Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1: Arsene Wenger thanks ‘classy’ Santi Cazorla
Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1: Arsene Wenger singles out Santi Cazorla for special praise after Spaniard's double sinks the visitors
Arsene Wenger reserved special praise for the “classy” Santi Cazorla after Spaniard’s double helped Arsenal bounce back from a turbulent week with victory over Aston Villa.
Cazorla gave the Gunners, who went into the game on the back of defeats by Blackburn and Bayern Munich, the perfect start when he smashed home a low shot to put Wenger’s men 1-0 after just six minutes at Emirates Stadium.
But some poor defending allowed Villa back into the game in the 68th minute, when Andreas Weimann’s long-range effort beat Wojciech Szczesny.
The north Londoners struggled to find a way past a battling Villa rearguard, but Cazorla stroked home from close range after Nacho Monreal’s cutback in the 85th minute to give the Gunners a crucial win as they continue to push for a top-four finish.
The result places Wenger’s men just a point behind fourth-placed Tottenham, who travel to West Ham on Monday, ahead of next Sunday’s north London derby at White Hart Lane.
“The classy players do it when it matters and he [Santi Cazorla] did it today,” Wenger told BBC Sport. “When you come out of a crisis like we had in the last few days you might be happy with a draw but when you win you say ‘thank you’.”
Wenger added: “We came out of two massive disappointments and the team were a bit nervous but focused at the start.
“Overall, it was a deserved win and gets us again in a more serene atmosphere. It’s been quite rocky in recent days. It was important to get three points today.”
Meanwhile, Villa boss Paul Lambert felt his side were worthy of a point after watching them sink back into the relegation zone – but was pleased with the visitors’ display.
He said: “I don’t think we deserved to lose that. I thought we looked a threat all game. The ways the lads played, I couldn’t fault them. If we keep playing like that we will [beat the drop].”