The game presented sheer contrast to the match played just three days ago. You would ask yourself which you like better, great football with no points out of it or three points with unsatisfactory performance. Arsenal bagged all three points in the end, but their performance was below-par and the win was far from convincing.
Maybe the game came too soon after the intense battle against Manchester City. The dire full-back situation didn't help, either. Aston Villa players constantly threatened the flanks, firing crosses into the box. Arsene Wenger has to address this issue and find a solution by signing a full-back on loan or on a permanent basis. Otherwise we cannot go on without any recognised full-back for very long. Makeshift back-four can only stand the pressure for a limited amount of time.
Arsenal's passing was poor in this game. Especially Frimpong was disappointing. We really missed Song, who was serving a one-match suspension after receiving the 5th yellow card of the season on Sunday. Surprisingly, Arsenal's passing success rate was only marginally lower than their average (around 84%) at 81.8%.
For Sunday's game, Arsenal were unlucky not to come away with at least a point, while Aston Villa may have deserved a point from this game. As football fans, we all enjoy a good game of football regardless of the result, but as Arsenal fans, we don't mind getting the result when our team haven't played at their best. This was the game we would have lost in recent seasons. Coming through the difficult start to the season has certainly strengthened the team mentally and gelled them together.
As for our Man of the Match, it is too close to call between Szczeny and Koscielny, so they are our joint Men of the Match.
Made some great stops, including match-saving blocks.
Struggled to keep Villa attacks on the right flank at bay.
Villa's equaliser was perhaps largely attributed to Vermaelen, but Per could have done better to stop Albrighten nipping in. He received a yellow card as a result of a totally worthless challenge. On the other hand, he showed great spirit in front of Villa goal and went close to score goals.
The best Arsenal defender on the night.
One of his relatively poor games. His error led to Villa equaliser.
He had a poor game by his own admission (he tweeted so). His passing wasn't best and his finishing and/or split-second decisions let him down again. He should have done better when he got into the great position than shooting horribly wide. On the other hand, his block saved Arsenal conceding an early goal.
His clever thinking from a throw-in allowed Walcott to earn a penalty.
Song's suspension meant a much-anticipated chance for the 19 year-old to shine, but he failed to take it. His passing was poor and he wasn't very effective in breaking down Villa attacks in midfield. He was replaced by Rosicky at 66th minute, which was an excellent decision by the boss.
Constantly threatened Villa defence. His great move in the box earned him a penalty gracefully (he didn't go down as if he had been shot).
He had a relatively quiet game offensively. On the defensive side, he worked hard as usual, which was extremely important when we only had a makeshift left-back.
Van Persie: 8
He posed a threat to Villa defenders with his mobility.
Came on the pitch in 66 minute to replace Frimpong and made the massive difference immediately. He brought fluency in passing and movements, changing the rhythm. He always makes an impact when he has come off the bench. Good sub. That's what we want from a 30 year-old player. We shouldn't sell him.
One of the double substitions brought on at 81st minute and scored 6 minutes later. He injected energy into the team and the game. Great header from the diminutive player. He is hungry for playing time, is keen to take a chance to show what he is capable of and you can see that in his game. He dedicated the goal to Vermaelen according to his tweet. I don't know what story is behind this, but it is nice to see some togetherness in the team. Speaking about the twitter, after Arsenal's defeat of Chelsea, he congratulated his current team-mates on the twitter, which apparently infuriated Chelsea-supporter followers. He is a Gooner at heart. We should see him play more often when Gervinho goes to Africa Cup of Nations as he is a better option than Arshavin at the moment.
The other of the double substitutions. Made a good effort, which was deflected over the bar.
Jonathan Moss: 4
More like Jonathan Ross. He booked RVP for diving instead of awarding him a penalty. Match of the Day replay showed there was a contact, which proved the decision for diving was wrong. This was the second penalty shout wrongfully turned down in two games in a row.