A streak of draws is not as bad as a streak of defeats (I think I will nominate myself for the “No shit, Sherlock!”-award for the statement I just wrote) but it’s a good thing to break it with a convincing victory (I think I’m on a streak myself!). After three consecutive draws that could have easily ended either as our victories (we had a chance to beat Everton and had a lead against both Leicester and Manchester City) or as our defeats (Everton had a two-goal-lead, Leicester had their attempts to score a winner and City hit the post twice at the end), our victory at Villa Park was a really refreshing experience. Our next opponents are the Spuds and the Chavs, two games that are played for more than just three points. Here are the key pointers from the game at Villa Park.
1.Wojciech Szczesny made the crucial save of the day.
Most of the Gooners will praise the attacking duo of Mesut Özil and Danny Welbeck (and the two of them deserve that praise) and thus our Pole probably won’t get the honourable mention he deserved as well. Had Cieran Clark’s header given the lead to the hosts, we would have had a very difficult afternoon. Szczesny made a world-class save to prevent the umpteenth goal conceded from set-pieces this season and turned the game in the right direction. Not very long after Szczesny’s save Özil scored an opener and we never looked back from that moment on. It was the first clean sheet for Szczesny in the league this season – he needs fifteen more to match his record from the last season. He has to improve his kicking though – his poor kicking gave a chance to Villa for a counter-attack but Szczesny made up for that with a save. David Ospina will have a difficult task if he wants to take the place between the sticks from the Pole.
2.Mesut Özil is The King of Assists when he plays down the middle.
The German gave an excellent performance – efficient, composed and lively. It wasn’t just his composed finish or a wonderful assist for Welbeck that deserved praise – he made our attack look lively and gave direction to the mobility and pace of our attacking line. Had Ramsey reacted better when Özil found him with yet another lovely pass, Özil’s afternoon would have been even better. We all wanted Wenger to play Özil down the middle, he did it and the German responded in style. It’s not like he doesn’t know how to play on the wing – after all, his assist came from the left wing – but he doesn’t like to start there. It is worth noting that Özil’s goal at Villa Park was his first in away games for Arsenal.
3.Danny Welbeck opened his account.
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The English striker had a difficult baptism of fire – his first two games for Arsenal were against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund respectively. In both matches Welbeck showed his ability to create chances; but his composure and finishing let him down. Against Aston Villa his luck finally changed and he scored with a routine finish. However, it wasn’t his only contribution to our victory – he was a constant threat to the opponents’ defence and his through ball for Özil’s opener was Özil-esque. Let’s have more of those, Danny!
4.Kieran Gibbs offers an additional dimension to our attack.
Everything is much easier when there is proper movement from the attacking department but having a full-back who can maraud down the flank and offer more space to his team-mates is a huge bonus. It’s no wonder that two out of the three goals that we scored came down the left flank – Gibbs was constantly offering an extra-option to our attack and one of his attempts was deflected by Cissokho into the net. Gibbs is a better player than Nacho Monreal and the only threat to a successful career for him is a long injury record.
5.Calum Chambers should be more careful.
The English youngster has been a revelation this season and promptly answered all those who had doubted that he was worth the massive fee paid for him. However, he rode his luck yesterday in the second half. He went into a challenge for which he should have gotten his second yellow card but the referee decided to give him a warning instead. Luckily for us, Chambers didn’t make another bookable offence, so we don’t need to wonder who will start in our defence against Spuds next week. Aside from that, he managed to win four aerial duels against The Villains.
6.Aaron Ramsey is not playing his best football but people exaggerate the criticism.
It’s true that Aaron Ramsey has had problems in adapting to our 4-1-4-1 formation, especially with Wilshere on the pitch. His passing has let him down on more than a few occasions lately and his touch gets heavy in important moments – like the one when Özil found him with a pin-point pass. However, let’s not forget that Ramsey was involved in a few good attacks including the one in which his excellent clip over the defence wasn’t matched with as good a finish. Now, some people tend to draw comparison with Ramsey’s form in 2011-12. And they are exaggerating, just like they had done back then. Ramsey hasn’t had a proper rest since that stupid injury against Andorra as Arsene Wenger has used him in all the three matches that we have played after the international break. Hopefully we will see the real Aaron Ramsey against Spuds.
7.Our victory against Villa was our tenth consecutive game in the league without a defeat.
West Ham, Newcastle, Hull, West Brom, Norwich, Crystal Palace, Everton, Leicester, Manchester City and Aston Villa – ten games in the league without a defeat including seven victories and three draws. It’s a really good sign ahead of two very important matches in the league.
8.The next two league matches are huge.
Results have been going in our favour this weekend – Liverpool lost to West Ham, Manchester United suffered a humiliating and hilarious defeat against Leicester and our bitterest rivals Spuds lost to West Brom at home. Spuds are our next opponents in the league and it’s going to be a big match – we have won all three encounters against them last season without conceding a single goal so they’ll be motivated to get one over us. If we beat them, we will create a five-point-gap between us and them and send a clear message about the inevitability of another St. Totteringham’s Day.
After Spuds, we will visit Mourinho’s Chelsea and that’s going to be the biggest league test of our quality. Chavs have won four out of four with Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas in great shape for them. A victory over Spuds and a draw at Stamford Bridge would be a solid contribution to our title challenge.
The next stop: North London Derby. Let’s keep our winning streak against our noisy neighbours alive!