Arsenal Subs: Szczesny, van Persie, Walcott, Denilson, Djourou, Gibbs, Bendtner
Aston Villa Subs: Guzan, Ireland, Delfouneso, Beye, Hogg, Lichaj, Herd
Arsenal don’t like to make it easy on us, but today, the reason for the nerves came not from Arsenal but because of one single decision by the officials. We dominated from first minute until last and you can’t really say that Villa ever really had a sustained period of pressure. By the time we were two up we should have been more, and had the chances which fell to TR7 fell to Arshavin we very probably could have.
Our first two goals were splendid, and it was on on-fire Arshavin who was involved with both, scoring the first (his first in 11 games) and setting up Sami with a beautifully weighted corner for the Marseille Magician to drive it home on the volley from the edge of the box.
2-0 at half time, deja vu – we were worth the lead, in fact, it flattered Villa. As Arseblog commented on Twitter, the half-time teamtalk for both sides needed to be only three words – ‘remember last week.’
So out we came for the second half and every gooner on the planet was a bag of nerves. Villa had offered very little in the first half, but the removal of Pires to allow the pace of Delfoueso in to the game perked them up. Comparisons were made with the introduction of Defoe last week, but there was to be no need.
Almost predictably Villa scored, but the manner in which they were allowed to get back in to the match was an absolute disgrace. Carew was down in the box, and as he slowly dragged himself to his feet he made sure he was plumb in front of Fabianski who could be seen trying to peek around him like a short person at a concert. Clarke hit it from the edge of the box, and as Fabianski was leaning left of Carew to try and see the ball, the ball flew in to the right of him.
The goal stood. An absolutely disgraceful decision.
Make no mistake about the importance of this goal being allowed to stand. It allowed Villa to believe they could get back in to the game and the entire Arsenal side would have been forgiven if they collectively panicked as they tend to do.
But this week there would be no capitulation and just four minutes after Villa had pulled one back Chamakh slammed home his tenth goal of the season to restore the two-goal lead.
But it wouldn’t be Arsenal if we left it like that, or even added to the lead, and so we conspired to let Clark head in somehow, off the underside of the bar. Could it had been cleared off the line? Could the keeper have done better? Perhaps, but it shouldn’t have mattered. That should have only been 3-1, but instead it was 3-2 and once again Arsenal found themselves hanging on to a lead in a game they had dominated almost in its entirety and in which the opposition had done practically nothing to warrant any points.
For whatever reason Arsenal attempted to go for the fourth instead of heading for the corner, and even the introduction of Denilson and Gibbs for Nasri and Arshavin did nothing to dampen the teams attacking desire.
Luckily, it paid off as Chamakh found Jack with a beautifully weighted side-foot lob and the future of Arsenal and England star threw everything he had at it to claim his first league goal for Arsenal.
92nd minute. The game was finally safe.
People will point to how Arsenal very nearly threw it away against a team who were missing a large chunk of their first team. Let’s not forget that this is a side who were 2-0 up against Man United and were unlucky not to get a point that day. It seems, when they have to, Villa can play.
What we should look at is how this team responded to what has been a very hard week with constant, and often over-the-top criticism from media and fans alike. When that first Villa goal was allowed to stand it would have been easy for them to fall apart but they didn’t – they went straight up the other end and scored again.
Sure, there are still defensive issues, but in general, with Song staying, and Rosicky covering the left flank instead of Arshavin we were ever so slightly steadier.
We didn’t miss Cesc one bit, and this leads me to ask the question are Arsenal currently suffering from ‘Henry’ syndrome with regards to Cesc?
What is this syndrome you ask? Well, it’s simple. In his last few season at Arsenal Henry had become such a huge and influential figure that he overshadowed his teammates. The result on the pitch was that everyone always looked to just give the ball to Henry and a number of players struggled to emerge from his shadow. The same could be said of this side.
When Cesc plays, even when not fit or out of form, the tendency is still to give it to Cesc to make something happen. Today we didn’t have that option and the result was that we saw probably the best performance in a year from Arshavin, an inspired Captain’s performance from Rosicky, Nasri continuing his form which surely sees him put himself in contention for player of the year if he keeps it up, and an Alex Song who remembered that he is a defensive midfielder rather than a flair player.
I don’t know if this is the case, but it is something worth considering. I am also not advocating that we sell Cesc because of this. I’m simply wondering out loud. People said we would struggle without him and we showed today that that simply wasn’t the case.
We have enough talented players who can step up and fill the void left by him.
From kick-off Arsenal’s attitude in this match was on the money. We won the battles, and we passed with greater accuracy than in recent league matches. We had movement but we were more careful about committing 10 men forward at every given chance, and the result was that we scored four, and conceded one (plus the ref added an extra one on for Villa as he felt sorry for them).
I refuse to count the first goal for Villa, so offside was it, but after conceding two goals midweek, and three the week before, you have to say that we looked ever so slightly better at the back.
I know it’s not sorted, and I know it’s going to keep giving us heart-attacks, but if all our players keep putting in that level of effort and performance then it will be alright.
From doom, gloom and despair, we will end today second in the league. Don’t give me if’s but’s and maybe’s. We’re second.
November is nearly over.
Interesting from Twitter:
RT @OptaJean: 10 – Andrey Arshavin has been involved in more goals than any other Arsenal player in the PL this season (3 goals, 7 assists). Dynamo.
RT @OptaJoe: 3 – Andrey Arshavin has now assisted a goal in each of his last three Premier League appearances for Arsenal. Matryoshka.
RT @Orbinho: HT Stats Aston Villa v Arsenal Shots 1-13, On target 0-5, Fouls 3-2, Duels Won % 48%-52%, Passing Accuracy 71%-84%, Possession 37%-63%
RT @Orbinho: FT Stats Aston Villa v Arsenal Shots 7-20, On target 4-7, Fouls 10-7, Duels Won % 48%-52%, Passing Accuracy 72%-83%, Possession 40%-60%
RT @Orbinho: Andrey Arshavin now has a joint-Premier League high seven goal assists this season.
RT @claz0r: Being a goalkeeper looks rubbish.You’re on your own for ages,then everyone comes up and bothers you,if you make 1 mistake everyone gets mad!
RT @Orbinho: Arsenal have conceded more goals in the 15 minutes after half-time (5) than in any other quarter hour period.
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