Sunday 27 December 2009

Mission complete - Villa blown away

Not that I'm some kind of psychic but before the game I knew that if we got things right, we could tear Villa apart and run away with this biggie. Villa are no mugs but looking at the starting elevens there was an obvious class differential in the midfield area, Milner and Petrov are journeyman players, while Song, Diaby and Denilson are players with genuine talent. Having said that it was not plain sailing all the way, Villa had the odd moment of danger but overall it was a deserved and convincing 3-0 win for the side that played football the right way.

The first half was never going to be an open affair, in fact our best couple of chances came very early on when Vermaelen had a low cross shot scrambled clear and when Eduardo shot tamely straight at Friedel with the whole goal pretty much at his mercy. Villa looked dangerous for a fifteen minute spell, they put in a few decent crosses but we defended well, having Thomas Vermaelen attacking the ball made such a difference to the balance of play. As the half wore on our midfield purred, Diaby and Song were outstanding, the former offensively and the latter defensively, while Denilson was just all round efficient. There were mainly only half chances for the remainder of the half, although the pressure was building and Villa were completely overwhelmed in midfield. Not only were we winning the battles but we pressed well as a unit with all of the front three doing a lot of good defensive work.

The introduction of Cesc was obviously pivotal, but not quite as pivotal as some experts would have us believe. The game was turning our way, Villa could not hold onto the ball, Vermaelen and Gallas were not allowing them to hold up the loose bits from the long balls, the ball kept coming back at them and the pressure simply had to tell. Milner and Petrov were lightweight, fouling was their only real imprint on the game, they just couldn't get any time on the ball. A stinging low Arshavin effort was well saved by Fridel just before the opener from Cesc's freekick.

At 1-0 Villa didn't look like getting back into the game, they looked a tired spent force, Cesc killed the game by making it 2-0 with a neat finish as he burst onto Theo's excellent through ball. Unfortunately Cesc's hamstring felt the speed of the sprint and this meant he had to be replaced shortly after his second goal, the game was won by now though. The difference between the Arsenal of this season and that of last was the fact that we didn't look nervous with a 1-0 lead, we knew we could defend it out. Diaby's goal was the icing on the cake, he picked the ball up near the half way line, jinked past a couple of challenges and then curled a lovely finish into the bottom corner, 3-0 and game well and truly over.

This was no one man performance, it was a great team effort and the extra maturity that has developed over recent months was there for all to see. We played this game perfectly, we didn't throw too much at Villa early on, we defended solidly as individuals and as a team, Almunia seems to be playing with more belief which is a real plus. The midfield was where this game was won. Song was a tour de force, outstanding defensively, a rock in possession and even a creative spark at times. Diaby was brilliant, riding past players as if they were stuck in quick sand, dogged and determined in combat and excellent in his decision making. Milner looked like a schoolboy playing with adults, always a yard off the pace, while Petrov was so far off the pace I barely noticed his contribution at all. O'Neill seemed to think Villa were in the game but anyone who saw the vacuum in Villa's midfield would realise that these are the words of a man in denial over his own side's obvious weakness. Although we lacked a striker to lead the line, our forwards were lively and gave Villa's back four no time to rest. This is how we need to play until the end of the season if we are to remain in the mix, it will not be easy by any means but this is one hell of a good way to start.


Rhinogooner said...

Tremendous performance today. I saw the requisite bravery and composure in the team that I haven't seen against any other dangerous teams we've played this season.

Today's win is just behind the win against the spuds in satisfaction for me.

The team played well collectively, but for me, Cesc was superman. He changed the balance of play more heavily in our favour.

We were starting to pile on the pressure against Villa. And I kept thinking to myself, "let's bring Cesc on for Denilson at 55" and turn the screws even more now that Villa are rocking defensively".

I didn't think Mr. Wenger would do that. I thought he would wait until at least the 60th minute and probably take off Nasri. So well done Mr. Wenger. Astute tactical move in my opinion.

He only played a third of the match, but Cesc looked a class above everyone else on the pitch. Hopefully his injury won't keep him out further. He really has a confidence and determination about him right now.

