Thierry Henry said that this was not a perfect performance but, as the spring sunshine crept across Highbury, as the Arsenal captain collected a delicate back-heel from Emmanuel Adebayor and curled an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, there must have been a few, at least among the home support, who contemplated their lot and decided that, yes indeed, this was some kind of football paradise.
Arsenal have never looked quite as magisterial this season as they did in their five-goal demolition of Aston Villa although it came at a price. When Fabio Capello reads his scouting report today and decides what to tell his Juventus players he may wish to gloss over the two awe-inspiring goals from Henry, skip the fantastic finish of Robin van Persie and spare them the news of Jose Antonio Reyes' fine contribution. All that will give Juventus hope are the injuries to Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboué.
The rest stood as a warning for any team who, as the Italians surely will on Wednesday, take the risk of being caught on the counter-attack by Henry and Arsenal. In a spellbinding move in the eighth minute, Philippe Senderos found Reyes, he cut the ball back to Henry who - with the goal at his mercy - passed to Robert Pires. He promptly fell over. Arsenal appeared to be trying to walk the ball into the net - by full-time even that seemed a task of which they were eminently capable.
Two goals from Henry, and others from Adebayor, Van Persie and Abu Diaby - all without Fabregas who limped off on 15 minutes. If Villa had not realised by the hour that they were being humiliated then Henry's decision to cradle a long pass on his toe and set off up the pitch juggling the ball will have told the visitors that - in terms of a competitive game - this had reached exhibition match status.
No one is better at playing down a momentous performance than Arsenal's captain. Maybe Henry was thinking of that miss in the eighth minute when he said he was "always trying to think about stuff that we didn't do well" although it was difficult not to think he was being hard on himself. Even more remarkable was his admission that he never watches tapes of his games which is a habit that Villa's back four might want to adopt this week to avoid any further loss of self-esteem.
"No one can be perfect and no one can reach perfection - you aim for that but there is always going to be room for improvement," Henry said. "Even when you win 5-0 there will always be some bad stuff. That is what I think about when I go home. I don't think about what we have done well because we have done it.
"I think about stuff that we didn't do well and we could do better in another game, because you can always try some new stuff. That is the kind of thing that keeps you on your toes. I don't have to watch a tape of the game. I am in the game so I remember what happens. If a player has to watch a tape to remember what happened - well, I don't think that's a good sign."
Henry's first goal came on 25 minutes when he beat the offside trap to control a long ball from Reyes and then lob Sorensen in the twinkling of an eye, his second was curled into the top corner from Adebayor's lay-off within seconds of the restart. Van Persie dribbled around Sorensen and then switched feet before scoring from a tight angle while Adebayor's 18th-minute header and Diaby's 80th-minute close-range finish were relatively simple.
With Arsenal now just two points behind Tottenham Hotspur in fourth place with a game in hand, Henry's team-mate Gilberto Silva said that winning the European Cup would "of course count in our favour" in the battle to persuade Henry to stay at Arsenal. "But even if it doesn't work out for us I believe he'll think long and hard," he added. The Brazilian midfielder was asked whether he thought his country's national team would beat Arsenal in their current form. "Maybe a draw," was the answer.
Goals: Adebayor (19) 1-0; Henry (25) 2-0; Henry (46) 3-0; Van Persie (71) 4-0; Diaby (80) 5-0.
Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Lehmann; Eboué (Djourou, 67), Touré, Senderos, Flamini; Pires, Fabregas (Diaby, 15), Gilberto Silva, Reyes; Adebayor; Henry (Van Persie, 65). Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Hleb.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen; De la Cruz (Cahill, 52), Hughes, Ridgewell, Bouma; Hendrie, McCann, Davis, Barry (Agbonlahor, 52); Phillips (Angel, 45), Moore. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Gardner.
Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
Booked: Villa: Bouma.
Man of the match: Henry.
Ibrahimovic taken off as bottom club deny Juventus
It was not just at Highbury that Arsenal enjoyed a good weekend. Wednesday's Champions' League opponents, Juventus, were unimpressive in a goalless draw at Serie A's bottom club Treviso on Saturday, with several key players out of form.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic hit the post with a spectacular back-heel in the 19th minute, but the Swedish striker was substituted in the second half as Juve failed to break down a side that has only won two Serie A games this season. Gianni Guigou also hit the post for Treviso with a curling free-kick.
However, Juventus still moved nine points clear at the top of the table as Milan, in second, lost 1-0 at Lecce.Reuse content