Yossi Benayoun came off the bench to head a late winner for the Gunners as they triumphed 2-1 over Aston Villa in an eventful game at Villa Park.
Uncharacteristic of their recent form, Arsenal looked quite lacklustre at times and Villa created numerous chances to open the scoring before the free-scoring Robin Van Persie scored his 34th goal of 2011 from the penalty spot after a foul by Ciaran Clark on the pacey Theo Walcott.
Francis Coquelin, a midfielder, started at right-back while regular centre-half Vermaelen was once again at left-back and young Emmanuel Frimpong deputised for the suspended Alex Song in the holding midfield role.
Considering this make-shift defence, it was little wonder that Arsenal were extremely vulnerable in the early stages of the game.
Despite this, however, Arsenal almost doubled their lead soon after the opening goal when Theo Walcott was sent clear but luckily for Villa, Guzan was quick off his line and got his hand to the lob.
Nevertheless, Marc Albrighton then capitalised on a defensive error to slot in the equaliser and, incidentally, the 20,000th goal in the history of the Premier League. As the towering Mertesacker and Vermaelen hesitated in the box, Albrighton slotted past Szczesny for the landmark strike.
But former Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun came off the bench and won it with his header from Van Persie’s corner.
There was an abundance of drama in the game and in injury time Villa’s Alan Hutton compounded McLeish’s woes when he was sent off for two yellow cards.
The Scottish international, who has a reputation for administering crunching tackles was shown his second yellow card for a very late tackle on Thomas Vermaelen, not long after he had picked up his first yellow.
Following tonight’s result the Gunners have returned to winning ways after Sunday’s defeat at Manchester City. Villa, meanwhile, have now won only two of their last 10 matches – losing four of the past six.
Aston Villa: Guzan; Hutton, Cuellar, Dunne, Warnock; Clark, Petrov; Albrighton (Delfouneso 88), Ireland (Bannan 45), N’Zogbia; Agbonlahor.
Subs Marshall, Collins, Williams, Delph, Weimann.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Coquelin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Frimpong (Rosicky 66), Arteta; Walcott, Ramsey (Benayoun 81), Gervinho (Arshavin 80); Van Persie.
Subs Almunia, Squillaci, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chamakh.