Cazorla double sinks Villa
Updated: Saturday, 23 Feb 2013 17:05
Arsenal maestro Santi Cazorla rescued Arsene Wenger from another disappointing result with a last-gasp winner against a valiant Aston Villa.
Cazorla opened the scoring in the sixth minute, but Villa came back strongly and equalised through Andreas Weimann after the break.
Arsenal threw everything at Paul Lambert's man, but they could not find a way past Brad Guzan until Cazorla found the net with five minutes remaining - saving his manager from another ear-bashing from the supporters who have started to doubt whether the Frenchman is the right man to lead the club forward.
Many had questioned whether Wenger had lost the plot this week with a bizarre press conference rant sandwiched in between two disappointing defeats to Blackburn and Bayern Munich.
Some of those doubters will not have been convinced by this performance.
Wenger's men were often sloppy in possession, they looked edgy at the back and their propensity to want to walk the ball in to the net caused a huge amount of frustration among the home crowd at a sparsely populated Emirates Stadium.
Whatever criticisms are aimed at Wenger - whether it be his match tactics or his transfer policy - there is no doubt that he does possess players who can turn the game with a bit of magic.
Cazorla is certainly of them.
The Spaniard, who now has 11 goals for the club, drifted in and out of the game, but he took his two strikes brilliantly.
The win puts pressure on Tottenham, who now have a one-point advantage over their rivals ahead of their game at West Ham on Monday.
Villa remain one point above the relegation zone, and on this evidence, they certainly have the players to stay up.
Watched by owner Stan Kroenke, making a rare visit to north London, Arsenal started well.
Jack Wilshere capitalised on a poor backpass and raced at goal, but the midfielder fired straight at Brad Guzan.
Cazorla then lifted the quiet atmosphere inside the Emirates with Arsenal's opener in the sixth minute.
Nathan Baker blocked Cazorla's initial shot after some good work by Wilshere, but the Spaniard made no mistake with his second effort, slotting past Guzan with a beautiful curling effort.
Urged on by an animated Lambert from the touchline, Villa looked to hit straight back.
Charles N'Zogbia raced down the right past Thomas Vermaelen and pulled the ball back for Gabriel Agbonlahor but Wojciech Szczesny saved.
N'Zogbia cantered down the flank moments later, but Agbonlahor was unable to keep up with him and he arrived just too late to tap the Frenchman's cross in.
Weimann was the next man to charge at the Gunners defence. He laid the ball off to N'Zogbia, but Szczesny parried well before Thomas Vermaelen hooked the ball clear.
Villa's attacks led to a nervous atmosphere inside the Emirates, but Theo Walcott brought them to the edge of their seats with a teasing curler that flew inches over Guzan's goal.
Villa continued to pour forward, however. Matt Lowton nutmegged Abou Diaby and entered the Arsenal box, but Vermaelen came to the rescue with a last-gasp tackle.
Lowton caught the Belgian in his follow-through and was booked for the foul. Diaby then entered the book for a clumsy challenge on N'Zogbia.
Arsenal's passing was often sloppy and the home fans became annoyed at the Gunners' attempts to pass the ball in to the net.
The hosts did produce an impressive move just before the break, though, with Cazorla finding Olivier Giroud, but Guzan was equal to the Frenchman's effort.
Arsenal started to dominate the game again after the break, but again, they were reluctant to shoot on goal, much to the annoyance of the home crowd.
With Arsenal throwing so many players forward, they were left vulnerable at the back.
Weimann went on another rampaging counter down the right and crossed for Agbonlahor, but the forward headed wide.
Wenger was forced into a change just after the hour when Diaby hobbled off with another injury. Aaron Ramsey came on in his place.
Villa then stunned the home side by equalising.
Carl Jenkinson failed to clear a long punt down field, the ball made its way to Weimann and he went on a blistering 40-yard run before beating Szczesny with a weak shot.
Wenger rose from his bench and cast a disappointed glare at his team.
His troubles nearly worsened soon after when Christian Benteke found space at the back post but Per Mertesacker got in front of the Belgian before he could head on goal.
Wenger gambled, throwing Lukas Podolski on for Jenkinson, and Arsenal pressured the visitors' box.
Guzan saved brilliantly to deny Giroud from point-blank range as Arsenal continued to pile forward.
They got their reward five minutes from time when Nacho Monreal swung the ball into the box and Cazorla converted, much to the relief of Wenger and the home fans.