Arsenal got their revenge over Aston Villa, taking a 2-1 win back to North London in a victory that sees them leapfrog Chelsea and Manchester City.
Arsenal returned to the Premier League summit with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park on Monday, January 13.
With 64% of possession and 88% passing accuracy, the Gunners - unsurprisingly - enjoyed most of the ball, yet failed to truly excel like they have in parts throughout the season, however, considering the pressure they were under to reclaim top spot, a position they have held for much of the campaign, it represents a great victory with Jack Wilshere putting in the greatest performance of all who featured.
Many have touted Wilshere to wear the captain's armband in future Arsenal teams and it is displays such as his earlier this evening that underline his ability as a leader of men. Wilshere scored his club's first and provided the second while fulfilling yet another alternative position, in the '2' in a 4-2-3-1, next to Mathieu Flamini, rather than as the number ten, behind Olivier Giroud.
Out of Arsenal's two prominent summer purchases at the start of the season, Flamini had the better game than his team-mate Mesut Ozil. The German trequartista, while no doubt a technically-unctuous player to watch, has been criticised for his inconsistencies this season and his failure to consistently provide game-changing chances. Flamini, in contrast, has proven to be the ultimate 7/10 player - a true mark of consistency.
Arsenal, though, were forced to make 57 clearances in what is a testament to Aston Villa's late charge, with the catalyst being Christian Benteke's second half strike. While Wojciech Szczesny was required to pull out the saves and Per Mertesacker's bonce was needed to bounce lofted balls away from the box, the Gunners, collectively, preserved their one goal margin to claim maximum points.
Wojciech Szczesny - 7
Denied Leandro Bacuna just after the break, Ashley Westwood on the hour mark and was well-placed to get gloves to a tame Christian Benteke effort a minute before the game entered injury time.
Nacho Monreal - 7
Made a fantastic run and produced a pass of the highest quality to feed team-mate Jack Wilshere for the opening goal. Like Sagna, his overall positioning befitted a man with box-to-box responsibility.
Per Mertesacker - 7.5
Both he and his defensive partner in the centre were flawless in possession in the first half, neither gave the ball away - not even once. Got a crucial touch on the football to deny Christian Benteke a second goal in the 81st minute. After the 90, Mertesacker had completed every single one of his 42 passes and every one of his three tackles. He also made 13 clearances.
Like Per, Koscielny registered a 100% pass accuracy for the first 45 minutes. Made 16 clearances, three interceptions, completed three out of five headers and only mis-placed one pass - out of 40 attempts.
Bacary Sagna - 6.5
Provided a neat cross in the first half and firmly entrenched himself into the attacking end, rarely touching the ball in the defensive region - a testament to not only Arsenal's attacking desire, but their ability to actually pin Aston Villa back. However, question marks will be raised over where he was for the Aston Villa concession 15 minutes from the final whistle.
Mathieu Flamini - 8
Was Mesut Ozil been the inspirational Arsene Wenger or has it been Mathieu, acquired on a free and a master of break-up play and deputising for other players caught out of position? Won all three of the tackles he challenged for, cleared six balls, intercepted four times and completed 88% of his passes. Flamtastic.
Jack Wilshere - 9
Scored his fifth goal of the season by converting a fine Monreal assist then, not even 60 seconds later, played provider by setting up Olivier Giroud to double Arsenal's lead. Would block a shot on the edge of his own D then initiate a lung-busting run, begging a team-mate to feed him through as he attempted a counter-attack.
Santi Cazorla - 7.5
Laboured for his team in the first half, completing five recoveries as well as retaining possession well.
Mesut Ozil - 6
Created two chances within the first quarter of an hour but then disappeared from the match, overshadowed by the industriousness of Wilshere.
Serge Gnabry - 7
Has a composure on the ball that belies his teenage years and his tactical inside runs allowed Sagna space to cross in the first half. Terrific talent who is steadily progressing.
Olivier Giroud - 7.5
Made the most of his goal by finishing the move well after bungling the ball forward with the top of his shin/knee.
Substitutions: Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald