Aston Villa were desperately out of sorts when West Ham put three goals past them in midweek.
It was a performance distinctly out of character with what has been a terrific season for Dean Smith’s team.
After bravely fighting relegation last term they have bounced back in remarkable fashion. Their 1-0 win over Arsenal epitomised everything they’ve become.
It was steely, aggressive and most importantly, it was clinical.
The Villans didn’t need many chances but were gifted the game’s only goal early on. Bertrand Traore seized on possession after Cedric gave it away and he then put the ball on a plate for Ollie Watkins to roll the ball home.
Villa troubled the Gunners on numerous occasions but it was their defensive performance that stood out so much.
Tyrone Mings was given BT Sport’s Man of the Match award for the performance but we think someone else deserves some recognition too.
That happens to be Matt Targett, a defender who has to go down as one of their shrewdest captures since returning to the Premier League.
The former Saint was charged with defending Bukayo Saka for the majority of the game and once the full-time whistle was blown, he would have looked inside his pocket and found the dazzling Arsenal winger sat there.
Saka has been one of Arsenal’s main creators this term but Targett stifled him and fellow youngster, Emile Smith Rowe, in dominating fashion.
This was as complete a performance as they come from the Villa defender. Saka tried time and time again to get down the right but he failed to complete any of the four dribbles he attempted. That was a testament to Targett’s magnificent display.
The Arsenal academy graduate has been their match-winner on a regular basis in recent weeks so this was a pivotal fight on the pitch. The fact that the £35k-per-week Villa earner overcame the challenge made him Smith’s true hero.