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Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2: Wilshere Stars as Gunners Return to the Top

Jack Wilshere goal

Villa Park (Premier League)

Aston Villa: Benteke (76′) – Arsenal: Wilshere (34′), Giroud (35′)

Player RatingsMatch HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

With the Gunners resting for over a week since their last fixture, they were forced to watch in anguish as Chelsea (on Saturday) and Manchester City (on Sunday) both secured wins that offered them a chance to have a feel of what it felt like to be on top of the table.

The Gunners had it all to do on a cold night at Villa Park and the manager made a couple of changes from the side that was triumphant against Tottenham in the FA Cup. Wojciech Szczesny returned in goal, Laurent Koscielny replaced the injured Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta’s calf injury paved the way for Flamini, and the attacking duo of Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud returned to the fray.

As expected, Arsenal began the game on a brighter note with Bacary Sagna pelting a cross that gave Nathan Baker some problems as his attempted clearance sailed into the air before dropping on the roof of the net. Santi Cazorla swung in a deep cross that was nodded straight to Serge Gnabry’s path but his first touch let him down.

Sagna continued to threaten on the right flank with another deep cross that was flashed wide by Giroud. On the other end, Wilshere failed to control a loose ball and Christian Benteke fed it to Fabian Delph but the young Englishman’s shot drifted wide off the mark. The Gunners launched another attack from a short corner and when the ball fell to Gnabry’s path, he fired a goal-bound shot that hit Nathan Baker on his head.

It wasn’t a pleasurable sight as the defender stayed motionless on the ground while several physios and medics did their thing on him. After close to seven minutes of treatment, he was finally stretched off, which earned him a rousing ovation from both sets of fans. Shortly afterwards, El Ahmadi lurked into the box and latched unto Delph’s pass but his shot sailed effortlessly over the bar.

The match opener arrived when Mesut Ozil tore open the Villa defense with a carefully-weighted through pass to Nacho Monreal. The Spanish fullback surged forward before attempting to feed Giroud but Jack Wilshere controlled the ball with a superb first shot and fired it past Brad Guzan with his second touch.

Making his mark: The midfielder swept home from the edge of the box

That was Wilshere’s fifth goal in Arsenal colors, which is his personal best since he broke into the first-team in 2010. His play had been criticized for lack of goals, and with five already this season, those critics have been made to eat their words.

While the Gunners were basking in the euphoria of getting the game’s opener, Wilshere robbed Delph off the ball and clipped a diagonal pass to Giroud. The Frenchman shoved the threat Lowton posed and fired a shot past Guzan to make it two goals in less than a minute for the Gunners.

Quick-fire: The Frenchman powered his strike home less than 60 seconds after Wilshere's opener

The Gunners contained their hosts for the remainder of the half and at the sound of the ref’s whistle, they were one half away from returning to the summit of the Premier League.

At the start of the second half, the hosts added some urgency to their game as Bacuna’s fired a shot that was easy pickings for Szczesny. At the other end, Monreal made a slalom run from the left and almost found himself through on goal but Ron Vlaar executed a strong tackle to evade the threat. However, he also had some of Monreal as well as the ball, which left the fullback on the turf.

Ozil almost exploited Gnabry’s pace with a neat through ball but Guzan raced from his line to anticipate the ball. Ozil fashioned a chance for Cazorla but his shot was saved by Guzan in goal. Arsene Wenger summoned the services of Kieran Gibbs for the injured Monreal and Tomas Rosicky replaced the ineffectual Gnabry.

Against the run of play, Cazorla was robbed off the ball and a cross into the danger area was headed home by Benteke.

Well taken: Christian Benteke dives in at the far post for Aston Villa's goal

That goal offered Aston Villa a chance back into the game and all of a sudden, the Gunners look rattled and nervous. Andreas Weimann hurled a cross with Benteke waiting on the far post but Mertesacker was on hand to make a vital merteception, heading the ball out for a corner.

Rosicky and Gabby Agbonlahor challenged for a ball in the air but the Czech was second best as he received a nasty whack to his nose that caused him to bleed. He was replaced by the Ox shortly afterwards.

