Paul Lambert is starting to see the player he knew he'd signed in Karim El Ahmadi.
El Ahmadi came in at the start of the previous campaign and began impressively with some quality displays in the middle of the park.
But the central star then went off to play in the African Cup of Nations and struggled to get back into the team on his return, a knee injury also hampering his progress in claret and blue.
The form of Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph and Yacouba Sylla meant El Ahmadi was handed a watching brief in the final few weeks of the season although when he did play - like against Man Utd - the signs were there that the likeable playmaker was ready to shine.
Lambert has been thrilled with El Ahmadi this pre-season and threw him into the action at Arsenal, with the former Feyenoord man showing class, composure and clout against the likes of Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky.
Villa boss Lambert believes there's more to come too.
He said: "Karim came out at the start of the season and did really well.
"Then we lost him to the African Nations and he found it hard to come back in after that.
"He has come back from pre-season and he's been the player I thought he could be."
Lambert also hailed the form of Antonio Luna, who not only bagged a debut goal but also shackled the electric Theo Walcott at The Emirates.
Lambert has been pleased with the skill of Luna although he insists there's no pressure on the young full-back.
He added: "He's only 22. He was up against a really top player in Walcott and I thought he did brilliantly.
"His goal was excellent. He was looking for Andi to slip him in but he wasn't there. The finish was absolutely brilliant.
"He is a good technical footballer which will certainly help in that position. He's a really calm lad.
"How good he can be? We will have to wait and see.
"There's no pressure on him. He's a new lad coming in. We will see how he progresses throughout the season."
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