The Gunners produced a sensational 6-minutes to remember after they came back from two goals down to win 3-2, ensuring progression into the fifth round of the FA Cup thanks to captain fantastic Robin Van Persie who netted two penalties with real conviction.
Arsene Wenger name a strong side after loosing three games on the trot with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Van Persie starting in attack, and a recovered Francis Coquelin partnering Mertesacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen in defence. Arsenal’s all time top scorer Thierry Henry was among the substitutes with Mikel Arteta after both suffering recent injuries.
Aston Villa too named a full strength side, and it paid off for the visitors at the start after they lead 2-nil by half time thanks to a climbing Richard Dunne header and then Darrent Bent haunted the Gunners again with a well finished shot just before half time, deepening the anxiousness around the North London camp.
The Emirates crowd booed off their side at halftime, but Arsenal responded with two penalties from Van Persie and a fortunate Walcott deflected goal within the space of six minutes after the break and held on to finish off Villa at a time where Wenger’s side needed a morale boost more than ever.
It wasn’t the best performance of the season but it was a must-win and hopefully will be a fresh start for the Gunners in their bid to make the top four. Much credit on the day must go to Alex Song who provided two fantastic balls to tee up Ramsey and Koscielny to win the penalties, and top scorer and talisman Van Persie did it again with two perfectly placed finishes from the spot.
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Next up in the FA Cup is either Middlesborough or Sunderland who are due for a rematch after their 1-1 draw, and the Gunners will be away for this one.
on the match overall…
It was a good test to show that we had the mental qualities to come back. On the other hand it was important that we didn’t panic [at half time]. To concede a goal just on half time for 2-0 was a difficult blow, but we responded very well against Manchester United here [last week] and we did it again today. Overall it was a classic FA Cup tie, 2-0 down and we came back. We had to fight to score three goals and we did it well. I felt it was harsh to be 2-0 down at half time, but Aston Villa are a good counter-attacking team and unfortunately we couldn’t score in the first half. In the second half it was all us.
on Arsenal’s spirit in the second half…
I was very impressed because I felt that when you come out of a bad period like we are, and you are 2-0 down, you can feel sorry for yourself or you can show you have the mental qualities to play for this club. I was very proud that the team came out and showed they are not ready to lie down.
on what was said at half time…
We always keep what is said in the dressing room [to ourselves]. The players were all very positive at half time and we showed that in the second half. It was important to put massive pressure on them in their half and not let them come out [with the ball]. We closed them down very hard in their own half.
on the booing at half time…
I felt they were quite positive compared to last time! Maybe because we are coming out of a bad period [they booed]. I am sad we cannot always keep them happy, the only thing we can do is show the spirit that we showed today. They have seen some interesting things today, I felt Oxlade-Chamberlain had another good game, and [they saw] we have some quality.
I just want to do well for this club that I love. I understand that people question my decisions, but I wouldn’t understand if they questioned my commitment and my dedication.
on what the comeback might mean…
I hope [it means] that we can bounce back in the Premier League as well. I hope it convinces the team we have the required qualities and we can transfer that to the Premier League.
on the players having something to prove…
Last year was a learning process. We went for four trophies and in February we were still in all four. When we had to play the Carling Cup final we were a bit nervous because we hadn’t delivered, but they have learnt from that. Hopefully we can show it this year.
on winning two penalties…
I must say that was one of the positives today!
on Lukasz Fabianski…
He lacks a bit of match practice. Overall he did well. On the second goal he parried [Bent’s shot] well, and it was unlucky because the ball came back to Bent, who is a great finisher.
on whether the players’ belief has waned…
When you don’t win, the belief goes and we lost three games in the Premier League. The belief is not stable no matter what your history is. It depends on the recent history of the team.
on whether he will sign anyone…
Certainly not. But you never know!
Coquelin Mertesacker Koscielny Vermaelen
Walcott Van Persie (c) Chamberlain
Lukasz Fabianski | 5.5: While the Poland ‘keeper couldn’t really be faulted for the two goals, his positioning should have been better for Dunne’s header, and was purely unlucky that his parry fell straight to Bent’s feet.
Francis Coquelin | 5.5: It was good to see the young Frenchman back in action after a recent hamstring injury. His pace enabled him to keep up with the fast Villa forwards (unlike Djourou) and he managed to get forward when possible.
Per Mertesacker | 5.5: Unsure how the Gunners can concede time and time again on set pieces when the tall and lanky Mertesacker is in the box, but it keeps happening. A standard performance from the German international, and was unforunate not to get on the scoresheet after his goal-bound header was cleared off the line.
Laurent Koscielny | 7.5: The Frenchman continues to prove his worth after another convincing performance. Koscielny claimed the assist for Arsenal’s winner after a powerful run into the box brought with it a penalty.
Thomas Vermalen | 6.0: The Belgian was up to his usual self wrecking havoc in attacking set pieces, however was kept at bay with Keane and Bent a constant threat.
Alexandre Song | 7.5: Did his primary job of screening the defence exceptionally well, and again was vital on attack with two dangerous balls that lead to the two penalties.
Tomas Rosicky | 7.0: A productive performance from the Czech international, keeping possession well and became a real force in the midfield.
Aaron Ramsey | 5.5: An off day for the Welshman who will be sweating on his spot with Wilshere due to return soon. Distribution was hit-and-miss. Subbed for Ju Young Park in the 84th minute.
Theo Walcott | 5.0: Largely absent for most of the first half after spurning a promising chance, but after the restart was a different player. His dangerous run into the box lead to a fortuitous goal from the Englishman that drew the match even.
Robin van Persie | 8.5: The Dutchman produced the goods once again with two perfect penalties sending Given the wrong way on both occasions. He made himself a real nuisance up front, overall a very positive performance.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 7.5: Another convincing display from the 18-year-old, taking on players but still remaining a team player and not getting too ahead of himself. Hopefully he can retain his place for the midweek game with Bolton.
- Notable substitions
Mikel Arteta, Thierry Henry & Bacary Sagna | N/A : The trio made brief cameo’s after each facing injury layoffs, with the latter making his first appearance in over four months