Late on, Benteke had a header that was saved but the Gunners soaked up the pressure. After the six minutes of stoppage time had elapsed, the Gunners celebrated at the sound of the referee’s whistle as they had returned to the top.

A home clash against Fulham comes up next and you’d bet your smart money on the Gunners to get three points in the bag.


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Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2: Post-Match Thoughts and Player Ratings

All smiles: Olivier Giroud and his Arsenal team-mates celebrate after he scored the second

With fellow title hopefuls, Manchester City and Chelsea winning their away clashes, the onus was on Arsenal to come up with the goods against an Aston Villa side that was not in good form heading into the game. The Gunners waltzed past their hosts with a breathtaking first half performance but they took their feet off the pedal in the second half, which offered Aston Villa a chance back into the game.

Listed below are the Gooner Daily player ratings for Arsenal’s triumphant heroes on a cold night at Villa Park:


Wojciech Szczesny: The Pole was more or less a spectator in the first half but he made some routine saves as the game progressed. Blameless for the goal he conceded from Christian Benteke. 7/10

Nacho Monreal: The Spanish fullback was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Aston Villa defense and offered an outlet on the left. He latched onto Mesut Ozil’s threaded through ball to supply the assist for Jack Wilshere’s goal. 8/10

Bacary Sagna: The Frenchman swung in a lot of quality crosses but the forwards failed to capitalize on them. He was also culpable for giving the opposition a sloppy pass that led to a counter attack but nothing meaningful came out of it. 7/10

Per Mertesacker: The captain for the night put up an exemplary performance and made a lot of vital interceptions as the game progressed. 8/10

Laurent Koscielny: Kos the Boss was ubiquitous in the Arsenal defense and made several vital challenges keeping the Aston Villa attack at bay. 8/10

Kieran Gibbs: He replaced the injured Monreal and offered an outlet on the left. However, he was found wanting in the final third. 7/10


Mathieu Flamini: Flamini’s tenacity and doggedness were on show yet again as he made a couple of bone-crunching tackles that made the opponents think twice before coming closet to him with the ball. 7/10

Jack Wilshere: Arsenal’s poster boy built on his stellar performance against Cardiff to put up another great outing. Starting in his favored box-to-box role, Wilshere came from deep and showed great composure to score the opener after some good work from Monreal. Just when we thought we had seen it all, Wilshere wins the ball in midfield and dinks a peach of a pass to Giroud. The rest they say was history. 9/10

Finding the net: Wilshere scored his fifth goal of the season and his third in the Premier League

Mesut Ozil: The German maestro was surprisingly sloppy on numerous occasions but provided a key pass that led to the first goal. However, he failed to make any real influence on the game whatsoever. 6/10

Tomas Rosicky: The Czech midfielder joined the fray but got a nasty whack in the nose after a collision with Gabby Agbonlahor. He was substituted shortly afterwards. N/A


Santi Cazorla: The diminutive Spaniard wasn’t threatening enough in attack and he incurred the fan’s wrath when he lost the ball deep into the Gunner’s half which led to the cross that supplied what proved to be a consolation goal for the hosts. He needs to step his game as he has been below par all season long. 6/10

Serge Gnabry: After making the fans drool in the North London Derby, The German starlet was offered another chance to build on that scintillating performance. What we got yesterday was a rather subdued performance before he was substituted. 6/10

Olivier Giroud: Amidst all the speculation that Arsenal is on the lookout for a new striker, Arsene Wenger continues to place his faith in Giroud. What did Wenger get in return? – a brilliant improvised finish from the French forward despite being under pressure from a defender. His linkup play was superb as usual. 8/10

Quick-fire: The Frenchman powered his strike home less than 60 seconds after Wilshere's opener

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Showed a couple of good touches on his comeback from injury. N/A

Do you agree or disagree with Gooner Daily’s post match thoughts and match ratings?

Feel free to share them with your comments below.


