Dec 282009

Arsenal 3 (Fabregas 65, 81, Diaby 90) Aston Villa 0

Before yesterday, Villa were the only regular Premiership side we hadn’t beaten at the Grove, and after a first half performance that was decent but lacking in the final thrust, we were in danger of extending that run thanks to some terrific last ditch defending from the visitors. And then, our captain warmed up.

To credit Cesc and Cesc alone would be unfair on the rest of the team, who put in a excellent and patient performance against a very well organised and stubborn Villa outfit, but when we needed that extra something, the spark on the end of a move, the one man who would panic the opposition into losing their shape, we got it from a young man who has gone from a superb midfield talent to a genuine match winner.

And win this match he did. After creating space for teammates by being regularly double teamed by a worried Villa defence, he created his own by spinning away from Richard Dunne, who was too slow to react and took him down. The resulting free kick was a thing of beauty, curling flat into the corner of the net with Friedel nowhere.

The second was a classic counter attack. Milner gave the ball away to the impressive Traore, who picked out Walcott with a searching ball. Cesc made the run, Walcott picked him out and he made no mistake with the finish. Unfortunately, the sprint damaged his hamstring again, and his brief but stunning cameo was over. Even if he is out for a few weeks, you’d be hard pushed to argue against it being worth it.

His sparkling display was not a solo effort – Diaby was superb all day and fully deserved his icing on the cake goal in injury time, as he ghosted past a demoralised defence and curled the ball into the corner. All day long his positioning, work rate and running were excellent, and you feel that if he can just continue this run of games, this might be a coming of age period for the young man. However, you also can’t shake the feeling that his next injury is around the corner.

We were also more dangerous from set pieces than we have been for a long time, and not just directly from free kicks. Song and Diaby got on the end of corners, while Nasri’s whipped crosses from open play also suggested that we can threaten in an area of the game that we are often a little impotent.

Song was superb once again, and he will be sorely missed. It is a shame that the vagaries of the fixture calendar mean he will miss more games than some at the African Nations Cup, as he is such a rock for the midfield. Yesterday Gallas and Vermaelen made a series of charges forward, and it was fascinating to see Song run in the opposite direction to cover, even when we still had the ball. His positioning is superb now – loose passes from the opposition always seem to find him.

So another fantastic couple of days – Chelsea’s slip means that a win at home to Bolton in our game in hand would leave us a single point from the top, a remarkable recovery from the position we found ourselves in after being humbled at the Emirates a few weeks ago. It says a lot about the mental strength of this unit.

I will finish by giving enormous credit to a man who doesn’t get a lot – the referee. Phil Dowd had a superb game, letting the game flow, and showing common sense throughout. Some would have cautioned Song for a foul in the first half – he recognised that it was worthy only of a warning and kept his cards in his pocket. In the second half, he repeated the trick after Petrov’s similar offence. He spotted dives from Young and Song and booked both, and left neither manager with anything to complain about.

It is a rare that an official does so well, and he deserves a nod when he does. Nice work.

But despite impressive performances from many, it really was all about one man. Our 22 year old captain. What a player he is.

  4 Responses to “Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa: Captain fantastic but a great team performance too”

  1. Having clinically dispensed with the matter of number three and four (which was never in doubt) Arsenals next three games are against Portsmouth away, the game in hand against Bolton, and then Everton. We play Portsmouth away and Bolton and Everton at home. Ideally, these three games should not pose much of a problem and by then we should have amassed a total of 47 points and leapfrogged Manchester United and probably Chelsea if they drop any more points even through another draw.

    The January transfer window opens on the 1st and Arsene Wenger should have an idea of who it is he wants to buy by then. It is never a good thing for a player to get hurt but sometimes some bad things can actually be a blessing in disguise. Cesc Fabregas’ injury not only showed how influential our captain is to us, but also how vulnerable Arsenal can be as a team without the influential midfielder. Wenger is said to be considering buying a midfielder since that injury. I am of the opinion that injury or not Wenger needs to get another midfielder especially due to the constant injuries to Thomas Rosinsky and because he does not play consistently.

    Arsenal thus need a strong and influential defensive midfielder with the ability to make important tackles, hold the ball and break the counters and plays of opponents and also read the game well. This is especially because Song will be gone to the CAN and so will Emmanuel Eboue who sometimes is used in the position albeit wrong positioning. We also need creativity in the midfield. The midfielder can be a versatile player who can also be used at the back.

    We also need a good defender and this ought to be someone who can revert to playing defensive midfield and central or back left/right. It is not easy to get such a person but am sure Wenger the magician can conjure up some tricks off his hat. Needless to say, we need a striker and this must be a person with the killer instinct and the instinct to create chances or make half chances into a whole chance. We need someone who will scare the opponents’ defenses and punish their mistakes.

    February will be very tough and might take its toll on the young and small Arsenal squad. Song and Eboue will be back from Africa but you never know in what condition. Arsene Wenger has said, “I just think the Premier League is very open. We go to Portsmouth on Wednesday and you know it will be another tough game. What has changed in the league this season is that all the teams can make results. You have seen Birmingham against Chelsea. It is like that anywhere. You go anywhere it’s not that you go there, turn up and take three points. That has gone. It has gone – until March.

    “After that some teams will be safe, or will not go for Europe and you take some easier points. But from now until March in this championship the consistent team will get it.” And Arsenal is certainly the most consistent team at the moment, despite all the injuries. But we have a busy and intense time coming up. We have Portsmouth at Fratton Park on 30th January, then Bolton Wanderers at the Emirates Stadium on 6th January, then Everton at home again on 9th January, and again Bolton Wanderers on 17th January at the Rebook Stadium.

    The true test of character begins when we have to go to Villa Park for the return match against Aston Villa on 27th January followed by a game against Manchester United at the Emirates on the 31st January and then Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge on the 7th February, then again Liverpool on the 10th February at the Emirates. Sunderland visits us at home on the 20th and then we go to Stroke City on the 27th. There is Burnley, Hull City, West Ham and Birmingham City in March.

    Wenger thus needs to add to Arsenals small squad in January. We still need a goalkeeper but that could probably wait until the summer when it can be much easier to look for one or two more players, a goalkeeper included. However, if Wenger does not get three players (a defender, a midfielder and a striker) in the winter, then he will have himself to blame if we don’t win the Championship because we are already in quite a commendable position to take the league. We could even get the FA Cup and challenge strongly for the Champions League. An FA Cup Final and a Champions League Final or Semi-Final is a good show and if we don’t win we could be satisfied with finishing in these positions if we have the Premiership. Over to you Professor.

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  3. julius your an idiot. arsenal did not look vunerable at all. aston villa are a great side. it just shows how great our manager is when you see how cesc, denilson song and diarby have improved. he has added valmelan and this has sured up our defence. our only problem is chelsea. they are big and powerful; the good thing is there is only 1 chelsea. i believe wenger knows this that is why we lost no confidence after the loss. i believe this is the same for villa( there is only 1 arsenal). we dominated the game. the back 4 handled agbon and hesky. it was a great test and we passed where chelsea and mancs failed. wenger know.
    arsenal have changed ,last season we were getting turned over by lesser or relegation sides but not know. if we can be this consistant then wenger knows.

  4. Totally agree Daniel – Julius is an idiot! We were always in control of this game. People always want to point the finger at Arsenal when we lose. Man U have lost 5 games, Chelsea 4 games. I said at the begining of the season we have the best squad in the premiership and I still believe that. How do you think Chelsea would have done if they had lost the equivalent of RVP, Rosicky, Bendtner, clichy, Gibbs and 2 goalkeepers for a number of weeks/months?

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