Arsenal - Wilshere 34′, Giroud 35′
Aston Villa - Benteke 76‘
Aston Villa: Guzan, Vlaar, Baker (Bacuna 21′), Clark; Lowton, El Ahmadi (Weimann 73′), Westwood, Delph, Luna; Benteke, Agbonlahor.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal (Gibbs 66′), Flamini, Wilshere; Gnabry (Rosicky 69′) (Oxlade-Chamberlain 86′), Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud.
This match showed the importance of capitalizing on your opportunities. By the way Arsenal played Aston Villa at Villa Park in the second half, the Gunners were fortunate to gather all three points from the fixture.
Yet, the job was done and Gunners continue their run of no defeats at Villa Park since 1998. Riding the strength of two first half goals scored but a minute apart by Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud, Arsenal was tested, but ultimately clung on to earn victory.
This was a match of two halves, without question. In the first, Arsenal treated Villa like a youth side in training, easily moving the ball around and creating scoring opportunities. Paul Lambert’s tactics seemed no match, as his side was outmatched and vastly out skilled in midfield.
He resolved to throw five at the back to repel Arsenal, until Nathan Baker was knocked unconcious and stretchered from the pitch by a Serge Gnabry strike. Lambert switched to 4-4-2, which saw some positive results, but was ultimately carved out by Arsene Wenger’s side.
At the thirty-fourth minute, Nacho Monreal combined well with Mesut Ozil, who played a fantastic pass behind the defense, which Monreal cut back for Wilshere to fire past Brad Guzan.
Less than a minute later, Wilshere and Giroud all but crippled Villa. After Fabian Delph lost the ball in midfield, Wilshere pounced and lobbed a picture pass into Giroud. The Frenchman controlled beautifully, showcasing his strength and skill amid the challenge of two Villa defenders, and blasted the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Arsenal were in firm control, and Wenger was probably disappointed to hear the whistle for half-time blow. Paul Lambert had time to calm his team down, and insert the necessary tactical changes.
Alas, in the second half Aston Villa came out a much different side. Maybe it was their new resolve to ferociously attack the Gunners in midfield and defence, or Wenger’s preference to sit back on the 2-0 lead, but nonetheless Villa controlled play.
Ashley Westwood has a nice chance, but shot straight at Wojciech Szczesny for his first piece of work on the night. Christian Benteke, who hadn’t scored in months, asserted himself on Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
First he fired wide, but after Villa resolved to firing crosses into the heart of Arsenal’s box, success ensued. An inexplicable turnover from Santi Cazorla but the ball at the feet of Matthew Lowton, who quickly delivered an excellent ball to the back post, which Benteke dove and headed into the net.
From there, Villa’s desperation to achieve the tying goal was rampant. Crosses continued, which Mertesacker routinely repelled rather uneasily. In the eighty-ninth minute, however, Arsenal were almost left to pay as Benteke was gifted a header a couple yards from Szczesny, yet directed it straight at the goalkeeper.
Arsenal were then able to see out the game, including six minutes of stoppage time, to secure three vital points. After seeing Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea all win over the weekend, a win Monday night was key. And it was achieved, which will keep Gunners fans happy about the 2013-14 season.