Aston Villa 0 – 3 Arsenal
0 – 1 Özil (32)
0 – 2 Welbeck (34)
0 – 3 Cissokho o.g. (36)
Arsenal’s midweek woes were put behind them with three goals in five first half minutes ending this match as contest. Danny Welbeck grabbed his first Arsenal goal, slamming home Mesut Özil’s low centre, a minute or so after the German sprang the Villa offside trap to slot home coolly past Guzan. An own goal – similar in build up was equally incisive in its’ finish – completed a mad five minutes and wrapped up three points.
The win took Arsenal into the familiar territory of the top four and there they stayed courtesy of West Ham’s unexpected win over Liverpool. Managerial genius appears to be a fleeting quality this season. Hugely inconsistent as well.
One of the more pleasing aspects of yesterday’s win infuriated others. Closing out the second half to keep a clean sheet was, to me, more important than scoring another two or three goals. Arsenal have failed to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League this season having ended the last with four consecutive shutouts. As light as Danny Welbeck’s shoulders feel this morning, I am sure the back five feel the same way. Too often we focus on the forwards records, similar qualities and statistics for the defence are equally important.
You sense it was becoming as much of an issue for the players and manager as us. Wenger drew attention to the “controlled possession” of the second half. Control is something which was missing and if this is its return, that can only be for the good. There was less of a sense of nervousness throughout the side at Villa Park. Who knows, perhaps perversely the nadir of Dortmund was cathartic for the players? Maybe, in a way, they needed to plumb those depths. Football is littered with such moments, where this season goes from here will unfurl. It might as easily be a blip as a permanent transformation.
It might have been different had Wojciech Szczesny not redeemed himself immediately his poor clearance fell to Delph who sought to confirm his place in the next England squad with a goal. The Pole did well to save and then turn Clark’s header away. Villa were having the clearer opportunities to begin with but familiarly, Arsenal enjoyed more of the possession. The goals, which felt like they were coming to me, ensured ascendency.
Key to the performance was the vibrancy of the attacking play. Özil found himself more central, Arsène called it a tweak to the existing system. Interestingly it came in a fixture when Alexis Sanchez was rested, suggesting there is still some problem finding a balance with two free spirits operating on each flank. The issue will be clouded with Theo Walcott’s return in coming weeks. I am not convinced the case is that simple; perhaps there is some truth but in essence, the pivotal role suits Özil, his style.
Arsène sidestepped the question of whether this was a permanent change to Özil’s role. Explicitly pointing to Villa’s formation which afforded space, Wenger has to decide whether it can be accommodated, particularly with the preference of many top managers to flood the midfield in matches they expect to be tight.
It probably is coincidence that Özil’s confidence returned today, he was a man who felt he had a point or two to prove. With everyone expecting more from him, there is a pressure to bear and expectations are high. The disappointment felt when those aren’t met, are inevitably deeper. They will return if a consistency doesn’t develop in his performances. The expectation is that it will; Tottenham next weekend, it’s returned just at the right time.
One man with mixed feelings about the day will have been Aaron Ramsey. Dropping deeper at the expense of Jack Wilshere, things never quite went right for the Welshman. Trying too hard, I suspect, to turn his form around. Perhaps Özil can help with some advice on relaxing. Certainly on passing, his wayward pass was one of the more unusual ways of conceding a corner. But if there is one player history has taught us patience with, it is Ramsey. Perhaps he can teach Özil something. All this on a day when he was heavily involved with the goals, courtesy of some neat footwork and movement.
That was the key to the goals. Özil and Welbeck combined well for the opener with the latter’s finely played pass sending the German clear, roles reversed for the second. Understandings take time to build but not just between that pair, also improved today was the midfield pushing on to allow Welbeck to drift wide at will. When that happened, there were inevitably three or four in the penalty area waiting for a cross or pass. It is at odds with a lot of Arsenal’s play where all too often these passages are completed with the supporting casts laggardly arrival.
It would be easy to get carried away with the result and performance. Certainly it was the first time the pair have come together since the Community Shield and in time as well. Once the League Cup tie is dealt with, three tough fixtures await and Arsenal needed to go into those games with the confidence of a good result and good performance. The squad is one that is still finding its way in that respect and needs to keep that momentum going.
Post-match, Arsène wasn’t quite sure whether dropping Özil would have damaged the German’s confidence. It is an interesting question to ponder but equally, I am not sure that Wenger’s almost dismissive belief that Mesut is just one of ten players who want to play centrally will have done much good either. Perhaps his goal and general performance level will have done the job, eh Arsène?
Finally, the problems with this week’s playlist, Money Means Nuthin’, have been solved and it can be found here or in the right sidebar under Dad’s Jukebox. Well, all the problems aside from musical taste. Boom and indeed, boom.
The world’s a better place with an Arsenal win, isn’t it?