We ended up giving a good account of ourselves against Man City but not winning, which was pardonable enough, but embracing the tag of honourable losers is not an act any team should partake in with any relish or frequency. Getting a positive result was the most important thing against Villa, and it gave me perverse pleasure when we managed to do it in spite of being quite poor overall.
Rat-a-tat-tat review is as follows:
My live stream…
- Was, to quote Freddie Ljungberg, fuckin’ excellent. Completely lag-free from first whistle to last, it proved to me that the Gods we worship are kind Gods, watching over us mindless footballing-cattle like saintly lighthouses. Live stream nirvana, I’m not kidding you.
- It also proved that the aforementioned Gods are not overly kind, interspersing the occasional thorn among the bed of roses they lay out for us. Commentary (or what passed as commentary) from Trevor Francis was the humungous thorn in question here, a thorn that grew in its cancerous nature for all of fifteen minutes until I pressed the mute button and put it out of its misery.
The first half…
- Was in parts edgy and boring. Villa started well, exploiting our make-shift full-backs in Vermaelen and Coquelin and fizzing in crosses with alarming consistency. One corner routine resulted in a curling N’Zogbia cross that Agbonlahor thankfully headed straight at Szczesny.
- Our goal, when it came, was against the run of play. Arteta took a quick throw-in, Walcott sold Clark the dummy and sped into the box before being blatantly pulled back by the young Villa defender. Stonewall penalty, one that most refs will give, and one that this one gave too. Van Persie stepped up and thundered it in with great fury, equalling Thierry Henry’s record for most goals scored in a calendar year.
- The rest of the half went by without so much of a ‘What ho!’ emerging from my lips. Villa were content for us to keep the ball, we were content to keep the ball, and passed it amongst our defenders like some training ground routine on infinite loop. There was a Walcott chance after a brilliant van Persie pass, a Ramsey half-chance after good work from RvP again, and a free-kick from Villa that kissed the top of the net. It looked like a game being played in midweek by two teams who’ve had gruelling and intense encounters just a few days prior; because it was.
The second half…
- Looked to be more of the same when it started, and that would have suited me just fine. But some wiring came loose in Vermaelen’s mainframe, he gave a poor header to Mertesacker, Albrighton nipped in and tucked it in smartly between Szczesny’s legs. It was an uncharacteristic error from the Belgian, and he looked shaky all game. Villa on the other hand, shook off their shakiness after drawing level and piled on the pressure.
- One word to describe Arsenal’s performance in the second half would be ‘wheezy’. Chances at goal were at a premium, the only one I remember at the moment being a Mertesacker snapshot that Guzan saved with ease.
- Another telling moment was when van Persie wiggled away from two players, faked his way through umpteen tackles only to be hacked down inside the box. Stonewall penalty, one that most refs will give, but one that this orange orang-utan didn’t. A ludicrous yellow for simulation was flashed instead.
Then substitutions were made…
- And they won the game for us, as opposed to sealing our defeat against Man City. Rosicky came on for the on-and-off Frimpong, and our midfield immediately started purring. The Czech captain moves the ball about so silkily, and is never one to shy away from a tackle. Arsenal became less poo and more penetrative, although that elusive sight of goal was still not forthcoming.
- Wenger made a subsequent double substitution, Arshavin and Benayoun coming on for Gervinho and Ramsey. The little Russian is in a rut that isn’t going to be solved with ten-minute cameos, but to his credit, he huffed, puffed and tried to blow something of substance down yesterday. A quick shimmy and shot took a wicked deflection off Hutton and went out for our hundredth corner of the game.
- By the law of averages, we scored from this one. Yossi Benayoun, the Messi from Tel Aviv, consummate professional and all-round good egg, stole in and headed the ball into the net to give us an arguably undeserved lead.
- That was the last noteworthy incident of the match as we held on for a massive win. Some stupid pyrotechnics by Spurs reject, potential wife-beater and all-round idiot Alan Hutton rounded things off on a sour note as he got himself sent off after dissing the referee and clattering into Vermaelen in the space of sixty seconds.
The two teams immediately above us square off today, and I have my fingers crossed for an ebola outbreak on the pitch. As for us, a postponed encounter against Wolves lies in wait. Gervinho looks tired. Walcott looks tired. Ramsey looks tired.
Benayoun doesn’t though.
P.S Oh, I completely forgot to comment on the elephant in the room. Coquelin started shakily, got booked, got some sound advice from van Persie, and handled himself quite well for the rest of the game. He made the most tackles and interceptions among the Arsenal defenders, and I think he looked about as much at ease as Vermaelen did yesterday, if not more. Make of that what you will.
This post also appeared on BigFourZa
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