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Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal: Instant Reaction

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Despite an incredibly unnecessary final fifteen minutes, Arsenal beat Aston Villa 2-1 to return back to the top of the Premier League.

Michael Regan

Arsenal beat Aston Villa 2-1 to return to the top of the Premier League. Aston Villa started with five defenders, and Arsenal held all of the possession--71% in the first half--but had to keep working the ball wide. Olivier Giroud should've scored with a header from Sagna's cross, before a lovely move involving Mesut Özil and Nacho Monreal saw the latter cut the ball back for Jack Wilshere, who slid the ball across Brad Guzan's goal. A minute later, it was 2-0, with Wilshere winning possession, then lofting a lovely ball to Olivier Giroud, who controlled and then fired across Guzan and into the corner.

Before that, Nathan Baker was forced off with concussion after Serge Gnabry's fierce shot struck him straight in the face, forcing Villa to rejig to a back four. Despite, or perhaps because of the comfortable lead, Arsenal became very sloppy in the first half's final moments, conceding possession cheaply. The theme continued in the second half, with Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil and Jack Wilshere all culpable. Arsenal's sloppiness finally caught up to them after 75 minutes. Santi Cazorla won the ball, but then gave it straight back to Matthew Lowton, whose deep cross was headed in by Christan Benteke at the far post.

Arsenal then spent the next fifteen minutes raising everyone's blood pressure by continually giving away possession and not doing very clever things, such as the midfield deciding to disappear defensively. Tomas Rosicky, a sub for Serge Gnabry, had to come off because of a bloody nose, and was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a decision that seemed to not please Lukas Podolski too well. Finally, Arsenal wasted time by going to the corner flag, and saw out the added 6 minutes of time to return to the top of the league.