Aston Villa 0-0 Arsenal

Brad Guzan and Aaron Ramsey

Aston Villa edged out of the relegation zone with a drab goalless draw against Arsenal at rain-soaked Villa Park.

In an uneventful first half, Andreas Weimann saw a strike ruled out for offside and Laurent Koscielny shot over when well placed.

The second half was far more open and Aaron Ramsey went close before Brett Holman's drive was tipped on to the bar by Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal pushed for a late winner but were forced to settle for a point.

It meant they missed the chance to replace Everton in fifth, while Villa go above Reading in 17th, although the Royals have a game in hand.

If Arsene Wenger truly believes his team are in contention for the title, he must be disappointed to see them fall 10 points behind leaders Manchester United.

Villa boss Paul Lambert, by contrast, will take heart from his side's display following defeats by United and City, and heading into crucial meetings with Reading, QPR, Stoke and Norwich.

He knew a response was needed following and, while it duly arrived, they could have taken all three points with the help of a proven goalscorer.

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Villa getting better - Lambert

Some may point to Darren Bent's omission from the matchday squad when he was fit to play after an ankle injury.

Promising forwards Weimann and Christian Benteke were a constant threat, yet neither carry the potency of an in-form Bent.

Weimann tested Szczesny with an early cross-come-shot and Benteke headed wide from Ashley Westwood's corner.

Arsenal took 20 minutes to create a chance, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shooting wide and Brad Guzan saving well from Ramsey.

An uninspiring half almost came to life as Ciaran Clark's drive made its way to Weimann, only for his strike to be disallowed.

At the other end, an unmarked Koscielny wasted a glorious opportunity with a wayward finish from Olivier Giroud's low cross.

Villa's trend this season has been to impress in the first half before fading in the second, and for Arsenal it has been the opposite.

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Arsenal 'lacked fluency' in attack

The Gunners signalled their intent after the break through Santi Cazorla's strike, which sailed just off target at the end of a slick move.

Ron Vlaar's injury-enforced substitution enabled Arsenal to find gaps and Ramsey might have done better on two occasions.

With the match now open, Szczesny's fingertips and the woodwork denied substitute Holman from distance.

Wenger's search for a goal led to the introduction of Andrey Arshavin and Gervinho, and an Arshavin cross was brilliantly intercepted by Clark with his fellow replacement waiting to pounce.

But Arsenal were poor and their fans made their displeasure clear.

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert:

"It's a long project. It's never going to happen overnight. I thought today we were well worth something. They are a young side but they are growing every time they play.

"It's a really tough run we have had with Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal.

"People might have thought we would get nothing. We have got a point but the performances have been excellent."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:

"Complaints? No, because we tried. We had the right attitude but lacked a bit of fluency and accuracy in the final third. When we had the opportunities to be dangerous we didn't use them well.

"I think it's down to fatigue. We had not completely recovered from Wednesday night. They [Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna] were all on the edge.

"For Jack, it was a sensible thing. If you play him every game people reproach you and if you don't play him they reproach you. It's a lose-lose situation. I do what I think is right I and think it was the right decision.

"We're a very offensive team - we played with three strikers - but that doesn't mean you score goals. It can happen;, it has happened before. It's difficult away from home."

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