Wed, Jan 15, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Arsenal beat Villa to go top, but pay steep price

AFP, BIRMINGHAM, England

Arsene Wenger is sweating on the fitness of two of his Arsenal stars after his side climbed back to the top of the Premier League with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa.

Goals from Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud within the space of 60 seconds in the first half at Villa Park on Monday gave the Gunners a fourth successive league win and lifted them one point clear of second-placed Manchester City, but the success came at a cost.

Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky suffered a suspected broken nose following a clash with Gabriel Agbonlahor, while Spanish leftback Nacho Monreal will go for a scan on an injured foot.

“Rosicky has a bad nose, I don’t know if it was broken,” Wenger said. “I don’t know if it was an elbow or not, I did not see. Maybe it was an accident, but Monreal needs a check on his metatarsal.”

While the injuries took a little of the gloss off Arsenal’s return to the top, Wenger was still pleased with his team’s performance and particularly happy with England midfielder Wilshere, who made the second for Giroud after scoring the first.

“Jack has found a change of pace, these games are about that and penetration,” he said. “He’s not just a passer, but someone who is incisive with the ball.”

Meanwhile, Villa manager Paul Lambert refused to deny rumors that he is interested in signing striker Grant Holt, whom he worked with at Norwich City, from Championship side Wigan Athletic.

“I had Grant Holt at Norwich and he scored goals, he’s a proper guy,” Lambert said. “He was fantastic for me. I’ve just been told there are rumors, but until something is concrete we will see.”

Villa scored late on when Christian Benteke headed in his first goal in 13 games from Matt Lowton’s excellent cross, but it was too little too late for Lambert’s men, who were knocked off their stride by a first-half injury to Nathan Baker.

Baker suffered a mild concussion after being hit by Serge Gnabry’s free-kick.

“Nathan is a little bit groggy, but is OK, he can’t remember a thing about what happened,” Lambert said. “It’s dangerous. I know from experience, [when] you are concussed you are all over the place and that hit us, as we’d worked on the system all week. If you are knocked out in the temple you sometimes hear it — and I heard it from the touchline.”

In other Premier news, Pablo Zabaleta has warned his Manchester City teammates not to underestimate the Blackburn Rovers in today’s FA Cup third-round replay.

Man City face Championship side Rovers at Eastlands after underlining their Premier League title credentials with a 2-0 win over Newcastle United on Sunday.

The gritty success at St James’ Park showed Man City’s attacking power and defensive tenacity, erasing some of the questions about their spluttering form away this season.

Back on home turf, where they have won all 10 of their league fixtures so far, Manuel Pellegrini’s side are firm favorites to see off Blackburn and advance to a fourth-round tie against Watford or Bristol City.

Yet Argentine fullback Zabaleta has no intention of letting the team take victory for granted against a second-tier side who claimed a shock win at Arsenal in the FA Cup last season and also pushed Man City hard in the 1-1 draw at Ewood Park that set up the replay.

Man City will be without Samir Nasri after the French midfielder on Monday revealed that he is expected to miss the next eight weeks with a knee injury suffered when he was fouled by Newcastle’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.

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