Football: Giroud the catalyst as Arsenal on target

Olivier Giroud converting a penalty for Arsenal's first goal in the 2-0 win yesterday. He has scored nine goals in as many away games for the Gunners.
Olivier Giroud converting a penalty for Arsenal's first goal in the 2-0 win yesterday. He has scored nine goals in as many away games for the Gunners. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Frenchman in devastating form for Gunners as Wenger extends dominance against Villa

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Aston Villa 0
Arsenal 2

Arsenal have had fewer better weeks in recent years. Olivier Giroud may have had none.

After their great escape in the Champions League came rather more routine progress in the Premier League yesterday. If most teams beat an increasingly sorry Aston Villa, the cumulative effect of the last nine days - when Arsenal's three victories have brought them eight goals and nine points in two different competitions - is to suggest they have recaptured the confidence that can propel them on to extended winning runs.

Giroud has contributed five of those goals. After his match-winning hat-trick over Olympiakos, his eighth-minute penalty was a ninth strike in as many away games.

He has effected a transformation from substitute to talisman and his 50th Premier League goal made this victory a landmark occasion.

The only Frenchman with Arsenal connections who could not savour it was in the home dugout. As the former Gunners midfielder Remi Garde lost to Arsene Wenger, master bettered apprentice.

GETTING IT RIGHT FOR BIG GAME

I believe that our approach was right - first half, we were completely in control. The second goal showed the way we want to play football, and when that comes off, it is good. Manchester City next week is a big game.

ARSENE WENGER

Wenger tends to defeat Villa managers. Arsenal have won their last four meetings by an aggregate score of 14-0. This was the narrowest of those defeats but that should not console Garde. Not when Villa were out of the game before half-time.

Their undoing began early. The ever-clumsy Alan Hutton grabbed Theo Walcott back and, while referee Kevin Friend initially did not give the spot kick, his assistants persuaded him otherwise. Giroud duly sent Brad Guzan the wrong way.

The second was a classic Arsenal goal. Ramsey had dispossessed Idrissa Gueye 80 metres from goal and displayed his power to surge forward. Walcott picked out Mesut Oezil and, rather than shooting, he squared the ball for Ramsey.

Villa's feebleness was summed up by the sight of a solitary defender left to deal with three attackers but, after a goal drought that dated back to August, Ramsey has struck in successive weeks.

Santi Cazorla's knee injury has brought an indirect benefit to Arsenal as the Welshman has returned to his preferred position in the centre of midfield. Oezil, meanwhile, has an extraordinary 11 assists in 10 league games.

Villa have no such potency. Rudy Gestede and Scott Sinclair could not convert headers. Leandro Bacuna came close with a curler but Villa lacked incision, just as they did not possess defensive solidity or, seemingly, sufficient belief. Garde could be forgiven for thinking he supped from a poisoned chalice by taking the job.

They have made the worst start in Premier League history, have equalled a 66-year-old club record of 15 league games without a win and are cut adrift at the foot of the table. Incremental improvement will not be enough. They need a dramatic change in their fortunes to survive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'GIROUD THE CATALYST AS ARSENAL ON TARGET'. Print Edition | Subscribe