Stand-in-captain Per Mertesacker shone brightest in Gunners' hard fought victory against Paul Lambert's strugglers
|MAN OF THE MATCH
Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal
Arsenal moved back to the top of the Premier League after a comfortable/difficult match at at Villa Park. Jack Wilshere proved a dependable outlet in the absence of Aaron Ramsey as he scored the first and created the second goal for Olivier Giroud. It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance for Arsenal between the first and second half of the match.
It is hard to pick out a Man of the Match when each team took turns to be dominant in the match. In a match like this, the defence is always the one facing the hardest test. They will have to rise to the occasion when the rest of the team doesn't function as well as they normally do.
Which is why stand-in captain, Per Mertesacker should get the plaudits for his performance at the back. The German is yet to taste defeat in 29 full 90 minutes partnership with Laurent Koscielny. Mertesacker keeps getting himself in good positions inside the penalty box to clear away crosses.
His immediate reaction after conceding the consolation goal to Villa was to berate Santi Cazorla. That's a sign of leadership, the spirit of not wanting to conceded even when it might have little impact on the final result. The kind of leadership that Arsenal once had with Tony Adams.
There were times in recent seasons where such a setback like conceding a goal would derail Arsenal. However this season has seen a change to that regards. The team is much more resolute and rarely look like imploding regardless of the situation. Much of that could be attributed to Mertesacker.