LONDON (AFP) - Santi Cazorla eased the pressure on under-fire Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger as the Spanish midfielder's double clinched a crucial 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.
Wenger had faced renewed calls for his resignation after last weekend's embarrassing FA Cup exit against second-tier Blackburn and the midweek Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich only added to the impression of a club spiralling out of control.
In the circumstances anything but a victory against struggling Villa would have given Wenger's critics more ammunition to attack the Frenchman, so there was a sense of relief all around the Emirates Stadium when Cazorla bagged the winner with five minutes remaining.
Until then Arsenal had laboured to kill off third bottom Villa, who recovered from Cazorla's first half opener to equalise through Andreas Weimann after the break.
Cazorla's efforts moved Arsenal within one point of fourth placed Tottenham, although their north London rivals can reopen a four-point advantage if they beat West Ham on Monday.