Monday, January 13, 2014

Aston Villa 1 - Arsenal 2

Arsenal reclaimed top spot in the Premier League earlier today with a 2-1 victory away at Aston Villa, a team which has fallen on hard times this season (after starting brightly with a win at the Emirates Stadium). It was a less-than-thrilling match. Arsenal had virtually all of the possession during the first half, but had only two shots on goal. Those shots occurred within a single minute, and both resulted in goals. First, Jack Wilshire scored, almost casually, from the top of the box after a rare (in this match) display of Arsenal's usually incisive passing in the final third. He seemed simply to pass the ball into the far corner of the net from 12 yards out. Then, a minute later Jack Wilshire stole the ball at midfield and found Giroud in the box with an over-the-top pass down the left channel. Giroud beat two defenders with his two touches before putting the ball past the keeper from about 7 yards out.

After that, Arsenal seemed, once again, to take the collective foot off of the accelerator; and they had a hard time getting back in top gear after Villa cut the lead in half in the middle of the second half. Fortunately, Villa never looked likely to score the tying goal (in fact, they didn't look likely to score the first, which was the result of a bad Arsenal pass in the defensive half of the field).

A win is a win, as they say. But Arsenal are going to have to play better for longer spells to hold off strong title challenges from Man City and Chelsea. In particular, they're going to need stronger, more committed performances from the likes of Mesut Ozil, who in contrast to Olivier Giroud did not seem match-sharp after a bit of a layoff for a shoulder injury.

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