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West Ham United
24 March 2012
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: P. Dowd
• Attendance: 60108
K. Gibbs 16'
T. Walcott 25'
Aston Villa, meanwhile, remain 15th but are now only eight points from safety after Wigan's remarkable 2-1 win against Liverpool at Anfield. Alex McLeish will be looking over his shoulder.
Arsenal seal their seventh straight Premier League win and are now three points clear of fourth-placed Tottenham and eight clear of fifth-placed Chelsea.
90' + 5'
And that's full time!
90' + 3'
Goal Mikel Arteta
GOAL!! WOW!! Arteta has just scored, for my money, the best freekick of the season as he arrows the ball 25 yards into the top corner. Given had no chance. A thunderbolt. 3-0 Arsenal.
90' + 3'
That was a wonderous striker by Arteta. Make seeing a replay of that goal as your No.1 priority.
90' + 2'
Yellow Card Eric Lichaj
90' + 1'
There will be four minutes of stoppage time.
Yellow Card James Collins
Despite the lackadaisical effort from the rest of the Arsenal team, Van Persie is determined to grab his, almost obligatory, goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain stands up a delightful cross from the byline only to see the Dutchman head over from five yards out.
Vermaelen is down with some cramp as the Arsenal fans give him a ripple of applause. However the attendance is rapidly decreasing inside the Emirates now as both sets of fans have seen enough, but leave with completely different emotions.
Arsenal seem to have decided to stroll through the rest of this game now as Sagna sees space down the right but instead of bursting forward into space he cuts back and finds Vermaelen on the halfway line.
Oxlade-Chamberlain absolutely storms up the right wing, but Ireland is level with him stride-for-stride and nick in a great challenge as the youngster is about to pull the trigger inside the area. The most last ditch of last-ditch challenges.
Gardner flicks it in but Vermaelen heads clear, and Arsenal are on the break...
As we enter the final 10 minutes of the game, there is half a chance for Villa to grab a consolation as Ireland is hauled down by Djourou. It's a long way out though. A good 30 yards...
It only takes him two minutes to liven the crowd at the Emirates as Oxlade-Chamberlain skips between two Villa challenges to find space inside the area. Just one problem them, he's left the ball behind.
Here are some more words from our man at the ground Andrew Kennedy: ""Theo, Theo" rings around the Emirates as the wideman is replaced by fellow former Southampton man Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A cracking display from Walcott this afternoon, who has really kicked on since the 18-year-old's arrival."
CLOSE!! Second-half substitute Ramsey swivels well on the edge of the area to send a low shot towards Given's goal but sees it whistle the wrong side of the post. Good effort.
Up the other end, Arsenal win a freekick around 20 yards out near the touchline. Van Persie swings it in, aiming for Given's near post, but the goalkeeper gets fingertips on it to divert it over his own bar. No corner is given though.
Uh oh, I say that and he immediately, nearly, proves me wrong as he gets the better of another newly-introducted player Andre Santos to scurry into the area. Unfortunately he competely scuffes his shot and it ends up closer to the corner flag than the goal.
Yellow Card Stephen Ireland
As you will have noticed below, Heskey has been replaced, after a very poor display, by the scorer of last weekend's 90th minute winner Andreas Weimann. It doesn't look like he will be making the same valuable impact this time around though.
As was I, Agmohd008, as was I. After a relatively promising opening 10 minutes, they have faded and faded.
@Agmohd008 has got in touch on Twitter. He's said that he "was expecting a tougher challenge from Villa".
And as you might guess, the Villa corner comes to nothing.
Villa win a freekick near the halfway line. They play it short to Gardner who looks up and has a pop from 35 yards. It's got some swerve on it and flicks off Arteta's back to go out for a corner...
Super effort from distance by Rosicky a he wriggles past Gardner to sting the hands of Given from 25 yards.
The corner comes in but it's not bothering anybody. Poor delivery from Petrov. Warnock comes back on.
But hold on, Warnock remains down after that collision with Walcott. Replays show there wasn't much in it but the defender looks a tad dazzed. He's hobbled off for treatment.
Two great chances for Arsenal as first Walcott gets on the end of Gibbs chipped centre, only for Warnock to do enough to put him off, before Arteta smashes a goal-bound volley into the back of Cuellar. Corner it is...
