Arsenal secured their first Premier League win since the opening day of the season thanks to a devastating four-minute first-half spell that yielded all three goals in a decisive 3-0 victory. Mesut Özil, Danny Welbeck and an own goal from Aly Cissokho did the damage in a thrilling period that helped Arsenal to bounce back in ideal fashion from a chastening 2-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in midweek.
On the other side, it was a massive come down for a Villa team that had begun the contest second in the Premier League table after taking 10 points from four matches. Paul Lambert’s preparations had been disrupted by a bug going round the squad that led to late withdrawals from the team of Ashley Westwood and Nathan Baker. Still, there was little sign of what was to come in the opening 32 minutes. Villa more than held their own and had a glorious chance to take the lead, too, when Kieran Clark’s header was denied by Wojciech Szczesny.
But then the hosts, having conceded just one league goal this season coming in, were spectacularly undone. Özil, the target for so much rash criticism in recent weeks was at the heart of it. Without Jack Wilshere, who, along with Alexis Sanchez, started on the bench, was restored to the No. 10 role in which he so obviously thrives. Unsurprisingly his influence on the Arsenal team was transformed. Having coolly slotted home to open the scoring from Welbeck’s pass, he returned the favor seconds later to set up the former Manchester United man to get his first goal for the club. Before Villa had a chance to take stock, Cissokho had stuck a Kieran Gibbs scuffed shot into his own goal.
Aston Villa, who despite their impressive start to the season, remain heavily one-dimensional in their counter-attacking approach, were predictably unable to bounce back once going behind so devastatingly. Arsenal played out the second half in complete comfort to give Arsene Wenger a much-needed boost after a run of three draws in the league and a tough night in Europe. With Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal again out, his defensive options remain incredibly limited, but Özil’s performance will have given him food for thought on how to juggle his considerably more numerous options going forward. Arsenal now move to just a point behind Villa with a win that was infinitely more comfortable than looked likely early on.
For the first half-hour, the match had gone as might have been expected. Villa were successfully frustrating Arsenal by making themselves extremely compact without the ball and denying the visitors the space on which they so often thrive. And when Villa did get hold of the ball they were posing some problems of their own. Lambert’s men were gifted a chance in the early minutes when Szczesny kicked the ball straight out to Fabian Delph. After driving forward and exchanging passes with Andreas Weimann, the now England midfielder forced Szczesny to recover and turn a shot wide.
Szczesny had to make an even better save at the halfway point of the opening period. Arsenal switched off from a free-kick that Tom Cleverley whipped in dangerously to the back post to find Clark completely unmarked six yards out. Being critical, the Villa defender really should have taken Szczesny out of the equation with his headed. Instead it was too close to the Arsenal keeper, who spread himself well to make the stop.
At that point no-one could have predicted how swiftly and decisively the game would be taken away from the home side. It was through the middle that Özil surged to feed onto a through ball from Welbeck after some much improved tempo to Arsenal’s passing. Once getting a clear sight of goal, Özil never looked likely to miss and he duly slipped a shot low past Brad Guzan, whose misery had only just begun. Less than 80 seconds later the deficit was doubled. Again the increased speed of Arsenal’s passing was key. This time Aaron Ramsey fed the rejuvenated, roaming Özil out wide on the left and he picked out a precise pass into the center of the box for Welbeck to meet with an emphatic strike into the roof of the net.
Just over a minute later, the match, if it wasn’t already, was effectively ended as a contest. The third goal lacked the aesthetic quality of the first two, not that it will have been any less satisfying to the traveling Arsenal supporters. Gibbs’ shot was heading a long way wide of the target, but likely would have been directed in by Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain at the back post had Cissokho not intervened. Unfortunately for the former Liverpool loanee, his intervention led his first goal in England coming at the wrong end.
Özil nearly made it 4-0 before halftime with a half-volley wide of the post, but the damage had been done. A dangerous counter-attacking team with their considerable pace, Villa still struggle when the onus is on them to go forward. Thus the second half was a complete non event. The only moment of concern for Arsenal was when Clark had another opportunity from a set-piece, but this time Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain flung himself in the way of the ball to block a goal-bound volley.