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Wenger: Arsenal ‘mentally ready’ for title fight after holding off Villa

Arsenal's Mathieu Flamini (right) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrate after the final whistle at Villa Park. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire Arsenal's Mathieu Flamini (right) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrate after the final whistle at Villa Park. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
7:31 AM

Arsene Wenger felt his Arsenal side showed they were primed for a title fight after winning at Aston Villa to reclaim top spot in the Premier League.

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The Gunners held off a late fightback from the home side at Villa Park to move back above Manchester City and Chelsea to the summit.

Two goals in the space of a minute from Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud put Arsenal in control but Villa rallied to make life uncomfortable with a late Christian Benteke reply.

Wenger said: “It was a big win for us. We had to give a strong response.

“Everyone looks at you to see if you drop points because they have made their points over the weekend.

“You are a bit more under pressure when you play last because you know you are not allowed to drop points.

“You can only give one answer - to win the game.

“Maybe we were a little bit too cautious just to keep the 2-0 and it was then about fighting. Our defenders kept us in the game.

“It was a difficult game for us but I like the fact we are mentally ready for a fight.”

The downsides for Arsenal were injuries to Tomas Rosicky, who may have broken his nose after being caught in an aerial challenge with Gabriel Agbonlahor, and Nacho Monreal.

Monreal hurt his foot when tackled, fairly but firmly, by Villa captain Ron Vlaar.

Both will be assessed in due course.

Rosicky’s departure at least allowed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to return to action for the first time since suffering a knee injury on the first day of the season against Villa.

Wilshere’s performance was impressive, the England midfielder finishing in style to open the scoring and then setting up Giroud less than 60 seconds later.

Wenger said: “He is coming back to his best.”

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