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Aston Villa Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

Arsenal’s last visit to Villa Park was rather uneventful

After the Asia Tour and the Emirates Cup, the Gunners believed that they were ready to fire all cylinders in the new campaign. Aston Villa opened the curtains at the Emirates sunshine and when Olivier Giroud scored the first goal of the game, it seemed as if was business as usual before Anthony Taylor’s poor officiating paved the way for Christian Benteke to score two goals, sending the Emirates into delirium.

Five months on, the Gunners are within touching distance of the summit of the Premier League table while Aston Villa is languishing in mid-table with a poor run of form. Villa’s shock victory back in August will have provided optimism for the club’s fans, but Paul Lambert’s men have picked up just five wins in 19 subsequent Premier League fixtures.

The Gunners ended the year with a run of poor results but they have rallied to pick up points against Newcastle and Cardiff while ousting Tottenham in the FA Cup. Aston Villa on the other hand, had lost four games on the trot before earning a draw against Southampton and defeating struggling Sunderland away to end their wretched run of results.

While the Gunners have advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup to take on Coventry, Aston Villa was embarrassingly dumped out of League One outfit, Sheffield United. However, the Gunners still have to be wary about the counter attacking threat Aston Villa poses with Andreas Weimann and Gabby Agbonlahor identified as two players to watch out for.

Weimann plays as a kind of midfielder when Villa don’t have possession, but once they do, he springs forward in support of Benteke. Agbonlahor has also been on good form, scoring two goals in his last two games and with the goals still drying up for Benteke, the home side will look to their speedster to come up with the goods yet again. Agbonlahor’s direct running and pace will be a thorn in Arsenal’s flesh and I truly hope he doesn’t replicate the form he showed at the Emirates in August.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Arsenal v Aston Villa - Emirates Stadium

Szczesny hacking down Agbonlahor

No team has scored the first goal in more Premier League games this season than Arsenal (15). Conversely, no side has scored the first goal on fewer occasions this season than Aston Villa (5). The Aston Villa defense is very leaky and this is evidenced with the fact that they have kept just two clean sheets in their last 21 home league matches.

The Gunners have scored more headed goals than any other team in the league this season (9), so they are bound to pose a threat from set pieces. I hope Per Mertesacker would do a lot better in the air this time around. It’s also worth noting that Arsenal are unbeaten in 14 Premier League trips to Villa Park, winning seven and drawing seven, which is the club’s longest away run without defeat against a single side in Premier League history.

To injuries, Aston Villa will give late fitness tests to Nathan Baker (hamstring) and Ron Vlaar (calf). Both players missed Villas’ FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United along with Gabriel Agbonlahor. However, the forward is set to make a return to the squad while Brad Guzan is also declared fit to face the Gunners.

Joe Bennett and Chris Herd are still lacking match fitness while Libor Kozak (broken leg), Jores Okore (knee) and Charles N’Zogbia (Achilles) are long-term absentees.

Arsenal also have a lengthy injury list, with Theo Walcott going under the knife to mitigate his anterior cruciate ligament injury. According to the Mirror, the surgery was successful and Kieran Gibbs took out some time to see his buddy in the hospital. With Theo Walcott scoring five out of Arsenal’s last nine goals, other players will have to step up for the Gunners to ensure victory

Positive: Walcott and Gibbs give the thumbs up


The Gunners will also be without Nicklas Bendtner (ankle) while the game would be too soon for Kieran Gibbs (calf) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh). Abou Diaby (knee) and Yaya Sanogo (back) are probably being used as lab specimen for some experiments in a lair in Transylvania. The Ox recently returned to full fitness and he would be in contention for a starting berth.

The Gunners will arrive in West Midlands in bullish form, bearing in mind that they always get favorable results in Villa Park. Aston Villa’s cause isn’t helped with the fact that they’re in a poor run of form, while their opponents are finding their feet after a stuttering end to 2013.

I expect the lineups to look like this,

Aston Villa 4-3-3 football formationArsenal 4-2-3-1 football formation

With a place at the summit up for grabs, the Gunners will have to utilize the opportunity in front of them. Chelsea won away, Manchester City won away…the Gunners have to win away as well.


