After a turbulent week, Arsenal saved themselves from further scrutiny and embarrassment with a 2-1 victory over struggling Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium.
It was three points gained for the Gunners but that hardly told the full story. Possibly shaken from the demoralising events of the last week, the Arsenal defence retained a familiar unsteadiness, and creativity at the other end of the pitch was stifled by Villa’s deep, rigid defensive setup.
In the end, it was Santi Cazorla’s double – the second of which came late on – that allowed Arsene Wenger’s side to escape with all three points. His first, a precise, curling effort in the ninth minute, settled the nerves of the home faithful in north London.
Andreas Weimann equalised for Paul Lambert’s side but Cazorla rescued the Gunners with a calm finish having latched onto a Nacho Monreal cross. And so Arsenal were left giving thanks that their pocket maestro from Spain stepped up when he was needed.
Cazorla is one of many players in the current Arsenal first team who have the propensity to explode in moments of brilliance in between long periods of inactivity. It is a great quality to have yet, at the same time, must be a frustrating one for his manager who would doubtless prefer a level of consistency from his side.
Arsene Wenger has seen a consistency of late- constant underperforming from almost all of his players, across three competitions. He has had to pay the price for those failures, facing questions from a baying crowd of blood thirsty journalists.
Arsenal’s showing against Villa was below par again, but Cazorla, probably Arsenal’s most technically gifted footballer, exhibited his individual talent, placing a cloak over the club’s deeply rooted issues.
That it was a solo show that saved Arsenal’s blushes says a lot. There has been a lack of team cohesion in recent weeks; a tendency to hope that the teams star players will step up to the plate and bail the team out.
That did not happen against Blackburn Rovers and Bayern Munich – it did against a struggling Villa. Better teams will exploit such a lack of resilience with ease should it continue to be one of Arsenal’s most recognisable attributes.
However, Cazorla’s two strikes made it three wins out of three in the Premier League for the Gunners this month and they remain well in the hunt for Champions League football next season. With Tottenham progressing in the Europa League, Arsenal may find that European failure could prove to be a blessing in disguise come the end of the campaign.
Until then though, Wenger’s side must stop relying on individual flashes of brilliance – whether they come from Theo Walcott or Santi Cazorla.
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