Saturday, 20 September 2014

3 Magical Minutes See Arsenal Beat Villa

After the trials and tribulations of the midweek defeat in Dortmund, Arsenal got back to Premier League football with a trip to Aston Villa this afternoon. With Villa sitting pretty in second place in the league there was a train of thought that Arsenal would have their work cut out. Arsenal had started slowly in the league with only six points from four games and needed a win ahead of games against Spurs and Chelsea in the next two weeks.

Arsene Wenger picked 10 of the 11 players I had hoped for in his starting team with only Alexis Sanchez missing out. It meant Calum Chambers, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came into the team with Hector Bellerin, Jack Wilshere and Sanchez missing out. In fact Bellerin wasn't even on the bench as Arsenal only had five midfielders and a striker to call on if things had to be changed. 

Apparently the Villa squad had a bit of a bug before the game which deprived them of at least one player and I wondered if it might have an effect on their stamina as the game wore on. The last time I remember sickness coming to Arsenal's aid was in 2006 when Spurs had a run in with a lasagne which was blamed for their defeat to West Ham and saw Arsenal pip them for fourth spot.

From the start it was obvious Villa were going to sit deep as predicted and look to hit Arsenal on the break or from set pieces. Arsenal had all the possession, but it was Villa who went closest first when a poor clearance kick from Wojciech Szczesny gave them a shot on goal, but he made amends with a good save. I worried at that point that Arsenal would again dominate and then concede on a rare attack from their opponents. It was the first time in the league this season though that Arsenal's opponents hadn't scored with their first attempt on target.

Mesut Ozil had been handed the number 10 role he prefers and he didn't feature too much early on despite all of Arsenal's possession as Villa gave them little space to play in in the attacking third. His first real contribution was a lovely ball to Aaron Ramsey who chose a first time pass to Danny Welbeck instead of taking a touch and having a go himself. Ramsey kept trying throughout the game, but his form has just deserted him a little at the moment.

With the half hour mark approaching Villa had a glorious chance to take the lead when Ciaran Clark rose unchallenged at the far post to meet a free kick, but Szczesny saved his goal bound header. It was a big let off for Arsenal and one which Villa were to pay dearly for soon afterwards. In a three minute spell just after that half hour mark the game turned in Arsenal's favour by a huge margin.

After 32 minutes they got the breakthrough when Ozil raced on to a through ball from Welbeck and finished sweetly into the corner past Brad Guzan. It was the moment we had all been waiting for as Ozil got his season off to a proper start and the team went into the lead. Villa looked a little shaken and things got a lot worse for them very quickly.

Only two minutes later Arsenal increased their lead and it was that Ozil and Welbeck combination which struck again. This time Ozil was the creator as he found space on the left and put the ball across the six yard line where Welbeck was on hand to crash it into the roof of the net. Arsenal were delighted and Villa were visibly shaken, but their woes continued apace.

Within a minute that lead had been stretched to three goals when a Kieran Gibbs shot was dragged across the goal and Aly Cissokho put it past his own keeper before it reached Chamberlain at the far post. It was a devastating period from Arsenal and one from which Villa were never going to recover. They had only scored four goals in their four league games this season and their tactic of hitting Arsenal on the break was now defunct.

The rest of the first half was mostly Arsenal with Villa huffing and puffing just before the break, but never really threatening. The first half ended with Arsenal sitting pretty and both Ozil and Welbeck getting off the mark for the season in terms of both goals and assists. It couldn't have gone much better and I hoped for more of the same in the second half.

As it was the second half was a pretty timid affair with Arsenal more or less content to sit on their lead and Villa offering little in response. As it progressed the boss made three changes with the introduction of Wilshere, Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky for Ramsey, Welbeck and Chamberlain to help Arsenal to see the game out. It was an uneventful second half but that mattered little with Arsenal having done all the damage in the first half.

There were so many positives with Ozil and Welbeck getting on the scoresheet and the team winning well while keeping a clean sheet. It wasn't exactly a stroll but those three quick fire goals knocked the stuffing out of Villa and Arsenal were able to close the game out after that. They have tougher games ahead, but the three points are very welcome and hopefully they will be followed by many more.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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