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Arsenal vs Aston Villa report

by on January 30, 2012

Match Report by Reuben Lewis

The FA Cup is our best chance of silverware this season, especially with the two Manchester clubs already knocked out. The 5th round draw commenced just before kick off, and Middlesborough or Sunderland away is what we’ll have to settle for. Not the best draw, particularly in terms of travel, however avoiding Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool was very important.

The game’s first noteworthy incident was a rasping Vermaelan effort from a free-kick, which Given dealt with smartly. Then Walcott used his speed to ride a challenge and drive into the box, but displayed a real lack of composure, slicing wide. ‘Sums him up in a nutshell’, said the commentator.

Villa were looking fairly dangerous on the break with Agbonglahor’s pace and Keane’s craft, however lacked a cutting edge.

After 30 minutes, however, Arsenal were undone by a short corner. Ramsey was the only player to react, and it was two against one. The resulting cross found its way to the big Irishman Richard Dunne, who easily found the net with an uncontested header. Despite three Arsenal players surrounding him, including Koscielny and Vermaelen, no one put in a significant challenge.

To rub salt in the wound, on the brink of half-time an incisive Villa counter attack found its way to Bent, whose shot was saved by Fabianski, but the rebound fell to the striker who, from an acute angle, finished with aplomb.

After being unfairly booed off at the break, the players came out in the second half and immediately set the tone when Mertesacker had a header cleared off the line from a corner.

Two minutes later, a delightful back heel by Ramsey fell perfectly into the path of Walcott, however no end product ensued.

Following this, an intricate move by our front trio found Ramsey, who tried to toe poke the ball in from the edge of the box, but it lacked power and Given collected easily.

A 10 minute spell of relentless pressure by the Gunners was rewarded by a clumsy Richard Dunne tackle on Ramsey in the box. Ramsey started the move with a brilliant tackle by the half way line, passed it to Song and continued his run into the box. A sublime through ball by the Cameroonian midfielder found the Welshman, who was upended by Dunne. The referee instantly pointed to the spot. RVP stepped up. RVP celebrated.

Shortly after, Walcott used his pace and close control to beat his man on the byline. He drove into the box, and perhaps selfishly had a shot at goal. It was saved by Given, but fortunately rebounded off Theo’s shoulder into the net. They all count. 2-2.

With the scores level, the momentum was with the team in red, and a superb, flowing move resulted in another Arsenal penalty. Koscielny played a fantastic one-two with Song, and the centre back drove into the box, only for Darren Bent to slide in untidily. Our main man stepped up again, and the outcome was inevitable. 3 goals in a magnificent 7 minute spell, instigated by some Wenger words of wisdom at half time.

By this stage, we had totalled 8 second half shots, compared to Villa’s zero.

After 70 minutes, the hugely underrated Tomas Rosicky-who was one of Arsenal’s most influential players in the second half-driving forward and dictating the tempo-was replaced by Arteta. A massive relief that he’s back after his injury.

However, at 3-2, Arsenal were not home and dry by any means. The defence were half asleep once again as Stephen Ireland was not closed down. He whipped in a dangerous cross, which Fabianski held excellently, with Richard Dunne ready to pounce on any spillages.

With 3 minutes remaining, Theo Walcott, who was terrific in the second half, was replaced by Sagna. What a lift it’ll be to have the League’s best right back fit again. Chamberlain-who ran Villa ragged today- also made way, for none other than Thierry Henry.

The ref blew for full time, much to the relief of The Arsenal fans, and the game finished 3-2. Three goals in 7 minutes tells its own story. Our performance in the first half wasn’t great, and apart from Vermaelen’s thunderous strike, we lacked any real conviction. However we certainly didn’t deserve our two goal deficit at the break. Whatever was said at half time certainly gave the players a kick up the backside. They came out of the blocks instantly, and Villa couldn’t deal with our fluidity and tempo. A marvellous comeback, and Arsene showed the critics he still has what it takes. A trip north-east beckons.

Follow me on twitter @rlewisafc.

Second Opinion by Jacqueline King

Following on from Reuben’s match summary, here are my thoughts on today’s proceedings……

If felt like a good old-fashioned cup tie today – disappointingly I didn’t see any cardboard and foil FA Cups in the crowd that were de-rigour in the 70s and 80s when I first fell in love with the competition.  In fact my first Arsenal match was the 1979 FA Cup Final where I was mesmerised by the man of the match that day, Liam Brady.

