The line-up was typically unpredictable, especially given an injury to Johan Djourou in the warm up. It meant that Toure came in to partner Gallas, Silvestre replaced Clichy, while Eboue played on the right of midfield, Diaby slotted in behind a lone striking RVP.
Villa started the stronger and dominated the first half hour, we rode our luck and somehow the score remained nil nil. Sidwell rattled the woodwork from a corner, Young's deflected effort forced a magnificent Almunia save, Davies hit the cross bar with a great chip despite being offside, then Milner forced another outstanding save from Almunia.
Toure was looking decidedly shaky in his first game back for a while, every clearance was weak and went straight to a Villa player. Young's pace and trickery was causing us problems, as well as his excellent whipped deliveries from the left wing. We were also guilty of fat too many loose passes and being too weak when holding the ball up.
It was appropriate that our bright spark of the half, Denilson, was the man to break the deadlock. He won a loose ball on the edge of the box and calmly slotted the ball low with his left foot pass the bald Friedel. There was still time for another Villa chance, as Sagna did brilliantly to clear a goal bound Villa header off the line after Almunia had flapped.
If we are to bring anything away from this game we'll need to defend a hell of a lot better than we did in the first half. Losing Song with an injury is also a blow, time for young Aaron Ramsey to step up on his 18th birthday.