but Villa looked sleepy at the start of this particular early Saturday kick off.
Arsenal, on the other hand, were very quick out of the blocks. Their pressing and approach play was lively, but not matched by the necessary ruthlessness in front of goal. Chamakh was denied by Friedel in the first minute, and the otherwise impressive Rosicky spurned a couple of chances.
Villa missed the pace of Agbonlahor. Carew is not mobile enough to turn a defence, and the result was a half played mostly in Villa's half. Bobby Pires was rendered redundant.
Still, until the first goal you worried Arsenal would lack cutting edge.
Arshavin seems to have at last awoken from his slumbers. When Luke Young and Collins misjudged a high ball on halfway, the Russian attacked Dunne, cut inside and smashed a shot that Friedel got a hand to but couldn't keep out of the far corner. It was a goal that summed up the "something different" that Arshavin would ideally provide on a more regular basis.
Immediately after, he released Nasri, who danced around Friedel but could only waft a shot into the side netting from a difficult angle. A flowing move then ended with Sagna crossing for Chamakh, whose close range header was brilliantly repelled by Friedel. From the corner, Arshavin lofted all the way to Nasri. He caught the volley well, but it took a hefty deflection on its way past the keeper. 2-0 right on half-time, game over? Not for this team.
Villa had been abject to that point but were perhaps spurred on, so to speak, by recent events at the Emirates. Sure enough, the early goal came, smashed in by Clark after some fatal hesitation by Gael Clichy, and you thought, "here we go again". In fairness, the goal should have been disallowed- Carew stood offside, right in the line of Fabianski's vision, and the keeper may well have saved the piledriver had he not been unsighted. Still, the concession highlighted Arsenal's terminal inability to soak up a period of opposition pressure.
The Gunners, on this occasion, responded well. Only a few minutes later, Rosicky's slide rule pass released Chamakh who outpaced Dunne and slipped the ball under Friedel. Villa looked deflated all over again and there followed a period in which Arsenal should really have put things to bed, but fell into the old habit of overplaying around the box. And it looked like this profligacy was set to be punished when Villa pulled another back, Clark heading in via the bar after Arsenal predictably failed to clear a corner.
Nerves were jangling anew but strangely, Villa did not seem to gain a whole lot in momentum, and failed to make another clear-cut chance. The game was fizzling out a little so Arsenal decided to go chasing a goal in typically naive but entertaining fashion, and got it in stoppage time. Four forward, Denilson's blocked shot sat up for Chamakh, who unselfishly lobbed across the goalmouth, and Wilshere stooped to nod in his first Premiership goal for Arsenal.
Crisis averted? Until next time.