A bit of pressure from Villa finally as they swap flanks and get Agbonlahor free down the right. He twists past Gervinho and sends a great ball into the six yard box towards Hesky. Vermaelen heads clear only for Ireland to send another in. This time Szczesny gratefully nabs the ball mid-air.
Villa manage to get out of their half for, what seems like, the first time this half as Petrov sends a long ball forward for Ireland to run onto but he's called offside almost immediately.
Arteta steps up and smashes the ball directly at Gardner. What an introduction to the game!
A first contribution from youngster Gardner as he is caught on the wrong side of Rosicky and gives away a freekick 20 yards out from his own goal.
Yellow Card Stephen Warnock
Villa win a corner off Djourou and, like the 167 they've had previously this season, they fail to make any impact from the delivery.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is seen warming up on the sidelines. Gervinho is slightly limping, so we could see his introduction soon.
One player who isn't hanging about is Gervinho as he clatters into the back of Hutton to concede a freekick. No card from the referee which, you could say, was lenient.
Arsenal start as they did in the first half with patienty play. Walcott is set free down the right, but Arteta's through ball is too long.
...and we are back underway as Aston Villa kick us off.
Right then, we are just about to get underway in the second half.
Theo Walcott doubled his side's lead after 25 minutes and Arsenal only grew into the game afterwards. They barely broke a sweat for the opening stages but were playing at a canter from the whistle.
So Kieran Gibbs scores his first Arsenal goal and, in doing so, mean Arsenal register three different English goalscorers in a Premier League season for 10 years. That is a GREAT stat.
45' + 4'
And that's it the first 45 minutes. Arsenal lead Aston Villa 2-0 at the break.
45' + 3'
One last attack for Arsenal as Van Persie and Walcott swap possession down the right. It's a tepid move as they try not to make any risks before the end of the half and soon fizzles out.
45' + 2'
Gervinho is down, clutching the back of his left knee after a collision with Ireland. The physio whips out his magic sponge and the Ivorian is back on his feet.
Just about to enter added time at the end of the first half. There will be three minutes after Djourou's treatment right at the start.
Villa are not getting any luck on the ball. As soon as they find themselves in possession, they are immediately crowded out two or three Arsenal players.
Arsenal win their 10th corner of the first half but again can't threaten via the delivery. They are playing this game at a canter.
Write negative reviews of Van Persie at your peril. He has stepped up two or three gears since!
OFF THE LINE!! And yes, it's Van Persie again! Song shows quick feet to skip past a couple of Villa challenges to find the striker a yard or so inside the area. With Given approaching and off balance Van Persie shows even quicker feet to drag the ball back past the goalkeeper and clip the ball towards the open net only for Warnock to head clear.
That's why I hesitated in playing down Van Persie's contribution so far. He nearly grabbed Arsenal's third there.
More patient passing from the home side and again it nearly reaps rewards as Song spots Van Persie inside the area and lofts a ball towards the striker. It's a great spot and delivery but the Dutchman gets a head on the ball by it's slightly too close to Given.
I hesitate to say this but Van Persie hasn't got going so far in the match. He just tried to squirm past Hutton into the Villa area but the right-back dispossed him with ease.
However, Villa are enjoying some possession at the moment as they play it around in midfield. They arn't making any yards with the ball though.
Interesting little stat for you lot: No opposition team has gained more points than Aston Villa at the Emirates. Eight points they have won here since Arsenal made the switch. I think none of us can see them adding to that tally today.
Urgh, Villa are really making this easy for Arsenal.
CLOSE!! Super, super effort from Arteta as Sagna nicks the ball off the Villa defence just 20 yards from their own goal, quickly finds the midfielder in space and a first-time effort is tipped over the bar by Given.
Arsenal are barely out of second gear and they are two to the good. I praised Villa previously, and they haven't been terrible, but individual mistakes have undercut any good work they managed previously.
Assist Alex Song
Goal Theo Walcott
GOAL!! 2-0 Arsenal!! Cuellar makes a hash of a clearance that Song pounces on and sends the ball directly where the defender should be positioned to find a free Walcott to slot past Given from 12 yards out.
But, luckily for the ex-Tottenham defender, the corner comes to nothing.
