Against a poor Aston Villa side, who showed neither ambiton nor the desire to get something out of the game, Arsenal barely needed to get out of second gear as they ambushed the visitors 3-0 at the Emirates.
It was a walk in the park.
With Tottenham and Chelsea playing out a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, the Gunners’ seventh win in a row for the first time since October 2007-meant that they now hold a three point lead over their North London rivals Spurs in the race for third spot.
A perfect day did not start on a perfect note for the home side as centre back Laurent Koscielny injured his tendinitis in the warmup. Johan Djourou was drafted in as the replacement and he himself did not enjoy the best of starts as Emile Heskey clattered his elbow into the Swiss defender in the first minute of the game.
But Arsenal quickly got into their stride and were knocking around the ball with trademark nonchalance.In the 8th minute, Walcott and Sagna played a lovely one-two on the right wing, which set the latter free.His cross was laid off by Van Persie into the path of Walcott, whose powerful shot was saved by Shay Given. The rebound fell at the feet of Sagna who scuffed his shot high and wide.
Arsenal’s dominance finally reflected on the scoreboard, when some smart play by Gervinho on the left wing set up Kieran Gibbs whose shot on target was fumbled by Given to give the homeside a deserved lead. It was also a deserving reward for the England fullback, whose presence has added stability to the Arsenal back four and whose attacking forays down the left have given Arsenal another dimension.
More importantly, he seems to have overcome his fitness problems. Arsenal doubled their lead in the 24th minute,when Carlos Cuellar gave away possession in his own half. Alex Song duly obliged, delivering a sumptuous cross field ball to Walcott. His excellent first touch enabled him to get into a perfect goalscoring position and he did not disappoint.
The goal was once again made possible because of a sheer moment of class by Alex Song, who has an impressive 9 assists to his name- not too bad for a defensive midfielder. Walcott too seems to have upped his game in the last couple of games.
Arsenal continued to dominate the proceedings as they kept Villa pegged in their own half. Rosicky, Arteta went close and were denied by Given. Van Persie nearly got his customary goal after some neat interplay with Song and his goalbound shot was acrobatically cleared by Warnock. 2-0 it was at half time, and a scoreline reflective of the homeside’s dominance.
Probably drained by their exertions at Everton in the mid-week, Arsenal slowed the tempo down in the second half. There was a lack of incisiveness, though they had the majority of the ball. Ramsey, Santos and Oxlade-Chamaberlian replaced Gervinho, Gibbs and Walcott respectively as Arsene Wenger decided to give a run out to those coming back from injury.
Villa were so inept that they failed to capitalise on the release of pressure, as some of their counterattacks were easily smothered by the Arsenal defence and Sczezny was a mute spectator throughout the game.
Arsenal put the final nail in the coffin as a ferocious freekick by Mikel Arteta in the 90th minute gave them an insurmountable 3-0 lead. It was a thunderous shot by the Spaniard, which was gathering pace as it sped towards the goal and gave Shay Given no chance whatsoever to stop it. What was interesting was that the ball had no rotations as it was hit.
It was due reward for the Spaniard for another neat and efficient performance in the midfield. Infact, his ability from set piece situations was one of his key features during his time at Everton and he showed some of that ability yesterday.
For the Arsenal faithful, it was surely a throwback to the good old days of dominance against inferior sides. The players couldn’t have hoped for an easier game after a strenous game on Wednesday against Everton. They were barely made to sweat by a Villa side, who clearly have regressed under Alex McLeish.
In contrast, with seven wins on the bounce the home side must surely be at their confident best. After a horrendous start to the season and an equally painful slump in cup competitions in February, massive credit must be given to Arsene Wenger and his boys for turning around the season. They now have the third spot in their grasp and must be confident of getting another three points away at QPR next week.