An exhilarating and record-breaking Premier League weekend was set in motion by a spectacular 6 goal thriller in Birmingham, brought to us courtesy of Arsenal and Aston Villa early on Saturday afternoon. The 4-2 win for Arsenal was all the more impressive when put in perspective of the week they have just had. A midweek defeat at Braga was served as an unwelcome dessert to the main course of a 3-2 loss to north London rivals, Tottenham, last weekend. After taking a 2-0 lead into the half-time break at Villa Park, Arsenal fans must have been praying that lightning couldn’t strike twice in the space of a week, and when Ciaran Clark rifled home shortly after the break, there must have been heads in hands across north London. But instead of Arsenal dropping off and allowing the opposition time and space as they did with Spurs a week prior, the goal seemed to galvanise Arsenal’s spirit, and their performance gave weight to the old adage that attack is the best form of defence.
For the vast majority of the match Arsenal looked in control, especially when Marouane Chamakh restored their 2 goal advantage in the 56th minute, and even though the 21 year-old Clark halved the deficit once more, Arsenal didn’t look in danger, and always looked the more likely to score, vastly contrasting to the match at the Emirates last weekend.
Throughout the week Arsene Wenger has been defending Arsenal against accusations that his side have a ‘soft centre’, and he has been proven, for the time being, correct. Although Villa didn’t trouble the Gunners in the first half, they did come at them in the second half and Arsenal had to show resilience, self-belief and character, after the week they’ve had, to pick themselves back up again and claim all three points.
One of the major differences between the Spurs match and the Aston Villa game was that when Villa attacked them, Arsenal responded with a like-minded approach and reaped the rewards. This was important because at times Arsenal’s defence does look fragile, especially in the centre.
Wenger noted, when questioned about the strength of his back line; “They are sharp, good on the ball, defend well. What can I say? You are entitled to your opinion but for me Koscielny, Squillaci and Djourou are great defenders.”
Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny started against Villa and it isn’t that I think these players aren’t good enough, I just believe, like most players, they need time to settle into life at Arsenal, and English football in general. Through Arsenal being on the front foot, this gives the defenders time to settle, without being constantly under pressure, like they were against Spurs in the second half, and they performed dutifully for most of the match as a result.
Against Aston Villa, this Arsenal side showed that perhaps they are made of sterner stuff than teams of the past, and if they continue with their attacking endeavors, we may well find they are made of the stuff of champions.