Arsene Wenger’s men jump back out to a one-point lead over Manchester City with the 2-1 victory at Villa Park.
Following are five things we learned about Arsenal against Aston Villa:
No Ramsey, no problem
Monday’s triumph marked the fourth straight league success for Arsenal without the reborn Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman has been the most important cog in the Gunners’ midfield machine this term – even outperforming Mesut Ozil – but the side have marched on victoriously without him. Both Ozil and Ramsey have missed time over the past month and Wenger’s men have continued firing – a welcome sign ahead of the title run-in.
Gnabry – still youthfully inconsistent
Serge Gnabry won wide-ranging plaudits for his display in the win over Tottenham Hotspur last time out – yet never hit top gear against a significantly weaker opponent in Villa. The 18-year-old didn’t look out of his element – not that he has in six Premier League appearances this season – though lacked the verve exuded in the defeat of Spurs. Consistency is something that will only come with time for the young German, and starting in two straight games is enough to confirm the high level of faith Wenger has in Gnabry.
Nobody is infallible
As clean as Arsenal have been this campaign, every player possesses the potential to make a costly mistake. The usually secure Santi Cazorla was the guilty party on Monday, losing possession in his own area to allow Matt Lowton to pick out Benteke in the penalty area. It is because of the possibility of a momentary lapse that the Gunners must be ruthless early – luckily for them they hit two before the break – because dropping points this way will see them quickly surpassed by City and Chelsea.
Wilshere may give Wenger a selection dilemma
The Englishman has been shuffled between Wenger’s attacking midfield trident and double pivot this term – and done well in both. With Ramsey on the treatment table Wilshere’s versatility has been key in the effort to compensate, providing a flexible option to step in anywhere in the centre of the park. However, when the Welshman returns – also considering that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain saw his first minutes since opening day against Villa – Wenger will need to decide what role he most fancies the 22-year-old in amidst rife competition for playing time.
Not cracking under pressure
Arsenal came into the tussle with Villa knowing anything less than a win would see their league lead evaporate – and got a result. It wasn’t the most pleasing of displays, nor the most comfortable in the final half hour – but the Gunners did the business with this knowledge weighing on their minds. In December two straight without a victory, against City and Chelsea, threatened to break Wenger’s men ahead of the back half of the term. Yet five wins on the bounce in all competitions sees them in sound mind and holding firm in the new year.