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Aston Villa Debacle: Wenger and his Players Respond, But is That Enough?


Arsenal’s lack of ruthlessness in the transfer market has come back to haunt them

This summer was supposed to be different.

When we all thought that Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna were going to join the trend of players that would depart in the summer, both players turned the tables and pledged their allegiance to the team. For the first time in ages, Arsene Wenger was going to keep his core players intact and the fans hoped that some quality players would join and solidify the team.

The club’s Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, bragged about how the club could compete with the European juggernauts, and there was a renewed sense of optimism around the club. Fast forward to today, 101 Great Goals report that some Gunners went to troll his Wikipedia Page as well as voicing their frustrations over the club’s inactivity in the transfer window.

In Turkey, the Press are reveling in Arsenal’s defeat, citing how their local side, Fenerbahce, would add to the Gunners woes. We are now tagged as a club in “crisis” and the timing to play against Fenerbahce, a team with problems of their own, seems perfect for the folks at Istanbul.

To add to Arsenal’s shameful defeat on the opening weekend of the Premier League, the Gunners have fresh injury problems to contend with. Prior to the game against Aston Villa, Arsenal had lost Thomas Vermaelen (back), Nacho Monreal (back), Mikel Arteta (thigh), Ryo Miyaichi (rib) and long-term absentee, Abou Diaby (knee).

Early on in the game, Arsenal’s only fit and available left back, Kieran Gibbs, clashed his head with Andreas Weimann and came out second best, suffering some bleeding to his head as well as a concussion, so he had to be replaced by Carl Jenkinson, causing Bacary Sagna to play as a make-shift left back. To make things worse, there was a major concern when Sagna landed awkwardly and I feared for the worst, but his lovely wife, LuDivine, has confirmed that he’s better.

Gibbs and Sagna will not be available for the heated clash against Fenerbahce and one can only wonder what Wenger has up his sleeves for the game against Fenerbahce. As it stands, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Carl Jenkinson will be sure-fire starters for the Fenerbahce game but who will start at left back with Iggy Miquel flushed out to Leicester? The situation would become more precarious during the weekend as Koscielny would be suspended for the Fulham game, which means that the Gunners would be sweating on Gibbs to be fit in time for Fulham but who would partner Mertesacker in the heart of the defense?

Oxlade-low: Arsenal's physio checks the injured star

Ox out: Massive blow to the club

While Gibbs and Sagna could be weeks away from full fitness, the same can’t be said of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, that’s currently on crutches as he has damaged some ligaments on his knee, and an initial diagnosis from the Mirror confirmed that he’ll be out for at least three months.

Fresh reports from the Daily Mail now state that he could be out for as long as six months, which would be a big shame for a player on a steep learning curve in his career.

The versatile forward was heavily involved in Arsenal’s preseason campaign and even supplied an assist for Olivier Giroud’s match opener early on. With the Ox out of contention, Arsenal is now desperately short on the right wing, as the speedster is widely regarded as Theo Walcott’s successor.

This means that Arsenal can count on an unfit Santi Cazorla to do a job on the right when the need arises. He looked a bit overweight and out of sorts against Aston Villa but with more games under his belt, I believe that he would be back to his scintillating best.

in the wake of this disappointing defeat to Aston Villa, the manager post-match press conference saw him barraged with a lot of questions ranging from the debacle at the Emirates, injuries to his players and of course, his lack of activity in the transfer market.

“We take our work seriously and believe me, we analyse every single player in the world. We work 24 hours a day for that. When we make decisions, we take it seriously. People try to think we do not want to spend. We want [to]. We are ready to buy players.”

His players, notably Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere have also been vocal, urging the fans to stick with the Gunners as they pass through this rough phase. In their defense, both players gave their all on the pitch with Giroud scoring the opening goal and creating two key chances in the game that were squandered by Tomas Rosicky, while Wilshere was industrious as ever in midfield, working in tandem with Aaron Ramsey in the middle of the park.

