Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 1

Last updated : 14 March 2007 By Footymad Previewer
Arsene Wenger may be disappointed with Arsenal's recent dismal Cup exploits but he has a trophy winning side waiting in the wings to challenge for fresh honours in the future.

The Gunners were visibly a class above a Villa side which has a record no better than last season as they struggle to make an impact. The outcome was hardly a surprise as Villa's last win over Arsenal was in December 1998.

As a result of their sixth league win in their last seven outings, Arsenal moved into third spot on the back of an early goal from Abou Diaby.

On this display Villa boss Martin O'Neill needs to have a radical rethink about the future as his side produced several promising spells but generally lacked a cutting edge against a Gunners side which made four enforced changes.

Arsenal's foreign legion produced some skilful football but made hard work of their latest task as their finishing did not match their approach work and they are obviously missing the injured Thierry Henry.

This was indicated on several occasions in the first half after they had taken a somewhat fortuitous lead in the tenth minute when a shot by Julio Baptista was deflected by Diaby leaving Thomas Sorensen completely wrong-footed.

Sorensen, however, excelled with a fine save to push away a shot on the run by Jeremie Aliadiere when a second goal would have effectively killed off Villa.

In front of a near capacity crowd Villa, playing their first home game in five-and-a-half weeks, strived to get back into the game and only a desperate tackle by Johan Djourou on John Carew prevented the Norwegian striker getting in a shot from the edge of the area.

Djourou received the first yellow card of the game for his transgression and was somewhat fortunate not have collected a straight red.

Weak finishing by Villa's expensive January signing, Ashley Young, again cost them dearly. Gareth Barry astutely dragged a low pass into the path of Young who shot meekly straight at Jens Lehmann.

Villa displayed much better form in the second half and only a goal-line clearance by Freddie Ljungberg in the 55th minute from Diaby's header prevented an own goal.

There was a lot of determination from Villa but their finishing power continues to be their Achilles heel as neither Carew nor Young posed any serious threat to Arsenal's defence as the Midlands club slipped to their first defeat in four home games.