Arsenal have finally seized the opportunity to reach top of the table with a 2:0 victory at Villa Park. There is no doubt Arsenal supporters are delighted with a third victory in eight days before a big match against Manchester City at home. It wasn’t a performance that would warrant a DVD, but three points are all that matters.
Here are the key points from the game:
1.Petr Čech has finally equaled David James’ record.
The Czech goalkeeper had been waiting for his 169th clean sheet in the Premier League for a while but now he is joint top with David James on the all-time list (via Skysports). It’s only a matter of time when Čech will hold the record and there is hardly a better occasion to do so than to keep a clean sheet against Manchester City next Monday.
2.Laurent Koscielny did an excellent job in defence.
The Frenchman is our best central defender and he proved it once more against Aston Villa. Whilst The Villains are arguably the worst team in the league, it’s always difficult to shake off a European hangover and maintain focus for 90 minutes. Kos managed to do just that and sometimes acted like a defensive midfielder instead of Mathieu Flamini with one special run forward from the middle to the left wing in the second half. Speaking of Flamini…
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3.Mathieu Flamini’s football is a bit different to Francis Coquelin.
Whilst Francis Coquelin does a brilliant job breaking up our opponents breaks without a significant contribution to our attack, his replacement in the starting eleven adds something else to our team. After being denied a goal by the cross-bar in Greece, Flamini gave a great pass over the top for Theo Walcott today before our first goal. It was an initial spark to the goal, something Coquelin doesn’t always offer. Of course, it’s easy to notice that Flamini is not exactly a reliable shield but perhaps he can level the score by scoring or creating goals.
4.Aaron Ramsey’s football is a bit different to Santi Cazorla.
Whilst Santi Cazorla does a brilliant job controlling possession and dictating the tempo from deeper positions, Ramsey feels more comfortable higher up the pitch. Our attack is more direct and more efficient with Ramsey – he has already scored three goals this season to Cazorla’s none (via Squawka). Whilst Coquelin is superior in terms of defending to Flamini, Ramsey is a better tackler than Cazorla as his challenge that led to our second goal proved. Goals from midfield can give us the edge over Manchester City in the title race just like Yaya Toure’s goals were crucial in City’s triumphant campaigns in 2011-12 and 2013-14 respectively.
5.Mesut Özil delivers goals on a silver plate.
The German has done it again – his thirteenth assist in just fifteen appearances. He gives statisticians a headache world wide as they have to constantly search their record books every week to see which record Özil has broken. When you add the two goals he has scored, Özil has been involved in a goal per game which is superb (via Squawka). His ball control and vision for a pass were the key ingredients of our counter-attack that effectively put the game to bed – Ramsey really couldn’t miss that one.
6.Theo Walcott lacks sharpness but remains effective nevertheless.
It was a bizarre delay from Kevin Friend to give us a penalty that made the whole situation before our first goal rather confusing. There was nothing else confusing about the penalty though – Theo was pushed by Alan Hutton and it was a stone-wall penalty. It was a clever run from Theo and good use of space to make something out of Flamini’s pass.
The English forward didn’t have a huge impact on the game afterwards though. A layer of rust is almost visible to the naked eye and it will take some time for Theo to return to form before the injury against Sheffield Wednesday. Also, playing on the wing after being used in the central role probably hasn’t helped him either. Given the state of Manchester City’s defence, I can see a lot of space for Theo’s runs and possibly goals next Monday.
7.Olivier Giroud has reached the 50 league goals milestone.
Only two players needed fewer appearances to reach 50 league goals for Arsenal – Thierry Henry and Ian Wright (via Metro). The two best central forwards in Arsenal’s history, that is. Olivier Giroud, despite his flaws with lack of pace being his biggest, has managed to reach the 50-goal mark without being a regular penalty taker. If a player who is not the quickest manages to score 50 goals in the Premier League, that serves as a compliment to his intelligence and finishing. His ability to hold up the ball and earn fouls on Sunday will pass almost without notice which is simply not right. Merci, Olivier, for being such a great servant of the club!
8.Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has to learn a few things about his decisions in the final third.
The Ox is an example of a player that has to sit down and think about why his enormous talent doesn’t produce goals at the right end of the pitch. His energetic pace and bursting runs against a hapless Villa defence should have secured us a larger victory but his lack of vision and poor decisions deprived both him and Arsenal of a goal or two. Mind you, an often tie-breaker in England is goal-difference. Manchester City have won the league twice in the last five years thanks to a stronger goal-difference than their respective runners-ups Manchester United and Liverpool (yes, in the latter case, City won the league by two points but it was Liverpool’s neck-breaking run for a better goal-difference at Selhurst Park that cost them two points in the end). Let’s hope we won’t rue these missed chances come May.
9.Ex-Arsenal man Remi Garde has a mountain to climb.
Whilst Garde has made a certain improvement from Tim Sherwood’s days, it will take a real miracle for The Villains to stay up. Their rivals Birmingham City were relegated only a few months after winning a cup final against Arsenal in 2010-11 and it seems that it will take only a season for Villa to go down after playing a cup final against us. Christian Benteke is no longer at Villa Park to keep Villa afloat with loads of goals and, at this moment, the £32.5 million-rated business doesn’t look like a good deal for any of three parties involved.
10.We are top of the table!
It is a few weeks overdue but Arsenal are finally top of the table. Granted, we’ll need a little help from Jose Mourinho’s circus against Leicester on Monday night in order to stay top but at least we are in the driving seat for now. In order to stay there, we’ll need an excellent performance on Monday 21st against Manchester City. If we beat the totally unconvincing Citizens, we would open a four-point gap before a tricky Boxing Day visit to Southampton. Alexis Sánchez is expected to be back for the match against City and it would represent a massive boost for our title bid.
So, that’s it. On Monday we will find out the name of our opponents in the Champions League Round of 16. It was a very successful week for us – may it repeat ad infinitum!