As painful as this may sound, Arsenal would have fared a whole lot better if they played this game with some of the transfer targets they have missed this summer. A Maroune Fellaini or Luiz Gustavo or Lars Bender would have been alert to Gabby Agbonlahor’s run that led to the first goal and would have stayed put in midfield late on to probably anticipate the ball before it got to Antonio Luna for the match clincher. This game showed how important Arteta is to the team as Ramsey and Wilshere lacked the positional discipline to stay put in midfield as the game progressed.

Touchline Talk reports that Arsenal is set to make an improved bid for Bender but as always, I’ll take it with a pinch of salt.

In attack, a Stevan Jovetic or Bernard or Gonzalo Higuain or Luis Suarez would have contributed to Arsenal’s cause to kill the game early on or salvage an equalizer when the chance popped up.

That’s why I get really hurt when I think about those two key chances a world-class player like Rosicky fluffed. He was more or less Arsenal’s best performer in the disappointing defeat but he really needs to work on that final ball, as he was the outlet we needed but he fell short as usual. This is what Aaron Ramsey was heavily criticized for in the 2011/12 season, getting into the right positions and failing to convert.

With the transfer window closing on the 2nd of September, Arsene Wenger has two weeks to set things right or else, he will only have himself to blame. The fans don’t need him to go on a panic buy spending spree like the transfer deadline day of 2011 but to delve into the market to sign some quality players that would contribute immensely to the squad as the season progresses. Arsenal has been extremely ruthless this summer with flushing out its deadwood, and we hope for the same efficiency in bringing a couple of quality players as well.

Baba Ijebu

Baba Ijebu

Arsenal is in dire need of a center back, holding midfielder and striker. Even if Arsenal has missed out of a couple of targets, there are still some quality players that can be purchased before the transfer window closes but their potential arrival may hinge on Arsenal double date with Fenerbahce, as no quality player would fancy playing Thursday night football.

Arsene Wenger and players have asked for calm in the wake of the Aston Villa but is it enough?

Hell no! Spend some &@#%ing money.


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Arsenal 1 Aston Villa 3: Demolishing Curtain Raiser at the Emirates

Arsenal players against Aston Villa (Reuters)

Premier League (Emirates Stadium)

Arsenal – Giroud 6′

Aston Villa – Benteke 22′, 61′, Luna 85′

After a long preseason campaign, the 2013/14 Premier League graced the Emirates as Per Mertesacker led out this injury-stricken Arsenal side to take on Aston Villa. Bacary Sagna passed a late fitness test to get the nod ahead of Carl Jenkinson but Santi Cazorla was deemed not fit enough to start and Tomas Rosicky took his place.

The home side went off to a flyer when a Rosicky through ball located an unmarked Ox that bore down on goal before picking his spot and locating the red-hot Olivier Giroud. As you would expect from a striker on form, the Frenchman’s one-timed shot eased past Brad Guzan to send the Emirates into raptures.

Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring the opening goal

With the Gunners having a lot of players in the treatment table, there was a huge concern when Theo Walcott and Nathan Baker clashed with each other. Walcott managed to return to the pitch after some treatment but Baker was replaced by Ciaran Clark, as he came out as second best in the challenge. Jack Wilshere made one of his trademark darting runs and got to the byline before lofting the ball into the box but Giroud failed to connect with the header.

Against the run of play, Gabby Agbonlahor turned on the after burners and took advantage of a gaping hole in midfield before easing past Laurent Koscielny as if he wasn’t there. With Agbonlahor one on one with Wojciech Szczesny, the Polish goalie made a rash challenge on the forward but the ref chose to give Aston Villa the advantage but when Andreas Weimann’s shot hit the side netting, the ref pointed to the spot.

Szczesny parried Christian Benteke’s penalty to the Belgian’s path and he nodded the ball home with a rebound. Arsenal’s injury woes were compounded when Kieran Gibbs clashed heads with Weimann leaving the Englishman in a bloodbath. The fullback clearly looked concussed and he was replaced by Carl Jenkinson, which ultimately meant that Bacary Sagna was drafted to the left hand side in Gibbs’ stead.

