MX23RW : Monday, December 17 15:14:30

Match Analysis: Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Arsenal's 2-0 victory over struggling Aston Villa, a result that took the Gunners top of the Premier League table.

Aston Villa's club-record winless streak stretched to 15 league games this afternoon as they were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal at Villa Park.

The Gunners were ahead inside eight minutes when Olivier Giroud sent Brad Guzan the wrong way from the spot after Alan Hutton had fouled Theo Walcott in the penalty area.

A second arrived seven minutes before half time when Aaron Ramsey put the finishing touches to a quick counter-attack to seal the points that take Arsenal to the top of the Premier League table.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at whether the visitors deserved to come away with maximum points from the Midlands.

Match statistics

ASTON VILLA
Shots: 18
On target: 2
Possession: 46%
Corners: 5
Fouls: 8

ARSENAL
Shots: 8
On target: 4
Possession: 54%
Corners: 5
Fouls: 7

Was the result fair?

Absolutely. The stats may be more even than many were expecting before the match, with the shot count actually heavily tipped in Villa's favour, but as soon as Hutton hauled Walcott to the ground there was only ever going to be one winner here. Villa had made a bright start to proceedings before the penalty, but Giroud's spot kick saw the Gunners take command of the match and they were in cruise control from then on. Ramsey's second had an air of inevitability about it, and there was no way that Villa were going to come back from a two-goal deficit.

Having said that, the hosts certainly improved in the second half. They were booed off the pitch at the half-time whistle following a lacklustre display in the opening 45 minutes, but came out swinging after the interval and had Arsenal on the ropes at times. Rudy Gestede and Scott Sinclair missed Villa's two best chances, but there was still the sense that Arsenal could go up a few gears if required. They never really got out of second throughout.

Eighteen shots certainly suggests that Villa gave it a go, but many of those were from outside the area and Petr Cech was never truly troubled as he picked up his record-equalling 169th Premier League clean sheet. Arsenal did not exactly cut Villa open at will either, but there was always the sense that they had the quality to hurt Villa, while the opposite was not true. A Villa goal in that second half would have made things interesting, but in the end it was all rather comfortable for the Gunners.

Aston Villa's performance

Things look increasingly bleak for Villa. In the club's 127-year history, they have never suffered through a spell like this. It is now 15 league games without a win and nine at home - both unwanted club records - and it leaves them stranded at the bottom of the table, still eight points from safety. On the basis of today's performance - and indeed their displays for the majority of the season so far - that doesn't look like changing anytime soon.

The first half would have been particularly tough to take for the fans, and they were well within their rights to voice their displeasure when the referee brought the opening 45 minutes to a close. There was a distinct lack of desire and fighting spirit, which was summed up by the lackadaisical nature of their defending for the second goal. Whatever Remi Garde said at half time must have worked, though, as Villa looked like a different team after the break. They showed more heart and hunger, but lacked the quality to take advantage of their improvement.

Ultimately, games against Arsenal are not going to determine whether Villa stay in the division this season. Not many people were expecting anything from this game, and the fact that there are any positives to take at all will surprise some. However, Villa face a critical festive period now, with fellow strugglers Newcastle United, Norwich City and Sunderland to come in three of their next four games. Failure to get a good points haul from those could see their survival hopes effectively ended.

Arsenal's performance

Following the midweek Champions League heroics and Manchester United dropping unexpected points yesterday, Arsenal would have come into this match in buoyant mood knowing that victory would take them to the top of the Premier League until Monday night at least. They made a quick start to the match with a goal inside the opening 10 minutes, and that allowed them to coast through the vast majority of the contest. It really was very comfortable night for the visitors, which is just what they would have wanted having named exactly the same starting XI and bench as the one that beat Olympiacos on Wednesday.

Villa did make a relatively bright start to the match before Giroud's penalty, but Arsenal dominated the first half from that point on. They were afforded as much time on the ball as they wanted and, while it wasn't the most free-flowing display that they will produce this season, they were never forced to get out of second gear. Ramsey's goal, which came at the end of the sort of counter-attack that became a feature of the game, effectively killed it off as a contest.

They were forced to weather a bit of a storm in the opening 15-20 minutes of the second half, and had Villa made the most of some decent attacking platforms and chances then they could have made life uncomfortable for Arsenal, but Cech wasn't really tested throughout and the hosts were largely limited to speculative long-range efforts. This game didn't really teach us anything that we didn't know already about Arsenal's title ambitions, but it is another three points on the board that puts the pressure on their rivals.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Aaron Ramsey: Mesut Ozil deserves an honourable mention for another classy display, but the best player on the park today was Ramsey. The Welshman broke up numerous Villa attacks and always seemed able to launch one for his side too, the best example of which came with his goal when he started and finished the flowing team move.

Biggest gaffe

This one goes to Hutton for his foul on Walcott to give away the penalty, which took all of the momentum out of Villa's bright start to the match. However, the entire Villa defence, and midfield for that matter, also deserve a mention for the pedestrian style with which they tried to defend the second goal.

Referee performance

The big call for Kevin Friend today came early on with the penalty, and ultimately he made the correct decision. It was the manner in which he gave it that drew confusion, though. The referee initially looked like he had turned the appeal down and was backtracking as if to get up to play when Guzan cleared the ball upfield, only to seemingly change his mind and point to the spot. The delayed decision angered the home fans, who were vociferous in their criticism of Friend for the rest of the game.

What next?

Aston Villa: Next up for Villa is a crunch match with Newcastle at St James' Park in their final game before Christmas.

Arsenal: Arsenal, meanwhile, host title rivals Manchester City in a huge Monday night game on December 21.

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French former star player Thierry Henry hold the name of Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo who won the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or award on January 12, 2015
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool1714303773045
2Manchester CityMan City17142148103844
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs17130431161539
4Chelsea17114235142137
5Arsenal17104337231434
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd177552929026
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves177461919025
8Everton176652422224
9West Ham UnitedWest Ham177372525024
10Watford177372325-224
11Bournemouth177282528-323
12Leicester CityLeicester176472121022
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton176382024-421
14Newcastle UnitedNewcastle174491422-816
15Crystal Palace1743101423-915
16Cardiff CityCardiff1742111733-1614
17Southampton172691632-1612
18Burnley1733111533-1812
19Huddersfield TownHuddersfield1724111028-1810
20Fulham1723121642-269

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