Villa boss Remi Garde publicly questioned the commitment of some of his players in light of the performance against Liverpool last time out, with the 6-0 defeat the club’s worst home loss in 81 years.
Perhaps stung by those words Garde’s team, with just one change – Alan Hutton in for Micah Richards – looked much better especially during the first half at the Britannia Stadium.
But their soft underbelly returned at the start of the second half and it cost them as Arnautovic hit two goals, the first from the penalty spot, putting Stoke comfortably in front with 56 minutes on the clock.
It would have been easy for Villa to crumble, and if a Philipp Wollscheid header just after the hour had gone in they might have, but they dug in and showed some rare fight and pulled a goal back through Leandro Bacuna with 11 minutes remaining.
An equaliser never looked likely though and the defeat, Villa’s 10th away from home in the league this season, leaves them nine points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table.