Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0

Being a football reporter can be a tough life - telling the facts without upsetting too many precious egos not to mention cramped press boxes, dodgy cups of half-time tea and finding parking spaces in inner-city London.

Then you witness a performance like Arsenal - and Thierry Henry - gave at Highbury on Saturday. Suddenly it's all worth it.

When a team turns on this sort of brilliance it is a privilege to be there. It was for the Villa fans.

For the third consecutive Saturday, there were calls for David O'Leary's departure. Let's face it, this was his heaviest defeat since taking charge of Villa. In fact, it was Villa's worst in more than eight years.

But the Villa fans know good football when they see it, even though that has become increasingly rare these days. It was heartening that they joined in the standing ovation when, with only an hour gone and the game already lost, Henry was allowed the rest of the afternoon off.

By then, the fabulous Frenchman had added two more entries for what will surely one day be a bestseller in every club shop in the country, a 'Thierry Henry's Greatest Goals' DVD.

He also took his tally of goals against Villa to 12 in his last ten games. But this was no mere one-man show.

Villa were destroyed by outstanding football from all over Highbury. The two long balls Emmanuel Eboue delivered for Arsenal's first and third goals were pretty special, as was Jose Antonio Reyes' killer pass for the second.

Emmanuel Adebayor also got in on the act, heading the first, conjuring a superb backheel for Henry's second and then setting up the fifth for substitute Abou Diaby. There was the coolest, cheekiest finish of the lot from Henry's replacement Robin Van Persie.

Looking as if he'd taken the ball too far in rounding Thomas Sorensen, he merely retraced his steps with the most intricate footwork, beat Sorensen again and drilled his fierce left-foot shot into the roof of the net past two bemused defenders.

Given Arsenal's dominance, the only surprise is that there were not more goals. That and the curious thinking of the 'Match of the Day' production team in choosing not to sneak this footballing masterclass into their Saturday night batting order until the end of the show, just before Sunderland.

There is, of course, an argument that no Premier-ship team should be walloped 5-0 but this could so easily have been more like ten. Villa's only legitimate defence was that, on this sort of form, Arsenal would have hammered almost anyone.

Inside the first ten minutes, Henry had a fantastic c hance when set up unmarked on the penalty spot by Reyes. But even the Premiership's top scorer proved he, too, is capable of missing 'em.

In a mad moment to match that ridiculous missed penalty stunt he and Robert Pires contrived here earlier in the season, Henry opted to pass rather than shoot. And, in his surprise, Pires fell over.

It gave Villa a slither of hope, having twice carved out early chances for Kevin Phillips. But Kolo Toure got the better of him before, from Thomas Sorensen's long punt via Luke Moore's flick-on, he lobbed disappointingly over.

Had that gone in, who knows? But Phillips' near-miss merely woke Arsenal up.

Two goals in five minutes did the job. The damage started with Eboue's superb, defence-splitting 60-yard ball from right back. Sorensen came out to block Henry and did well not to concede a penalty in snaking out his arm. But he got too weak a connection in attempting to prod the ball away. Henry was quicker to recover and turned to send in a sublime chip.

Aaron Hughes had got back on the line to head clear but Adebayor headed back towards goal and it went in off the underside of the bar and the back of Hughes' noddle.

Five minutes later came the goal of the game. Reyes floated another exquisite ball forward from the left-back position, Henry took one touch to bring it down and, virtually all in the same movement, stunningly lobbed the advancing Sorensen. Breathtaking stuff.

It took 45 seconds of the second half for Arsenal to wrap up the points. Another long ball from Eboue trig-gered it, Adebayor produced a brilliant backheel on the edge of the area back into Henry's path. With absurd ease, he curled home from 25 yards.

Sorensen's save count piled up. But, instead, it was Villa who should have scored next as they wasted their best chance.

O'Leary had opted to bring in Juan Pablo Angel at half time in place of Phillips. But it was not until young Gabriel Agbonlahor appeared that they sliced Arsenal open.

His pace and trickery set up Moore 12 yards out. But the shot was too close to Jens Lehmann and ricocheted wide off the Arsenal keeper's body.

Van Persie scored within six minutes of appearing with his superb solo effort set up by another fine ball by Pires. Then Adebayor set up a first

goal for Diaby, an early replacement for the injured Cesc Fabregas, who limped off with a foot injury after 15 minutes.

It was a joy to watch and it's hard to imagine that Villa's next two games, nerve-shredding derbies against Albion and Blues, will be as much fun. But then all that will matter for the next two Villa Park Sundays will be points.