Dear me, some really nervous defending from Hutton as instead of opting to head Walcott's cross into the area clear, he hoofs it inches past his own post for a corner.
Villa win their 166th corner of the Premier League season, but their record of failing to score from any of them continues as Petrov's delivery only finds the head of an Arsenal man.
An absolutely superb pass from deep by Vermaelen finds Walcott darting into the area, only for Collins to smash the ball out for a corner. That was a good 60 or 70 yards that pass. Pinpoint.
Despite finding themselves 1-0, Villa haven't had a bad start to the game. Plenty of enterprise.
Goal Kieran Gibbs
GOAL!! 1-0 ARSENAL!! And that measured passing appears to have paid immediate divends as Gervinho takes his time to find Gibbs inside the area. The left-back takes a touch to take the ball away from Hutton and Cuellar and slot past Given in the Villa goal.
Yellow Card Stilian Petrov
More measured passing from Arsenal now as they try to push Villa back towards their own goal.
...and here is another of those breaks from Villa as Agbonlahor again storms forward after slack passing within the Arsenal midfield but again he chooses the wrong option (or rather no option) as he goes alone with an effort instead of picking a pass.
As I'm sure you can imagine, it is all Arsenal but Villa remain a threat on the counter.
Super, super movement by Arsenal once more as Sagna and Walcott combine flicks and passes down the right to enter the area, however it gets a little bit too intricate as Djourou gets a boot in to send the ball closer to the corner flag than Shay Given's goal.
...the corner is poor and Villa pounce on the counter through Agnonlahor and suddenly it's three-on-three as the striker approaches the Arsenal penalty area. However, he ignores his screaming team-mates and has a pop himself, which flies a few yards over.
Nice movement between Gibbs and Van Persie advance Arsenal into the Aston Villa penalty area, but Warnock clears for a corner...
After receiving treatment from the physios, it appears Djourou is going to be OK. He's just changing his blood splattered shirt.
Uh oh, Djourou is holding his face after receiving an elbow to the face by Heskey. More defensive trouble for Arsenal?
Arsenal start by knocking it around the park, letting every player get a touch. A win today would give them seven straight wins in the Premier League for the first time since 2007.
And Arsenal get us underway!!
More from Mr Kennedy: "Tottenham's 0-0 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge has seen Spurs temporarily pull level with Arsenal on 55 points, meaning Arsene Wenger's side not only have the chance to pull three points clear of their north London rivals with victory over Aston Villa, but also to put a gap of eight points between themselves and Roberto di Matteo's side who sit in fifth.
Just two minutes away from kick-off now. The teams are making their way onto the pitch.
Here is a little more context for today's game directly from our man at the Emirates, Andrew Kennedy: "Tottenham's 0-0 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge has seen Spurs temporarily pull level with Arsenal on 55 points, meaning Arsene Wenger's side not only have the chance to pull three points clear of their north London rivals with victory over Aston Villa, but also to put a gap of eight points between themselves and Roberto di Matteo's side who sit in fifth."
Ten minutes until kick-off. Predictions people? I've gone for 3-1 to Arsenal, but you'll already know that because you read my preview right? Of course you did (it's available on the relevant tab above).
Aston Villa are forced into one change as Charles N'Zogbia sustained an injury during training so Emile Heskey comes in to lead the line with Gabriel Agbonlahor likely to swap between winger and striker roles.
So, with that, Arsenal make two changes to the side who beat Everton 1-0 in midweek. In addition to that late news below, Gervinho comes in for Aaron Ramsey, who drops to the bench.
LAST MINUTE CHANGE FOR ARSENAL: It appears there has been a late, late change for Arsenal. Laurent Koscielny has had to pull out due to a knee injury so Johan Djourou takes his place in defence. Carl Jenkinson fills in on the bench.
Aston Villa: Given; Hutton, Cuellar, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Petrov, Herd, Ireland; Heskey, Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, Bannan, Gardner, Weimann, Lichaj, Baker, Carruthers.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Song, Arteta, Rosicky; Gervinho, Walcott, Van Persie. Subs: Fabianski, Santos, Djourou, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Benayoun, Chamakh.
Before we get into some lovely pre-match ramble, here are those line-ups. Arsenal up first:
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Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE coverage of the Premier League clash between Arsenal and Aston Villa.
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