Villa scored in the second minute when Bertrand Traore seized on a loose ball from Cedric Soares and laid a pass to Ollie Watkins, whose shot went past Arsenal debutant Mat Ryan via a deflection off Rob Holding.
In their subsequent efforts to equalise, the Gunners were denied by some good work by their former goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and sent a number of chances off target, including substitute Martin Odegaard firing over from a good position in the 84th minute.
Mikel Arteta slammed Arsenal’s defenders for gifting Aston Villa a winning goal on Saturday
Ollie Watkins (right) netted after 75 seconds which ended up being the difference at Villa Park
It was Arsenal’s second defeat in the West Midlands in five days, having suffered a 2-1 loss at Wolves on Tuesday in which they had both David Luiz and Bernd Leno sent off.
Arteta said of the display against Villa: ‘(It was a) really strong performance. We completely dominated the game, we dominated every department, and we should have won.
‘But in the Premier League when you give a goal to the opponent – and we gave them another three opportunities to be fair, just giving them to them – and then you are not ruthless in the opponent’s box, you don’t win games.
Watkins’ goal came via Cedric Soares’ (left) poor pass which Bertrand Traore (right) picked up
‘The rest, the way the team played, the energy and quality they showed, the amount of chances and situations we created, how quickly we regained the ball, how we controlled long balls, second balls, how aggressive we were in our duels – incredible. But it wasn’t enough to win the game.
‘That (more ruthlessness and not giving anything to the opponent) is something we have to do better, and it cost us two games in the last few days because the reality is we should have won both games.’
Asked how big a setback it was in terms of Arsenal’s push for Europe, Arteta said: ‘A big blow.
Arteta admitted defeat in the Midlands was a big blow to the Gunners’ European chances
‘Because considering the performances we put into both games, we got zero points out of that. And the sadness (is) we just give the opponent the game.
‘But we have to come back. We’ve done it this season and we have to do it again.’
Arteta declined to say what he had been speaking to the officials about at the end of the game, and said he preferred to ‘stay on mute’ after being asked about an incident in which Villa’s Ezri Konsa was yellow-carded for a foul on Bukayo Saka, and another involving Martinez and Alexandre Lacazette.
Arteta claimed the officials made some errors at Villa Park but did not use them as an excuse
When asked again about the former incident, he said: ‘As you could see, I was really animated for a few decisions, and one big decision that I will not discuss here, but it is what it is.
‘It’s not an excuse – regardless of the decision, we have to win the game. It’s as simple as that.’
Arteta also said midfielder Thomas Partey had gone off with a ‘muscular issue’ and would be assessed.