It’s always impossible to decide who needed the win more – the underachievers, fighting to try and get into the Champions League, or a club fighting for survival in the Premier League. However, quality was what prevailed, as Santi Cazorla reminded many what he was all about for Arsenal when the season began.
For the first time in his short Arsenal career, somewhat an up & down one like his entire team, being one of the barometers for the club’s performances, Cazorla scored in consecutive Premier League matches. Not playing against Bayern Munich pressure, instead against an Aston Villa team that came to fight and scrape away a result instead of force certain terms on the match, but couldn’t come up with the goods, mostly pinned down to their own side for most of the match.
So Arsenal won for the third straight time in the Premier League. Despite all the criticism and all of the signs pointing towards the end of the Arsene Wenger era, winning that spot to the Champions League is more than reachable. Now one point behind Tottenham and a game ahead of Spurs, the match in 10 days at White Hart Lane, with the 5-2 win from a few months ago to give Arsenal a much needed boost of confidence in the background. A must win? That’s and understatement.
And yet, despite the win, the problems are clear for all to see. In the few chances Aston Villa managed to create, the nervousness at the back was evident for all to see. Maybe its the changing personnel in a rotation that never stops, with Mertesacker and Vermaelen in the middle this time, while Monreal and Jenkinson play on the wings.
Most of the problems, despite complete dominance across the pitch, as Arsenal tend to have at the Emirates against sides from fifth place and below this season, were on attack, and the subdued way in which Arsenal took advantage of their possession.
We couldn’t afford to drop points, both because we’re in a catch-up situation in the Premier League and we’ve come out of two massive disappointments. But we were focused, united, a bit nervous; we played a bit with the handbrake in some situations, and the second goal didn’t come. But we were also strong because, when Villa came back to 1-1, we found the resources to win the game. Overall, the regret we had was that we could have scored many, many goals today. We created a number of chances, but I’m proud of the attitude of the team. We went through some difficult days and responded in a united way.
Instead of taking shots whenever the opportunity presented itself, another illness in the formula Arsene Wenger has developed and can’t seem to come out of was proven – the preference of style over substance, as players sometimes give the feeling the want to walk the ball into the net, passing up excellent opportunities to at least shoot the ball at goal for yet another find a teammate. Maybe it’s lack of confidence that’s speaking volumes in every way.
Despite all the criticism and making Arsene Wenger look like a man out of time in every possible way, Arsenal still are on pace, or close to, with their usual goals: A champions league spot before anything else. It’s going a bit harder this season, without the usual flash, but if Santi Cazorla keeps up this kind of edge, with a relatively soft schedule left to play, maybe this season won’t be remembered as such a disaster.