The atmosphere for the game was very heated and Wilshere went berserk when Ron Vlaar clattered him as he made another run at Aston Villa’s backline. The fiery young lad tried to get his own pound of flesh and he got a yellow card for his troubles, along with Vlaar for the initial foul. 

Things almost went awry for Aston Villa when Antonio Luna and Guzan were involved in a mix-up which allowed Walcott to capitalize on the situation but his ball to Giroud was intercepted and cleared to safety.

Szczesny then made a glorious mess of things when he raced miles away from his goalline to clear a ball but he launched it into orbit and when it landed, he nodded the ball straight to Benteke’s path. Bearing in mind that he couldn’t go back to his post immediately, Szczesny went ahead to mark the Belgian and after successfully dispossessing him, the ball went straight to Weimann that didn’t need a second invitation to fire the shot at goal. To everyone’s relief, Szczesny recovered back in time to make a good save.

At the end of the first half, there was another injury scare as the Ox clashed with Antonio Luna and he never fully recovered as he was replaced by Santi Cazorla and the start of the second 45 minutes. Cazorla’s introduction brought some extra fluidity to the midfield but Rosicky was at the thick of things, dominating the midfield and spraying short passes like hot knife through butter.

However, Rosicky was culpable for a horrendous miss after a deft lay-up from Giroud. At a moment where finesse and precision was key, Rosicky opted for power and blasted the ball over the bar. Wilshere tried to play his way out of trouble but he was dispossessed and some open space allowed Fabian Delph to let one rip and it smashed the post and went out.

Just when we thought that we thought that we had seen it all, Agbonlahor went on another mazy run and Koscielny did well to intercept the ball but his legs also impeded Agbonlahor shortly afterwards. In rather acrimonious circumstances, the referee pointed to the spot again which made him incur the wrath of the Arsenal faithful. Koscielny also received a booking that was to have a greater impact later on.

Unlike the first penalty that was rather tame, Benteke applied a cool head to send Szczesny the wrong way, handing the visitors a shock lead. To add salt to Arsenal’s wounds, the official brandished a second booking to Koscielny following a challenge on Weimann, which ensured that the French defender had an early bath as he was sent off.

Arsenal went gung-ho in search of an equalizer and a Rosicky surge saw the Czech maestro scythed down in an exciting position. Walcott’s free kick went above the way but it curled away from goal. Arsenal had a glorious chance to equalize when Giroud teed up Rosicky again, and the Czech midfielder evaded some markers but his shot at Guzan was aimed directly at the goalie, offering him a chance to a fine save.

Rosicky then turned provider as he darted into the danger area before heading the ball to Cazorla’s path. The hobbit fired his goalward shot at the ground but Guzan was on hand to make another fine save. Benteke had a chance to seal a hat-trick but he blasted his shot wide off the mark.

With Arsenal going for broke, they left some gaping holes at the back and the match clincher arrived when Luna was on the receiving end of a through ball from a counter attack and when he was one on one with Szczesny, I imagined the worst, and the worst it was – Arsenal were losing at home to an Aston Villa side that struggled badly last season.

A major concern came at the end when Sagna fell rather awkwardly on the ground and the Emirates held its breath as the physios worked their magic on the defender. Even if he managed to get back on his feet, his participation was over as he was replaced by Lukas Podolski right at the death.


At the sound of the final whistle, the boos reverberated round the Emirates as the fans were clearly dissatisfied with how their team performed.

Coupled with the fact that the Gunners have began their Premier League campaign on a low, three key players have joined the ever-increasing injury list and one must wonder what is going through Arsene Wenger’s mind in regard to the thin-bare nature of his squad.

In his post-match press conference, spoke about the game, injuries and transfers. According to the Mirror, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be out for three months, as he was seen on clutches after the game. It’s believed that he has sustained a knee ligament injury, which is a massive blow for Arsenal and England.

This wasn’t what we imagined when we saw both team sheets but this is what football is all about. However, I have a very pressing question;

Food for thought Baba Ijebu.


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