But in the second half the Gunners had to show their fighting qualities before coming out on top with centre-backs William Gallas and Kolo Tore in outstanding form.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said: "We were brilliant and resilient. In the first half we played some absolutely amazing football. We moved the ball quickly, were accurate with our passing in short spaces and made it difficult for Villa.
"In the second half, the physical contribution from Villa and the fact some of our players dropped off a little bit, allowed them back in.
"I felt at the end of the first half we seemed as if we weren't right on top of things and that made it difficult.
"But this is a big result. Because of the belief in the Villa side after their recent good run, we needed something special.
"Maybe in the past, games like that have been our Achilles heel. But we have improved, have more experience and resilience and we panic less."
Flamini's goal could not have been better timed given the absence of leading scorer Cesc Fabregas through injury.