Per Mertesacker says Arsenal’s victory at Aston Villa on Monday night sent out an important message to their rivals.

Arsène Wenger’s side had seen all of the teams around them win over the weekend, and knew a victory was essential if they were to return to top spot.

It was very important to respond and for the other teams to see that Arsenal is alive and that we can respond to anything

Per Mertesacker

Mertesacker was pleased with the professional nature of their performance as goals from Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud helped secure a 2-1 win.

“Nobody dropped any points so there was a bit of pressure,” the centre back said. “The team could feel that but we responded. I think everyone was expecting that we would drop points but we kept going.

“In the first half we did extremely well and put a lot of pressure on them. We took the lead by two goals and that was decisive.

“It was very important to respond and for the other teams to see that Arsenal is alive and that we can respond to anything. We just look at ourselves and think we are good enough to respond to any challenge they give us.

“It is really tight at the top. At the moment, there is no chance to drop any points. We have to show the other teams that when we feel the pressure we can respond. That is vital so I’m really happy with the fighting performance in the second half and how resilient we were.”

Mertesacker - who made his 100th appearance for the Club - insisted personal milestones are secondary to the team’s performance.

“We’re in a fine way and want to keep going. It is not too important that a single player got his century,” he said. “To play last is always difficult, but we kept Villa quiet, especially in the first half. In the second half we had a few difficult moments but overall I would say it was a good performance.”

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Rob Kelly 14 Jan 2014