Clinical Santi spares Arsenal’s blushes

Arsenal eased the pressure on Arsene Wenger as a Santi Cazorla double gave them their fourth win in
five Premier League games against Aston Villa on Saturday. The Spaniard had given the
Gunners an early lead after five minutes, before Andreas Weimann equalised
for the visitors mid-way through the second-half. But Cazorla was at the ready to slot home with just
minutes to go as the Gunners closed the gap on
fourth-placed Tottenham to one point, extending
Villa’s miserable run to just one win in 10 games. Wenger made four changes from his side’s 3-1
humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich on
Tuesday, with Nacho Monreal returning at left-back
and Carl Jenkinson replacing the injured Bacary
Sagna. Giroud was also re-installed to lead the line,
while Abou Diaby came in for Aaron Ramsey. The visitors, meanwhile, were still without skipper
Ron Vlaar but welcomed Gabriel Agbonlahor back
into the line-up as a left winger. From the off, it was all Arsenal. The hosts controlled
possession with palpable ease and created the first
chance of the game after just two minutes, with
Jack Wilshere forcing an early save from Brad Guzan. And the Gunners did not have to wait long to open
the scoring as Cazorla found possession minutes later, tucking away an easy finish at the second time
of asking. Nathan Baker had blocked the Spaniard’s
initial attempt at a cross but Cazorla showed no
hesitation in reacting first to convert. But Villa responded instantly, mustering their first
chance of the game after nine minutes as Charles
N’Zogbia fed Agbonlahor on the edge of the box,
only for the 26-year-old to fire his shot straight at
Wojciech Szczesny. After the Gunners’ emphatic start, a cricket score
had looked a possibility but Villa were the side
looking more and more likely to score. Close to the
half-hour mark, the visitors enjoyed their best
chance yet as N’Zogbia was first denied by Szczesny
before Andreas Weimann then had his shot cleared by Per Mertesacker. Theo Walcott curled a left-footed shot over the bar
minutes later, before Giroud was then denied by
Guzan once again as half-time approached. But while the Gunners were playing like a side
chasing Champions League qualification, the
visitors were counterattacking with the hunger
typical of a side fighting for vital points to keep
them in the Premier League.


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