Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0: Three talking points
Three talking points as Arsenal romp to a comprehensive five-goal victory over Aston Villa in north London
Lots of weapons in the Arsenal
There’s been much comment this season, some of partly in jest from jealous rivals, that Arsenal would be ‘nowhere’ without Alexis Sanchez. Granted, this win, their biggest in two-and-half years, was only against a struggling Aston Villa, and a very poor Villa at that. But on the evidence of the Manchester City display – in which Sanchez played, and well, but was not one of the star performers – and today, where Alexis Sanchez’s hamstring injury wasn’t risked, others are coming to the fore in the hunt for a Champions League place (or perhaps more…). Mesut Ozil, in his first start since October 5, was justifiably Man of the Match – showing his typical deft passing and also a good deal of running and hunger (something he is often criticised for a lack of). Notably for the second goal, where he ran a good 30 yards to latch on to a pass, then run on before finishing very smartly into the bottom corner. Theo Walcott was also very impressive, especially considering this was his first league start in over a year. He was full of running and pace as usual, and showed confidence and composure for his goal to take the ball off Giroud’s toes, cut inside and finish coolly. And Arsenal still have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and others on the bench. Also, Santi Cazorla and Frances Coquelin carried on their fine form from the Manchester City game and the defence looks fairly solid, with Nacho Monreal putting in one of his better performances here and Hector Bellerin starting to betray his youth with mature displays. Arsenal now have 19 points from the last 24 – which has set themselves up very well for the North London derby at White Hart Lane next Saturday lunchtime.
…but not in Villa’s
Aston Villa have now not scored a league goal in over 10 hours and six games – and Chelsea lie in wait next week. If they fail to score then, the weight over their heads that will only get heavier and could result in a downward spiral of players fluffing their lines in front of goal under the pressure. It’s slightly baffling why they have only scored 11 goals in 23 games this season – almost half the next two lowest teams (West Brom and Hull City on 20 each) – as Christian Benteke, who was so impressive in his first season at Villa, has been fit for most of the season. And in Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverly, Charles N’Zogbia, Kieran Richardson, Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor they have, at least on paper, if not on grass, some other decent attacking options. It’s probably somewhat a case of players not being used to a system and players, but a lot of just needs to go down to players not pulling their weight. Recent signing from Valencia, Carles Gil, who scored a stunning 30-yard goal against Bournemouth in the FA Cup last weekend, was the most impressive here (though that’s kind of damning with faint praise). He should help matters at least a bit. But still, Paul Lambert must look for more from his players – or from the transfer market before 11pm tomorrow.
Aston Villa’s defence
…Because Villa’s has actually been relatively good this season – even after today, in conceding 30 goals, they have the meanest defence in the bottom half of the table. It’s just that no one can capitalise at the other end. That said, the defence could not cope with the world-class talent of Arsenal today. For the first goal, Alan Hutton and Jores Okore were both at least eight yards away from Olivier Giroud before he ran through and scored. And it didn’t get much better from there on in, as Arsenal, who can be thwarted when a team gets in their face, were granted acres of space in midfield and attack to weave their magic.