Cazorla spares Szczesny's blushes

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Santi Cazorla opens the scoring for Arsenal against Aston VillaGettyImagesSanti Cazorla opens the scoring for Arsenal against Aston Villa

If Arsenal fans and Arsene Wenger were happy about their team's 2-1 win over Aston Villa at the Emirates on Saturday, there's little doubt Wojciech Szczesny was the most relieved man in the stadium at the final whistle.

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With the Gunners 1-0 up and looking for a second goal, a quick Villa break looked threatening but not massively dangerous. Andreas Weimann was allowed to run too far without a challenge, but his well-struck shot from 25 yards was pretty much straight at Szczesny -- one you would expect any goalkeeper at this level to deal with comfortably.

Instead, the Pole allowed it to fly past him (despite getting one hand on it), adding another shaky moment to his recent catalogue. It was poor, no question about it, made more so by the fact that he had a good, solid game until then, making some good saves in the first half in particular. Arsenal went from looking for a goal to make the game safe to seeking out a winner.

To be fair, the Gunners piled on the pressure, and on the balance of play, they certainly deserved it, even if they struggled to create real, clear-cut chances. Arsenal won 12 corners during the game, and apart from one that saw a good Olivier Giroud header hit a combination of Brad Guzan and the bar, they were as about as dangerous as kittens. It was noticeable that the visitors had no compunction in conceding corners when, with a bit more composure, they might have cleared further up field.

But in Santi Cazorla, Arsenal have a player who will not stop trying to do positive things. He can look a bit ineffectual at times, but he's an absolute dream of a player. His technical ability is fantastic (see his back-heel to Nacho Monreal in the first half to clear Villa danger), his control is outstanding, and he's always looking to create chances or have a go himself.

On Saturday, he had a pass completion rate of 90 percent, made 34 of 40 attempted passes in the final third, took six shots, beat his man in three of four take-ons, created four chances and scored twice. He has 11 goals this season and always looked like the man who could make the difference against Villa.

His first had a touch of good fortune, as an attempted pass rebounded to him before he sent it slithering into the net to put Arsenal ahead in the sixth minute. After Jack Wilshere's ball over the top found Monreal's run, Cazorla was there to tuck away the pull-back from his former Malaga teammate. It was no less than he deserved for the nature of his performance; he was a beacon of positivity on a team that still looked a bit shell-shocked after its two most recent defeats.

It means that Arsenal are now unbeaten for five Premier League games, equaling their best run of the season. With a crucial game against Spurs next weekend, it was vital they didn't slip up. While a sparkling performance would be preferable, it was always unlikely after losing to Bayern and Blackburn. With that in mind, the very least to be expected from the Gunners was that they would show some character and scrap out a win if that's what it took.

On that basis, and despite how late they left it, this can be put down as a good day for Wenger's men.

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