Arsenal battle on but Villa need to show patience with youth

Aston Villa 2 Arsenal 4

No rest for the wicked and none for the successful football team or even, sometimes, the struggling one. Arsenal, thanks to their involvement in the Champions League and Carling Cup, are on a run of seven midweek games in eight weeks, the only blank one being taken up with international friendlies; and that is just before the "holiday" period brings another five matches in a fortnight.

Aston Villa, currently less successful, are desperate for some recovery time for half-a-dozen missing players, yet in the first 11 days of December they face their two greatest rivals, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion, plus Gérard Houllier's old club Liverpool on his return to Anfield.

Of the two squads, Arsenal's is clearly the stronger, as reflected in Saturday's result and its influence on the league table. They went to the top for the short period between a deserved victory here and Dimitar Berbatov's shooting practice against Blackburn. Villa, meanwhile, dropped into the bottom six, as low as they have been since David O'Leary was sacked four years ago.

The relatively rewarding period under Martin O'Neill since then ended in August when he decided that the owner Randy Lerner's age of austerity was not for him, so Houllier and Villa's supporters are having to live with the new realities. For a neutral, it was good to hear a manager admitting of Saturday's game: "We were beaten by a team that were better than us. Simple as that." Committed fans require a maturity to accept such concessions, and patience with the youngsters forced to play more first-team games than is ideal in the absence of senior men like Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey.

Some of those supporters booed the team off at half-time following goals in quick succession from the excellent Andrei Arshavin and Samir Nasri. It was a legitimate criticism that Villa's approach had been unadventurous and to the crowd's satisfaction Houllier went on the offensive for the second half.

That involved replacing Robert Pires, the 37-year old former Arsenal hero, who achieved little in 45 minutes but had at least shown his commitment on a bitter day by turning out for his full debut in short sleeves and no gloves. Nathan Delfouneso, just over half Pires's age, came on to add some pace to the attack, but although Ciaran Clark scored the first senior goals of his career and should have had a memorable hat-trick, Arsenal found greater resilience than in the previous week's collapses against Tottenham and Braga, adding further goals themselves through Marouane Chamakh and Jack Wilshire.

"We didn't do enough in the first half," Clark said. "We didn't get tight enough but second half we squeezed up the pitch and got close to them." A 21-year-old England youth international, Clark has now declared for the Republic of Ireland. Although born in London, he joined Villa aged 11, and has been long enough in the Midlands to appreciate the significance of the forthcoming derbies. "We have to take the second half against Arsenal and put that into effect for the whole game at Birmingham," he added.

Arsène Wenger, meanwhile, is promising to put out "a strong team" for Arsenal's Carling Cup quarter-final tie at home to Wigan tomorrow in a competition which would appear to offer the club's best opportunity of a first trophy in six years.

Scorers: Aston Villa Clark 52, 70. Arsenal Arshavin 39, Nasri 45, Chamakh 56, Wilshere 90. Subs: Aston Villa Delfouneso (Pires, h-t), Ireland (Carew, 66), Herd (Bannan, 86). Unused Guzan (gk), Beye, Lichaj, Hogg.

Arsenal Gibbs (Nasri, 85), Denilson (Arshavin, 85), Djourou (Rosicky, 90). Unused Szczesny (gk), Walcott, Van Persie, Bendtner.

Booked: Aston Villa Clark. Arsenal Chamakh.

Man of the match Arshavin. Match rating 8/10.

Possession Aston Villa 45% Arsenal 55%.

Shots on target Aston Villa 3 Arsenal 6.

Referee M Clattenburg (Co Durham). Att 38,544.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent