Top Gunner Wenger sings Arsenal's praises after Villa win
Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal
After deposing Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, Arsène Wenger looked forward to the visit of the Gulf billionaires a week today bolstered by a second victory in four days.
Wenger admitted a few anxious moments after a 4,000-mile round trip to Athens but a 50th career goal for Arsenal by Wednesday's hat-trick hero against Olympiakos, Olivier Giroud, and a beauty from Aaron Ramsey eased any concerns.
Aston Villa went from poor to marginally better in the second half but have still to win for new manager Rémi Garde, who admitted yesterday that all he wants for Christmas is three points from somewhere.
The man who signed Garde for Arsenal, Wenger, believes Villa can survive despite being eight points adrift of safety, but there was none of that generosity on the pitch.
"It has been a great week for us, but don't worry, we've had some bad ones too, so this balances it," Wenger said.
Naturally his goalscorers featured highly in his commendations.
Giroud, the seventh player to score 50 goals for Arsenal, gave him particular pleasure.
"He is at the top of his game," said Wenger. He is questioned sometimes but finally the numbers get people to realise he is a good player.
"I think he has improved technically, his link play is better and he is an interesting option too for a long ball. He does not have electric pace. He is more a player who likes to bring others in, so not spectacular in his runs with the ball.
"But he is a very important player for the team and mentally very strong."
The penalty Giroud scored after eight minutes was proof of that, slipped neatly into the bottom corner. Ramsey added the second goal after a brilliant move seven minutes before the break.
"Ramsey was outstanding today," Wenger said. "He is naturally more a central midfielder. I pushed him out wide but sometimes when you do that, with the shorter technique required when they come back into the centre they are improved."
Garde admits confidence is a big issue with his Villa players. "Some players need it," he said. "This is my mission. When you work hard you get rewarded. We have had difficult games, difficult half-times, but I see good reactions, which is why I think we can win the next game.
"We are coming into a period of games [Newcastle, Norwich, Sunderland] over the next two or three weeks which are must-wins for us. I see that as an opportunity, not a problem.
"We have to be ready to fight to win games. They will probably define our season. We will have to win if we want to be safe.
"But every manager has to win games. I have to find the best solution and I'm ready for that. I haven't won a game yet.
"It's frustrating, but I know with work you can change things."