Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa: Easy Peasy

That was about as easy a game as you could hope for at this stage of the season, wasn't it?

In the absence of Darren Bent, I had figured pre-match that this would be a fairly comfortable win, but I was not anticipating that Aston Villa would not seriously threaten Wojceich Szczesny's net once at any point in the contest. Our boys did, to their credit, defend decently enough on the few occasions when it was required, but for the most part this was a training session that had three points associated with it.

The one downer though was the injury to Laurent Koscielny in the pre-match warmup. Hopefully it won't be long-term and it won't affect any games where he's needed. However, Johan Djourou did a fine job in his stead on the shortest possible notice.

Speaking of the Swiss man, the first significant action of the match saw him contest a header with shambling automaton Emile Heskey (yes, he's STILL in the league). Heskey carelessly left an elbow out, and ended up smashing Djourou in the face with it. It wasn't malicious and 99 times out of 100 it results in no damage either way. This time, Djourou was down for a few minutes but thankfully was able to shake it off and return to the game. With precious little defensive cover on the bench, it was a huge break for the home side to have Djourou pull through and play.

The Gunners held the ball nicely in the early going, but had only a half-chance from Robin van Persie to show for it. Villa were engaged in a rearguard action for the most part, but did fashion one chance on the counter after a horrible giveaway by Alex Song. Unfortunately for them, Marc Albrighton's shot is still being tracked by NORAD.

It's possible that the Villains may have played themselves into the match eventually had they stayed on level terms. It wasn't to be though, as the normally solid Shay Given conceded an awful goal to not only hand Arsenal the lead, but completely deflate the rest of his side as well. Kieran Gibbs brought the ball down the left-hand side and looked to be at an awful shooting angle. He decided to have a go anyway, and the result served as further proof of the truth behind the maxim of "shoot, you never know what'll happen". His low shot was decently-placed, but at that angle Given should save it all day. Instead, it hit the heel of his hand, dribbled under his body, and went over the line.

Trust me, that is the sort of goal that just destroys your self-belief.

Ten minutes later, Arsenal doubled their lead and effectively killed this off as a sporting competition. Villa were on their heels for virtually the entirety of that time, and had already been stretched once by a looping ball behind the backline by Song. This time, the Cameroonian destroyer did it again, his arcing pass connecting brilliantly on to the overlapping Theo Walcott. Walcott's first touch was immaculate, allowing him to settle the ball and slot it past Given at his near post.

Seriously, Villa were just playing out time at this point. If you had offered them the chance to just walk off the field with the 2-0 loss, I think they may have done it. I mean, I keep harping on how little fight they had, but then again when you hire the guy who relegated your cross-town rivals, you kind of get what you deserve, right?

Hell, it could have been 3-0 just two minutes later. The ball was worked out to Mikel Arteta, who had a pop from distance (this was the anti-Bad Old Arsenal performance, it has to be said). Given, somewhat making up for his horror-show on the first goal, did extremely well to vault upwards and tip it over the bar.

You know, in these kinds of games, our lot's real problem has been calling off the dogs a little too early. I'm happy to report that no such thing happened here, as the Gunners continued to press defensively and continually tried to put their opponents to the sword. Although van Persie looked a bit out of sorts and did not end up on the scoresheet, only a ridiculously lucky/great diving header by Stephen Warnock prevented the captain from netting after the Villa defense were all over the shop once again.

That brought us to halftime, and honestly, there isn't much to talk about in the second half. Arsenal wisely played within themselves a bit and didn't give Villa much opportunity to play off the counter. This time, all of our possession now had a purpose, that being bleeding minutes and seconds off the clock. The rejuvenated Tomas Rosicky had one attempt parried out by Given, but other than that there was a severe dearth of chances for both sides.

Arsene Wenger made changes far earlier than usual, which makes sense given the complete lack of threat from our opponents. The anonymous Gervinho was replaced with Aaron Ramsey, while Kieran Gibbs was withdrawn to give the returning Andre Santos some game action. After some more time passed, Theo Walcott was taken off for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. And thus, the procession went on.

It looked like 2-0 would be the final, but as Villa continued to endlessly foul our guys, eventually a chance would prevent itself to grab a third. As it turned out, Villa conceded a needless free kick on the edge of their area in injury time. Up stepped Arteta, who had taken one set piece earlier in the match that did not get past the wall. That was clearly a range-finder, as this time he absolutely thumped one over the defenders and past the despairing dive of Given.

Pick THAT one out.

Elsewhere, results continued to go Arsenal's way - Tottenham and Chelsea played out an insipid 1-1 draw, while Liverpool somehow contrived to lose 2-1 at home to Wigan Athletic. That leaves us three points ahead of our nearest and dearest, and a shocking 8 ahead of Chelsea.

It's not over...not by any means. But we are back from the brink and in pole position to finish in third provided the team does not have any further serious dips in form. After the way this season started and then that dreadful patch in the middle, I'll bite your hand off for third.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Gibbs 8 (Santos 6), Vermaelen 7, Djourou 7, Sagna 7, Gervinho 6 (Ramsey 7), Song 8, Arteta 7, Rosicky 7, Walcott 8 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 7), van Persie 7

Man of the Match: Djourou did well in tough circumstances, and all of our goal-scorers deserve mention. Still, my vote goes to the tenacious Alex Song, who once again combined his solid defense with some gorgeous passes - the best of the lot being the high ball over the Villa defense that Walcott ran on to for the second goal.