio presenter on a certain rubbish sports station that I never listen to (it was retweeted on my timeline) saying that Arsenal had barely had any injuries and their form wasn’t all that. Well, yesterday’s performance was a big ‘eff you’ to that kind of thinking, because even with a few key players out missing, Arsenal stepped up and produced the goods. And what’s awesome is those players who came in to the team to deputise for those that were injured, performed really well.

Bernd Leno had little to do overall but at key points made some really great saves and right at the end his palm away was greeted with the kind of celebration from the players that was so wholesome and lovely.

Cedric continued his decent form at right back and never looked too threatened; in fact Coutinho was pretty anonymous throughout yesterday and that Aston Villa left hand side is where he likes to pop up and drift, so props to the Portuguese international for his display.

Emile Smith Rowe was superb I thought. As soon as the ball hits his feet, he never loses it and he is such a joy to watch, putting on another great display and honestly, I think Arteta should say to Martinelli that ESR has the shirt for the next few matches as long as he performs. That’s how Emile lost it to Gabby and that’s what we want to see – true meritocracy – but also players with the requisite quality that we lose somebody to injury and it doesn’t feel like the team is adversely affected much.

And that is 100% what it felt like yesterday. I know goals win games and I know there will be games where we are more clinical and less clinical, but I loved yesterday’s game so much because of the control we exerted from the first minute. When you’re in the moment of watching the team, you don’t afford yourself the luxury of looking at the way they are popping the ball around and saying “there’s a swagger here”. That’s mainly because if you dominate from minute one to 95 and they score against the run of play and lose, all of your efforts are for nothing. But now that the victory is confirmed I can watch this game again and see just how impressive this team was. Controlled possession in the first half, moving those Villa players around at will, looking dominant when going forward and creating chances. That’s what Arsenal did for the whole of the first half and it was a delight to see.

Then, to the man of the moment, Bukayo Saka. I’d said yesterday that with Digne out injured at left back we needed to see Saka take on the ageing Ashley Young and boy, did he take him to task. I thought Saka was excellent and you could also see that Arsenal were targeting that Villa left back slot. We went down the line to Saka, we hit big switches to Saka, we tried to get that ball to him as often as possible. It was great to see and then when he stepped in field he caused a goal threat. So it proved as the defining moment of the match and his finish was superb to beat Martinez.

Villa did, as you’d expect when they are at home, have chances and the second half was a little bit more worrying than the first, but all in all I felt we dealt with their threat so very well. And tactically it was spot on. We pinned their fullbacks back which meant they were really narrow. What that also meant was no out ball when Martinez had it. Plus we let him have it. One of the traits of this Arsenal team is seeing Ødegaard tearing down the person in possession like the ‘keeper, but yesterday we let Martinez have it. And when he had it there were no piercing balls in to the centre or wide forward positions, because there was no outlet, and we didn’t press him. This was a clear tactical instruction and meant that Martinez just went sideways to his centre halves and the build up was slowed. It was perfect from the players and the game plan was executed expertly.

This feels like a top team we are seeing at Arsenal now. They looked yesterday like they had an air about them; there was a confidence that flowed through and long May this continue after the international break.

We have just under two weeks until Arsenal play again but if we get more of the same when they return, we’ll be staring down that fourth spot with even more belief.

Catch you all tomorrow.