Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 3

Arsenal bounced back from their disappointing performance in midweek at Dortmund with a convincing 3-0 win against second-placed Aston Villa. It was a great team effort, but the two players who were under severe scrutiny earned plaudits. In particular, Arsenal's club record signing, Mesut Ozil answered his critics with a stellar performance, by scoring one and setting up another. Danny Welbeck scored his first goal for Arsenal and the Gunners kept a clean sheet. Best of all, they came away with the all important three points. It was a perfect afternoon for us, Gooners.

To make the weekend even better, all results for our title rivals went our way. Man City and Chelsea shared spoils. Liverpool suffered another shock defeat by the hands of West Ham, while Everton were beaten by Crystal Palace at Goodison Park. Our north London neighbours were also the victim of a surprise loss at White Hart Lane, beaten 1-0 by West Brom who went into the game bottom of the table. Manchester United played out an entertaining 5-3 loss to new boys, Leicester City. As a result, Arsenal finished the weekend fourth in the table, closer to the position where we want to be than the previous weeks.

Arsene Wenger made three changes to the side that started in Arsenal's 2-0 defeat by Dortmund. Calum Chambers replaced Hector Bellerin after having fully recovered from tonsillitis. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla started in place of Alexis Sanchez and Jack Wilshere. This meant that Ozil was deployed in his favourite No.10 role. Also, the 4-2-3-1 formation with Ramsey and Arteta as double pivots looked better balanced than a 4-1-4-1 system that Wenger had been using this season in order to accommodate both Wilshere and Ramsey in midfield. On the bench, Francis Coquelin and Abou Diaby were alongside David Ospina, Tomas Rosicky, Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, and Lukas Podolski.

Asked if he had ever considered not playing Ozil after the Dortmund game, Wenger answered after this match that he played Ozil despite all the criticism in order to show his faith in the German playmaker. The Frenchman's response to Ozil's weak performance so far this season proved right. The boss played the World Cup winner in his favourite position instead of dropping him to the bench. Ozil looked sharp and full of drive, covering more ground than any other Arsenal player. He even dropped deep to collect the ball at times. Some argue that where he starts does not really affect his game as he keeps interchanging positions with other midfielders, but his body language had totally changed in this game. It was great to see him actually enjoying a game again.

After Ozil's outstanding performance, a question was raised if he and Alexis can play together, but the real question is whether Ozil can retain his favourite No. 10 role when Wilshere comes into the side. So far, Ozil was shunted to the wing every time when Wilshere and Ramsey were played together and Wenger made it clear that the England midfielder is now in the stage of his development where he needs to play constantly after overcoming serious ankle injuries. Hopefully, Ozil's display has convinced the boss that Arsenal should build a team around the £42.5 million star and for that he needs to play in his favourite position.

One thing for sure about combinations is that Ozil and Welbeck pairing started looking very exciting. Between the two, they created two goals in this game. When they start developing better understanding and looking for each other on the pitch, hopefully more goals will come.

It was a strange game. Going into the game, Aston Villa was unbeaten, taking an impressive 10 points from the first 4 games of the season, with their confidence riding high on their 1-0 defeat of Liverpool at Anfield the previous weekend. Although we had favourable head-to-head stats, in particular at Villa Park, nobody predicted such a comfortable win. Even former Gunner and now pundit, Paul Merson predicted a 1-1 draw.

Both sides started brightly, but Arsenal could not get the final ball right until the 32nd minute, when Ozil was put through by Welbeck's perfectly-weighted pass, after sharp one-touch passing. Three goals in less than 4 minutes virtually put the game to bed. Arsenal controlled the game in the second half, while Villa looked like giving up on attack. Perhaps, under the circumstances, it was a damage limitation tactic taken by a virus-stricken Aston Villa side. We are pleased to see Arsenal see out the win without risking a clean sheet.

Overall, it was a perfect afternoon for us Gooners. Hopefully this is the beginning of Arsenal's winning streak. An ever-important north London derby is looming at the weekend, but before that, we have a Capital One Cup tie against Southampton to deal with. It will be interesting to see some of the first team players who haven't been given playing time feature in the game, including David Ospina, who are yet to play his first game in Arsenal coulours after the successful World Cup.

Players ratings

Szczesny: 7
Made some outstanding saves, especially one to deny Aston Villa's best chance by stopping Clark's header point-blank. On the other hand, one of those super saves was only to make up for his poor clearance.

Chambers: 6
He was lucky to stay on the pitch after receiving an early yellow card. Gave away some needless fouls.

Mertesacker: 7
Solid. 3 interceptions and 5 clearances. 

Koscielny: 7
1 tackle, 4 interceptions and 4 clearances.

Gibbs: 7

Had a good game probably because he was not troubled defensively too much. His effort (whether it was a shot or cross we don't know) led to Cissokho's own goal. If it hadn't been diverted by the Villa defender, Gibbs would have earned an assist as the Ox might have latched on to the end of the ball.

Arteta: 6
Some of his tackles left much to be desired. Continues to give away fouls in dangerous positions.

Ramsey: 6
Poor game by his standard, which was set high last season. He has been trying to do too much this season. He needs to go back to the basics and make his game simple. In this game, he couldn't even complete some of simplest passes. One of those passes gave away a cheap corner kick to Villa. On another occasion, he had to commit a foul, which earned him a yellow card, after losing possession. That said, he still made those advancing runs and gets in great positions. He was involved in build-up plays leading to the goals. He doesn't deserve harsh criticisms, but his body language worries us. Something is not quite right with him at the moment either mentally or physically.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7
Worked hard. Made an important block.

Ozil: 8
Scored a goal with great composure and delivered a curling low cross to evade two Villa defenders to set up a close-range finish for Welbeck.

Cazorla 7

Welbeck: 7
Stats-based's Man of the Match with a 9.14 rating. He has started to look a very good signing with his pace, mobility and work-rate, especially teamed with Ozil. His finishing will improve as his confidence grows (Ramsey is a good example).


Wilshere: 6
Part of the triple substitutions brought on in the 78th minute. Replaced Ramsey.

Rosicky: 6
Replaced the Ox in the 78th minute.

Podolski: 6
Replaced Welbeck in the 78th minute.

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