Attracted by the Villans’ strong start to the season, fans returned to Villa Park in their droves this afternoon. Even Randy Lerner was in attendance, for the first time in nearly two years, well aware that a win would take his club to the top of the Premier League table.
The chairman and fans alike were to be disappointed as a sizzling spell that saw three goals in four minutes burst the B6 bubble.
With Clark replacing the injured Baker and Sanchez coming in for Westwood, who was replaced after the warm-up due to a virus, the Villans took to the pitch.
Wenger made three changes to the side that was chastened in Dortmund last Tuesday, bringing in Cazorla, Chambers and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The home side started strongly, with Delph attempting to punish Szczesny for a poor clearance after two minutes and forcing the keeper to palm the ball around the post.
Vibrant and with victory on their minds, the Villans refused to allow the visitors to settle and created the better chances.
Hutton nodded the ball over after seventeen minutes.
Five minutes later, after Chambers received a yellow card for a tackle on Agbonlahor, Clark, left unmarked in the box, met Cleverley’s crisp delivery at the far post and was unlucky to be denied by Szczesny’s superb reflex save.
Having enjoyed much the better start to the game, the Villans crashed and burned just after the half hour mark. The heavily criticised Ozil was cool, calm and collected when put through on goal by Welbeck and slipped his shot past a flustered Guzan.
Just over a minute had passed before the visitors had their second goal of the afternoon. Scorer Ozil turned provider, sending in a low cross for an unmarked Welbeck to hammer home from close range to open his Arsenal account.
Things went from bad to worse for the Villans, who had only conceded one goal in their first four games of the season, when Cissokho diverted Gibbs’ wayward shot into his own net in the thirty-sixth minute.
Ozil then squandered a chance to bag his brace after forty-two minutes, sending his half volley wide.
The half-time whistle was undoubtedly welcomed by the stunned boys in claret and blue.
Grealish replaced Weimann for the start of the second half and was welcomed warmly by the Villa fans and a little less warmly by the Gunners.
Agbonlahor, the acting captain, looked to revitalise his team with a dangerous burst down the left but Ramsey was booked for a bad foul in his efforts to stop him twelve minutes after the restart, conceding a corner in the process. Clark, having been denied by Szczesny in the first half, had another chance to score but this time he was frustrated by Oxlade-Chamberlain, who blocked his left-footed shot.
Chambers was chastised by referee Mike Jones on the hour mark for a foul on Grealish while the Holte Enders called for more severe punishment for the defender, who had already been booked.
It was Agbonlahor who instigated another encouraging move as he played the ball out to Cissokho on the left. Unfortunately, a deflection meant that Cissokho’s shot landed in Szczesny’s arms.
N’Zogbia came on for Richardson after seventy-six minutes.
Clark made his way into Jones’ notebook after eighty-two minutes for a foul on Podolski.
Keane seemed desperate for his side to score and restore some pride, barking orders and hopping around the technical area.
Lambert’s final substitution saw Bacuna enter the fray to replace Sanchez, at least forty minutes too late.
In truth, the second half was utterly uneventful as the visitors sought to protect their lead and the hosts lacked the fight and firepower to claw their way back into the game.
Speaking after the game, Lambert lamented a virus that has swept through Bodymoor, saying:
“I don’t know what kind of virus it is but it has certainly been doing its rounds at the training ground so we will clear that place for a couple of days. To play Arsenal you need everyone fit and we never had that but all credit to them for the second half; the lads were running on empty.”
With another tough game ahead against Chelsea, let’s hope all the players are fighting fit by next Saturday.