West Brom 1 (Brunt 7) Arsenal 3 (Bendtner 4, 44, Toure 38)
Three days ago, Villa were within a couple of minutes of opening up what seemed to be an unassailable eight point lead over us, before conceding twice at home to Stoke in the dying minutes. At the time, it was all doom and gloom, and the optimism that I’d hung on to all season was beginning to fade.
Fast forward to tonight, and suddenly that gap is only three points, after our win at West Brom yesterday and Villa’s defeat to Man City tonight. Gilberto Silver over at Gunnerblog pointed out an interesting fact yesterday that illustrates how focused the media have been on our shortcomings – Villa themselves are now on a six match winless streak, and with ten games to go they are becoming increasingly catchable. I must confess that it is a statistic that had passed me by, but it goes to show that any kind of run would see us get back to where we want to be.
As for the game, it was a complete break from the norm. Having not scored or conceded a league goal in the month of February, we did both within seven minutes. First Bendtner, preferred to the rested Van Persie, was allowed the freedom of the Midlands to cut inside and roll a cute shot into the corner, and then we bettered West Brom for poor defending, Eboue breaking ranks in the wall to leap out of the way of Brunt’s free kick.
It was truly woeful from Eboue, and while I’m not one to single out players for a hammering (I did in fact praise the guy after the Roma game), this is happening over and over again. Fortunately, with Sagna, Arshavin and the returning Walcott taking right sided positions, he is not the regular starter he once was.
But by half time, it mattered little. First Arshavin whipped in an excellent free kick from the left wing, leaving the unmarked Toure to head home, before Toure himself chipped a ball over the top for Bendtner to chase – he controlled on his knee before lashing a cracker across Carson for his eleventh goal of the season.
The Dane is something of an enigma. His lackadaisical running style does tend to make him look uninterested, but last night he was on fire, and his goal tally of eleven is excellent for a squad player, especially one so young. The next youngest player in double figures is Agbonlahor, more than a year Bendtner’s senior, and a regular in the Villa side. Perhaps we are too quick to criticise?
By full time we could’ve had six – Arshavin having a couple of great chances and Bendtner being denied his hattrick by the post. But after the month we’ve had, three is more than enough, and coupled with Villa’s lacklustre performance tonight, it puts us back on the Champions League map. With trips to Liverpool and United coming up, Villa might just be regretting their team selection in Moscow.
And crucially, it puts us in confident mood ahead of two cup ties – Burnley at home in the FA Cup on Sunday, a game that will probably be scattered with Carling Cup players looking for revenge, and then Roma next Wednesday. Suddenly, we’re recovering in the league, and we look good to progress on both cup fronts.
It is funny how much things can change in a matter of days.