Arsenal needed a win against Aston Villa at home to keep up the fight for the Premier League, and to go back above the Spuds and into fourth place, at least until Southampton play later. But the Gunners would have to do it without our star player, goal machine and talisman, with Alexis Sanchez suffering a hamstring problem.
But Arsene Wenger was happy to be able to give first starts in a while to Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott, and the England speed merchant almost rewarded his manager with a goal in the first few minutes as he raced onto a through ball from Ramsey – but Okore got back to make the tackle.
Arsenal were finding it easy to get through Villa though and the goal was not long in coming, Ozil finding Giroud with a sublime piece of skill, and the Frenchman finished in style after nearly losing the chance. We should have been further ahead soon after but overplayed a bit in the box. And then Ramsey shot narrowly wide from lots of space on the edge of the area.
Coquelin was having another solid and impressive game in the middle, making it very difficult for the visitors to get anything going. One of their few chances came with a corner but Ospina has great hands and caught the ball well, The keeper then started a counter attack which ended with Cazorla being unlucky to see his left foot strike come back off the post. A few minutes later we did have the ball in the net after some intricate passing between Cazorla and Ozil but the German was denied, incorrectly it seemed, by the offside flag.
The Gunners should have been out of sight but Villa were encouraged by still being just a goal behind and nearly broke through our defence about 10 minutes before halftime. Ozil was having a good day and nearly provided a second assist with a perfect pass to Ramsey but the Welshman’s fierce shot was saved by Guzan.
Then a frantic minute before the break saw Ospina make a point-blank save from Gil’s header, and Walcott denied a one on one with the keeper by a last ditch tackle. But Arsenal had been given a clear warning, and a free kick and corner to defend in extra time reinforced it.
We were a bit slow to get going after the restart though and Benteke should have done better when he shot wide from a good position. It was a worry because our slick passing had gone while Villa were having a lot more joy and time with the ball. However, a minute after missing a pass to set up a chance, Ozil got it right to calmly slot in our second with a big help from Giroud’s through ball.
That put a much better complexion on things and the smiles were firmly in place when Walcott showed his pace and finishing to make it 3-0 with half an hour to go. In the absence of Alexis and Welbeck, having all three forwards score is exactly what the boss would have wanted. Giroud scraped the bar with a header just before he and Walcott were replaced by Akpom and Rosicky.
Akpom got straight into the action and soon won a penalty that Cazorla converted, just, to make it four. Rambo got a rest for the last 15 minutes, with Flamini coming on. I thought it might have been a good time to give Gabriel his first game for Arsenal, but maybe Wenger was more concerned with keeping a clean sheet and keeping Ramsey fit and fresh.
Akpom, Ozil, Monreal or Cazorla could have added a fifth but it was Bellerin who did it in the end to complete a good day for the Gunners (and us Gooners!) and the perfect way to prepare for the Spuds next week.