Last word is for the ref, Mr. Dowd. Can't say I ever been too impressed with him in the past. But that was the best refereeing performance I have seen in years. Thought he got just about everything spot on. Well done ref!

Drew said...

I'd have to say the most impressive aspect of today's performance was the defense. There was barely a mention of Young, Carew, Downing, Agbonglihor, Milner, and whoever else thought of going forward. Their most dangerous players had no influence on the the game. Well done to Tommy and Billy in the center, Sagna dominated Downing to the point I had forgot he was on the pitch, and Traore is looking more and more comfortable. Of course, cheers to Cesc. It must be a scary thought to Villa that he was only on the pitch for 20 odd minutes, we have no Van Persie, and Arshavin barely touched the ball for 90 minutes.

Obsinho said...

This was the first game I have seen on sky for a while (up in enemy territory in the north at the moment) an it was made a painful experience. They just bloody hate us.

The whole way through the first half te commentators were describing a tour de force from a villa side who at the drop of a hat would explode into life and whip our asses. U saw a solid disply with 2 or 3 great chances and felt we deserved a half tone lead.

Then as we swamped them in te second half, we were living dangerously as we're rubbish at the back (billy & tommy were awesome) and agnonlahor and young are better than pele. I just thought we were good and villa were shit. Finally when we did score it was as unexpected as a virgin birth, a real stroke of luck. Rubbish - we had made another 2 or 3 good chances in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

I switched off at half time when Keys asked the cockless wonder redknapp if this was a worse performance than against Liverpool. Utterly crass.

Anyhoo, great performance, great result and genuinely excited that Abou may be about to realise that he is a great footballer if he only tries.

Anonymous said...

great report.

Unknown said...

Think you're a little harsh on O'Neill. We dominated, but so did Chelsea over us, and one game does not a season make or lose.

Agree that the tide had turned when Cesc came on -- Wenger might wonder if he showed a lack of faith in today's first 11 from this substitution. Arsenal would have won anyway.

GlancingHeader said...

I agree completely with 1979. Arsenal dominated the midfield and Villa had no way to feed their forwards. Sagna and Traore (who had his best performance this season) had Downing and Ashley Young in their pockets. Except for those 15 minutes in the first half when Diaby and Nasri disappeared, Villa were not able to fashion any threat.

When Cesc scored the first, I thought 2-0 would be a fair result but Diaby's shot was marvelously taken; he completely deserves that goal given his play in this game.

1979gooner said...


definitely agree about Dowd, it was an absolutely top draw refereeing performance, he got very very little wrong,


spot on about Sky, they see what they want to see and they simply didn't want to acknowledge how much better we were than Villa yesterday

Obsinho said...

Call me argumentative but I don't think Dowd had such a great game. Two things he got spot on were the Song & Young dives - both very stupid.

However my main gripe was the inconsistency with other refs. Players got away with things they would never have done in other games. Dunne throwing the ball away was let-off a yellow - to my mind that is a biggie. It is always a yellow, no exceptions, & would have put their best player in a position of hesitancy in making some of his rugged tackles. That is a game changer.

Equally Song, Denilson & Petrov got away with far too many fouls. It was good to see it happen but it is so out of kilter with other refs. The game cannot be viewed in isolation either, if Dunner had been booked he'd have missed the game against the Scousers - a potentially huge blow for Villa.

So the ref let the game flow and it was played in an honest fashion, but it was a non-standard performance from the ref.

1979gooner said...

i see what you say Obs,

he probably could have shown a few more cards than he did,

still i think he barely missed a trick, he was very good at not letting players chat back and get away with dissent,

as you say it was a fairly fair game overall which made things easier for him, but compared to some of the awful refereeing performances we've seen recently i thought it was a good performance

Rhinogooner said...

There was one moment in the match that I wanted to mention and forgot about.

When Agbonlahor and Vermaelen were racing towards the corner to try to win the ball. They tussled, Vermaelen fell on his hands and knees but allowed the ball to roll between his arms and nestle underneath him. Then he got up and controlled the ball while using his body to shield from Agbonlahor and completely owned him!

Agbonlahor practically tried to tackle him before the linesman flagged for the foul committed by Agbonlahor.

Terrific piece of skill, strength and determination by Vermaelen. What a player he is! Top notch.