Premier League - Arsenal win at spirited Villa
Sat, 27 Nov 14:43:00 2010
Arsenal had to ride out a spirited second-half performance from Aston Villa before claiming a 4-2 win at Villa Park in the Premier League.
After enduring a week to forget with a derby defeat followed by a loss in Europe, Andrei Arshavin and Samir Nasri scored at the end of a first half they dominated, despite the absence of talismanic captain Cesc Fabregas.
Youngster Ciaran Clark scored a stunning goal - his first for the club - soon after the restart to pull a resurgent Villa back into the match, only for Marouane Chamakh to restore Arsenal's two-goal lead soon afterwards.
Clark then bagged another with 20 minutes remaining, but Jack Wilshere scored his first league goal for the Gunners in injury time to help Arsenal move top of the table for a few hours at least.
Ex-Arsenal winger Robert Pires made his full debut for Villa against his former club, but the 37-year-old's advancing years showed. The Frenchman made nigh on 300 appearances for the Gunners during the most glorious period of their history, and had trained with his old club before joining Villa on a short-term deal, but he could not exert the influence of old that helped the Londoners to the double and their unbeaten title-winning campaign of 2003-04.
Chamakh, one of seven changes to the Arsenal side following Wednesday's 2-0 defeat at Braga, almost opened the scoring in the first minute when he dinked Arshavin's pass over Brad Friedel, but defender James Collins was on the line to clear the ball.
Not long afterwards Tomas Rosicky flashed an effort across the face of goal, and the tone was set for a half of Arsenal dominance.
However, after that early flourish, the Gunners struggled to turn that hogging of the ball into many more clear chances.
Villa were reduced to going at the visitors on the counter-attack, but for the most part Pires provided an outlet bereft of pace.
Their first opportunity came midway through the first half, when Stewart Downing's cross from deep was flicked on by Clark to Ashley Young at the far post, but the England winger was beaten by the bounce and could only steer the ball over the bar.
Arshavin ended his 11-match run without a goal on 39 minutes. Collins and Luke Young got in each others' way as they both went for Lukasz Fabianski's long ball upfield, and the Russian had plenty of space to eat up before cutting inside and firing a strike that Friedel could only tip on to the far post and into the net.
Nasri fired into the side netting almost immediately from the restart, before Friedel made a good reaction save from Chamakh's header.
However, Nasri was not to be denied, and his volley from a corner took enough of a deflection off Luke Young to deceive Friedel and go into the bottom corner.
Pires was withdrawn for Nathan Delfouneso at half-time, and Villa emerged with renewed vigour. Clark gave the home side hope when Barry Bannan's cross was headed away by Sebastien Squillaci, but only as far as the 21-year-old, who was given enough space on the edge of the box to control with his chest and lash a stunning finish into the top corner.
Chamakh put Arsenal clear again soon afterwards when he beat Friedel to Rosicky's through ball and prodded it into the empty net for his 11th goal of the season.
However, Arsenal were far from home and dry, and Clark got his and Villa's second when he flicked Richard Dunne's header from a corner in off the underside of the bar.
The final 20 minutes promised much for the vociferous Holte End support, but in the end Arsenal's class shone through, and Wilshere sealed the result in the 93rd minute when he met Chamakh's chipped cross with a close-range diving header.
The spirit shown by Gerard Houllier's young side will encourage the French manager, but ultimately the result means Villa remain in the bottom half of the table.Tony Mabert / Eurosport