Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1

Santi Cazorla struck in either half to ensure a third consecutive Premiership win for the Gunners, but Aston Villa will wonder how they didn’t manage to get anything from this game. Andreas Weimann had given Villa a leveller for 1-1 after 68 minutes, and the nerves that had haunted Arsene Wenger’s men in recent fixtures returned until Cazorla buried his second goal five minutes from time, and one that turned out to be the winner.

Stung by criticism by many for his inability to buy players to add to his side’s defensive deficiencies, it would seem that Wenger finally realises that the quality he thought was present in his defence has consistently proven to be anything but.

First however, we were treated to that rarest of sights at the Emirates stadium in recent games, an early Arsenal opener. Barely four minutes had elapsed before Jack Wilshere had found Brad Guzan, and not the back of the Villa net, but the intent was clear from the off. Two minutes later and Arsenal had taken the lead. Cazorla latched onto Wilshere’s pass and following up from his initial effort, Cazorla struck right footed for his tenth goal in his first season in the Premiership.

Then, those well documented nerves in the Arsenal ranks made another unwelcomed return. Weimann and Charles Nzogbia favoured attacking the right back position occupied by Carl Jenkinson, deputising in the absence of the injured Bacary Sagna. It was Nzogbia’s cross that Gabriel Agbonlahor almost steered past Wojciech Szczesny, but the Polish ‘keeper parried for the save after ten minutes. The same Villa combination almost drew their side level after 25 minutes, but again Szczesny produced a save with Per Mertersacker then clearing away from an exposed goal.

Theo Walcott has been quiet in recent matches, but his cross from the right was the best option to catch the Villa defence off guard. However the only Arsenal player advanced enough, Olivier Giroud was unable to make any contact.

Then another characteristic Arsenal move that was worthy of a goal. Giroud headed on Abou Diaby’s pass, with Wilshere hitting over the bar. Just shy of the half hour mark, Diaby played a neat one-two with Giroud with Walcott then curling the ball just wide of Guzan’s upright.

The game entered a phase, when you just knew that unless Arsenal were to double their advantage, Villa would always pose a threat. And so it proved, but not from the prolific Christian Benteke, but Weimann. The Austrian latched onto Nzogbia’s clever header during a counter attack. As the Arsenal defence backtracked, they backed off Weimann who was allowed to hit a low shot that Szczesny appeared to have covered, until the ball went over his attempted save and into his net.

Wenger was furious and had visions of another set back in this seemingly never ending series of set backs. Arsenal stormed forward with purpose and vigour, as Wilshere and Giroud saw chances go begging. Wenger brought on Lukas Podolski for Jenskinson, but the German was poorly placed as two gilt edged chances went begging. Giroud then seemed to have restored the Gunners’ lead, but Guzan saved superbly from the Frenchman’s powerful header.

With five minutes remaining on the clock, Cazorla struck the winner. Wilshere fed Nacho Monreal advancing from the left. The Spanish defender crossed for Cazorla to run on to, and then place his shot past Guzan for a goal that was celebrated more in relief than genuine expectation. Villa tried to penetrate a vulnerable Arsenal defence, but for once, the Gunners held on for a priceless three points.