Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:36 25/03/12 By John Cross
Arsene Wenger has already got his sights set on a bigger target than third place.
Wenger enjoyed a seventh straight win, which is title-winning form, and the Arsenal manager believes it proves the Gunners will be genuine contenders again next season.
Arsenal fell as low as 15th after losing at Tottenham at the start of October, and yet the remarkable revival at the Emirates has ensured the Frenchman is not ready to hand over north London supremacy just yet.
Wenger hopes to announce new £10million signing Lukas Podolski this week and there will be other major reinforcements, with the likes of Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen, Blackburn’s Junior Hoilett and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mario Gotze all on the hit list. If Arsenal can maintain their consistency a season, build on performances like this one against Villa and strengthen the squad, they could even compete with the two Manchester clubs for the title next season.
Although, of course, that aim would be made much harder if Robin van Persie leaves the club.
But manager Wenger refused to get carried away afterwards and said: “Let’s just see if we have the quality to maintain this consistency until the end of the season.
“That is not done yet, there are eight games to go and things can change. We are more experienced, I believe. Last season we were like that [makes downward gesture with hand] at the end of the season.
“We want to add some offensive strikers, because many times we rely too much on Van Persie, but if we can find world-class players, we will.
“There has always been good spirit but not always great confidence, because we play with our backs to the wall, and if you are containing the fight then your creativity goes a little bit. You need to play free, good football, but that is not always easy.
“But overall since October, since the team has gelled, we are not on too bad a run, we have lost four games, Man City and the three on the trot after Christmas.
“We have come through a very difficult period. We have learnt from that and must keep our feet on the ground and focus on the next game.”
Left-back Kieran Gibbs, who broke the deadlock with his first league goal for Arsenal, said: “We would have liked to have been like this the whole season, but obviously you suffer with injuries and a dip in form.
“But everyone seems hungry and our new signings are gelling – it looks fantastic for next season.
“In the past we would have lost some of these games, perhaps because of a lack of concentration. But we’re winning games now and have this belief that we’re not going to lose.”
Gibbs has been superb lately and he was rewarded with the opening goal, his 16th-minute shot beating Shay Given who will have been disappointed not to keep it out.
Theo Walcott’s second and brilliantly taken 25th-minute goal threw up a great quiz question. It was the first time since October 1997 that more than one English player has scored in the same game for Arsenal. Back then it was Ray Parlour, David Platt and Ian Wright on target in a 5-0 win over Barnsley.
Villa were terrible in the first half but put up a better fight after the break, even if they never looked like getting back into it.
Arsenal clinched the points on 90 minutes when Mikel Arteta (above) struck a stunning free-kick to beat Given from 25 yards.