Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2: Arsene Wenger delighted with victory that demonstrates Gunners are 'mentally ready' for title challenge
Arsenal held on to win despite a nervy final 10 minutes and Wenger has credited his defence for soaking up the Villa pressure
Tuesday 14 January 2014
Arsene Wenger felt his Arsenal side showed they were “mentally ready for a fight” after winning at Aston Villa to reclaim top spot in the Barclays Premier League.
The Gunners held off a late fightback from the home side at Villa Park to move back above Manchester City and Chelsea to the summit.
Two goals in the space of a minute from Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud put Arsenal in control but Villa rallied to make life uncomfortable with a late Christian Benteke reply.
Wenger said: "It was a big win for us. We had to give a strong response.
"Everyone looks at you to see if you drop points because they have made their points over the weekend.
"You are a bit more under pressure when you play last because you know you are not allowed to drop points.
"You can only give one answer - to win the game.
"Maybe we were a little bit too cautious just to keep the 2-0 and it was then about fighting. Our defenders kept us in the game.
"It was a difficult game for us but I like the fact we are mentally ready for a fight."
The downsides for Arsenal were injuries to Tomas Rosicky, who may have broken his nose after being caught in an aerial challenge with Gabriel Agbonlahor, and Nacho Monreal.
Monreal hurt his foot when tackled, fairly but firmly, by Villa captain Ron Vlaar.
Both will be assessed in due course.
Rosicky's departure at least allowed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to return to action for the first time since suffering a knee injury on the first day of the season.
Wilshere's performance was impressive, the England midfielder finishing in style to open the scoring and then setting up Giroud less than 60 seconds later.
Wenger said: "He is coming back to his best."
Villa lost defender Nathan Baker early on to a sickening-looking injury after being hit in the face by a Serge Gnabry shot.
He was carried off on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask after suffering mild concussion, but his condition was later reported as not serious.
Manager Paul Lambert said: "He is a little bit groggy but he is okay. He can't remember a thing about what happened."
Villa have won just one of their last seven league games but Lambert was impressed with his side's fightback.
He said: "That was more like it in the second half. I don't think if we'd got an equaliser anyone could have begrudged it."
Lambert was also pleased to see Benteke scoring again after a four-month drought. The Belgian had looked ineffective early on but looked a different player when charged with confidence.
Lambert, who refused to comment on rumours linking him with a loan move for Wigan's Grant Holt, said: "About this time last year he started to hit the goals. It is quite uncanny. It will certainly give him a big lift."
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