Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture, our co-commentator and an Arsenal blogger will have their say on the game.
Arsenal took on Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday and our Talking Heads for this game were former Gunner Adrian Clarke and Sian Ranscombe, from A Girl Who Loves The Gunners.
ADRIAN CLARKE, STUDIO GUEST
Taking all three points was harder work for Arsenal than most of us imagined it would be when they took an early lead, but thankfully the Gunners stuck at it to grind out the win. I was impressed by Aston Villa’s counter-attacking play and some of their defending, but let’s face it, Arsenal dominated this match and fully warranted the victory.
The atmosphere was edgy, and the play wasn’t entirely fluid or cohesive, but points are more important than performances right now, and the players should take some confidence ahead of next Sunday’s north London derby from this hard-fought win.
The disappointments of the past week should be put to bed now. It’s down to Arsenal to move on from it quickly, and to reignite their season with a top performance, and most importantly a win against Aston Villa.
Earlier this season Paul Lambert’s side frustrated the Gunners with a very defensive display, and because Arsenal didn’t move the ball quickly enough they couldn’t break Aston Villa down. This time, on home turf, it’s vital that Arsène Wenger’s men pass and move with speed, and that we have lots of midfield runners piling into the box. Villa don’t have a great side this year, and I firmly believe that a bright, positive approach will reap its rewards.
Christian Benteke is a good centre forward, and will be the main threat to Arsenal’s chances . But if we play fast, attacking football I just can’t see Villa holding out this time. It should be a comfortable home win, and I’ll go for 3-0.
SIAN RANSCOMBE, A GIRL WHO LOVES THE GUNNERS
In spite of what I said before the game about Villa being well rested and the physically traumatic week we’d had, anything less than three points would have been a disappointment. It was an odd match, it felt as though it never really got going, and there was more than a hint of the handbrake about it at times.
Santi’s early goal was a great way to settle any nerves we may have felt (I certainly felt them), but it wasn’t until the second half that we began to threaten further. I can only imagine Szczesny’s hands had got cold through a lack of anything to do for most of the second half, while shot after shot was blocked at the other end.
One of Villa’s plus points was their speed on the break. It got them their equaliser, but it shouldn’t have happened at all. I read that we had 26 shots in total, and the frustration was felt from all angles before the little Spaniard finally got us our second. The ball from Jack Wilshere to Nacho Monreal was perfect, and Monreal’s low cross equally lovely. I was really impressed with our full backs - Carl Jenkinson and then Aaron Ramsey on the right, and Monreal down the left.
We’ll need to be a lot more clinical against Spurs if we’re to get a good result there, but in all this was a good end to a difficult week.
I’m almost too scared to try and guess what will happen this weekend against Aston Villa, because it’s been such a week of lows and even lowers. Our cup strife began with last weekend’s uninspiring display against Blackburn and continued at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday. While an out-and-out optimist (guilty) would say we’ve still got 90 minutes to play in the latter, it has still been an extremely difficult week for us.
The four points Villa took from their last two games saw Paul Lambert’s side climb back out of the relegation zone and while we’ve been off making headlines, Villa have been nicely rested. I know it’s easy to believe it’s all doom and gloom for us at the moment, but in the league our results have been good, with both Stoke at home and Sunderland away bringing six exceptionally well earned points.
Goals have been a little thin on the ground, so I’m hoping and praying we see a few Arsenal players on the scoresheet on Saturday (and in the correct net too - it’s important to specify at times like these). Seeing a performance with as much guts as we saw at the Stadium of Light would be equally welcome. All games are tough these days, and with the league as tight as it is, it’s so important we put the week that was behind us and look to start irritating the teams above us in the table. We’ve been doing that over the past few league games - we must continue to do so on Saturday.
* The views expressed in Talking Heads do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband Ltd