Arsène Wenger has hailed his defence after they stood firm in the face of sustained late Aston Villa pressure on Monday night.

The Gunners took a first-half lead through Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud, but were pegged back by a 76th-minute Christian Benteke goal.

I would say our centre backs, our defence, kept us through that difficult period and they did extremely well

Arsène Wenger

Despite a late push by the hosts, the Arsenal backline - led by Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny - held firm to secure a vital three points.

“I would say our centre backs, our defence, kept us through that difficult period and they did extremely well,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “I am very pleased with that, when we are under pressure we can respond.

“We had two halves I think. One about playing and the second half was about fighting, we were maybe too cautious in the second half, they didn't want the ball enough and wanted just to keep the score.

“And then we allowed [Villa] back in the game, they changed their way as well. They made it a very direct game, a very English game in the second half and the second half was more about fighting, solidarity and we had that in our team. That's why we got three big points.”

Wenger was pleased to see Giroud back on the scoresheet upon his return to the side after injury and illness.

“He needed a goal for him and I believe when you want to do well for the whole season, your centre forward needs to score goals,” he said.

“For the confidence it's good, for the team it's great and it shows as well that he is refreshed. He had problems to finish in the second half, at least in the first half he looked fresh.”

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