Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Walcott, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud
Subs: Szczesny, Gibbs, Gabriel, Chambers, Flamini, Rosicky, Akpom
Arsenal moved back above Sp*rs in the Premier League after a sumptuous 5-0 win over Aston Villa this afternoon.
There were starts for Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Franco and Hector Bellerin as the manager changed things around after the Brighton win, and there was an early sight of goal for Walcott as he was sent clean through but dallied on the ball and saw the chance go begging.
Slick passing down the left hand side saw Monreal set up a chance for Aaron Ramsey but the Welshman’s shot flew wide. However, there wasn’t long to wait for the opening goal.
The visitors were shell-shocked and the lead could have been doubled moments later but Giroud and Ramsey overcooked the chance. Arsenal came forward again with Cazorla sending Bellerin free down the right and the Spaniard’s cross caused panic in the Villa defence but they managed to get it clear.
After the frenetic opening the game settled down a bit, but only a last ditch intervention prevented Per Mertesacker getting on the end of a Koscielny header to get a second goal, while Santi Cazorla saw a 27th minute shot cannon back off the post with the keeper well and truly beaten.
Arsenal had the ball in the net in the 30th minute but were denied the goal by the linesman’s flag. He thought he spotted Cazorla in an offside position but replays show the decision was generous to Villa, to say the least.
Brad Guzan was forced into making a good stop from a Ramsey shot after the midfielder was set up by Ozil, before his counterpart at the other end had to make a save from a Weimann header. Almost immediately Arsenal broke up the other end and again Theo Walcott’s indecision on the ball was costly as Villa got back to snuff out the move and the Gunners took the one goal lead into the break.
The second period began positively for Villa with Benteke shooting wide from close range in the opening 30 seconds, and the Belgian international getting ahead of Koscielny to head wide a few minutes later.
It had been something of a slog for Arsenal but in the 56th minute we doubled the lead. Walcott won the ball deep, fed Giroud who played a ball behind the defence for Ozil. The German took a touch and rolled the ball just inside the far post with the keeper at full stretch. 2-0.
There were some moments of Villa pressure but it wasn’t long before the reds scored again. The move began with Ospina, Walcott picked it up, fed Cazorla in midfield who played it back to him inside the box. The winger stepped inside the defender and curled the ball into the net to make it 3-0.
Paul Lambert made two changes in response, bringing on Agbonlahor and Sinclair for Weimann and Cleverley, but it was Arsenal continued to look most dangerous. Giroud glanced a header off the top of the bar from a Cazorla free kick, and that was the Frenchman’s last involvement as he was withdrawn, along with Theo Walcott – Arsene Wenger sending on Chuba Akpom and Tomas Rosicky in their stead.
It got better for the home side when Akpom was felled by Guzan and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot. Santi Cazorla just about maintained his 100% penalty success rate, hitting the ball straight at the Villa keeper but it rebounded off his wrists and into the net. 4-0.
Mathieu Flamini was sent on for Aaron Ramsey and the rest of the game seemed to consist of Arsenal players trying to set up Akpom for a goal. Twice Cazorla looked for him without success, a great move involving Flamini and Bellerin saw the Spaniard’s low cross cut out, and even Per Mertesacker got it on the creative action, but the young striker could only head the left footed cross into the arms of the Villa keeper.
In injury time he had his best chance, set up by Cazorla but the shot was weak and straight at the keeper. However, there was further joy when Hector Bellerin got on the scoresheet. Santi Cazorla held off a number of Villa challenges, laid it square to the full back who side-footed the ball beautifully into the bottom corner via the post. 5-0.
In the end the Gunners superiority was obvious and the three points well deserved. Next up a trip to White Hart Lane.