Arsenal 3-2 Villa
Arsenal responded well to the United setback against Aston Villa in the FA Cup.
In the first half, they played with a decent tempo but got suckered in typical fashion to first, a clever set piece, and second, a clever counter attack. With Arsenal having dominated but failed to open up Villa's defence, it seemed that Alex McLeish had got his tactics spot on. The now familiar chorus of jeers greeted the half time whistle. Arsenal's hopes of silverware this season looked dead.
Having played well and not created chances, however, the Gunners started the second period by ripping into their opponents and creating a flurry of them. Mertesacker had a glancing header cleared off the line. Ramsey found space in the box but shot straight at Given. Finally, Song released the Welshman with a perceptive pass, Richard Dunne blundered into a needless challenge, and Arsenal had a penalty. It really was one of the most stupid tackles you could hope to see. Ramsey's first touch had clearly taken the ball too close to Given, who was picking the ball up as Dunne flattened Ramsey. So probably not a denial of a goalscoring opportunity, but certainly worthy of a yellow card, which would have been Dunne's second. The referee inexplicably let him off.
Van Persie tucked the spot kick away and it was game on. Arsenal were flying and Villa clearly needed to weather the storm. In the face of the Gunners' onslaught, they instead went to pieces. Warnock slid into a pointless challenge on Walcott, allowing the heretofore wretched winger to waltz into the box. Without an obvious option to cut the ball back to, he tried to smuggle the ball past the keeper at the near post. Given saved but Alan Hutton's attempted clearance hit Walcott and flew into the net. No more than that hideous cunt Hutton deserved- he is more adept at kicking people than footballs. Walcott launched into a stupid celebration but even that disturbing sight was not enough to halt Arsenal's charge.
Koscielny embarked on a rampaging run from his own half up the left wing and into the Villa area, where a third stupid tackle of the second half resulted in Arsenal's second penalty. Darren Bent had done the right thing in chasing back, but with Cuellar ready to block Koscielny's run the striker attempted an ambitious slide that took man and ball, in that order.
Van Persie stepped up again. Went for the opposite corner this time. Again, Given went the wrong way. Barely fifteen minutes into the second half, Arsenal were in front.
The rest of the game played out without much incident. Arsenal's troph hopes remain alive. The best moments of the remainder of the game were the respective returns of Arteta and Sagna. Both will add solidity to a team that had recently reverted back to its shoddy former shape.