Today we welcomed back Bacary Sagna onto the bench after his ankle injury at Spurs on 2nd October.  Joining him as subs were Mikel Arteta and Thierry Henry, both having passed late fitness tests. Francis Coquelin started at right back, and Lukasz  Fabianski, having not played in the first team since the start of December, replaced the rested Wojciech Szczesny.

The last time Arsenal met Villa in the FA Cup 29 years ago Bonnie Tyler was No 1 with ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and for 45 minutes, although we had plenty of possession, by the time half time came Villa were threatening to eclipse us and go onto win the game with ease.  Shay Given did make a few good saves, but again corners were poor and approach play, especially crosses (the main culprit being Theo Walcott) quite often didn’t get past the first defender.  Why can we not take corners?  Nothing has improved for seasons now, and frankly it is such a basic part of the game it is laughable.  However, not only do we struggle taking them, we time and time again do not defend them with any success.  Villa’s first goal came from a short corner on the left.  It was so simple and therefore hugely frustrating to watch – no one attacking the ball and Richard Dunne headed in from 5 yards out, giving Fabianski no chance.  We were always venerable with the ball over the top on the break, and from a Robin Van Persie free kick into the wall, Villa broke, Bent forced a fine save from our ‘keeper but Fabianski could only parry it back to the striker who finished from a tight angle.

At half time I couldn’t see how we were going to get back into the game – for all our possession we weren’t making it pay, and Given was dealing with everything we threw at him.  We hadn’t come back from two goals down for over two years.

We started the second half with loads more drive and purpose than had been on show in the first 45 minutes, and at last we saw a decent corner from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who again started on the left.  Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey played a great one-two on the edge of the Villa box but Walcott’s final shot was weak.  It was a much better start by Arsenal however, and within ten minutes of the re-start Ramsey (who had really upped his game since the break) was clumsily bundled over by Richard Dunne in the box, the Villa defender lucky not to be shown his second yellow card of the game.  Van Persie slotted home the penalty to Given’s right.  Whatever was in the tea at half time worked, as within three minutes Walcott worked well to get the ball to the touch line, his first shot was parried by Given and the clearance hit our number 14 and rebounded into the North Bank net to bring us level.  Within five minutes Arsenal were in front.  Laurent Koscielny burst into the Villa box and was brought down by Darren Bent, and Van Persie coolly placed the resulting penalty to Given’s left.  To be honest for the next ten minutes or so Villa looked shell-shocked, but you always felt that they could hit us on the break, and we survived a few hairy moments as the clock ticked down.  With 20 minutes to go Arteta replaced Rosicky, who I felt had another good game today.  We were still giving the ball away on a few occasions and Alex Song gifted Villa a corner, after doing as much, and Fabianski couldn’t stop the ball from going over the touchline.  The final two subs was made with three minutes to go, Henry for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sagna for Walcott.  We held on to chalk up our first win in four games, and which will be a huge boost, having come from behind.

Arsenal had 61% possession today, much improved from the previous league games, and at one 5 minute spell in the second half it was up to 89%.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was again one of our best performers.  His crossing is excellent, is not afraid to shoot from outside the box (something severely lacking in recent seasons) and seems to play with confidence for someone so young.  His link up overlapping play with Vermaelen was excellent.

Rosicky has been a lot more consistent this season and again had a good game today.  He never stops working and played a few great passes to Van Persie.

Coquelin again impressed; he kept tight to Agbonlahor and didn’t give him any space to turn or run. There was one incident where he lunged into a silly tackle near the touchline, but we can put that down to inexperience.

In the first 45 minutes Walcott again disappointed – his crossing is at times very poor, and sometimes makes the wrong decisions.  He redeemed himself in the second half with some more influential runs into the box and his goal.

Fabianski again worried me – in the first half his clearing was pretty woeful, which kept playing others into trouble.  Quite shaky at times overall.

I still think we could benefit hugely from signing a striker, but it’s looking again unlikely as we are only 2 days away from the end of the transfer window.  It was encouraging to see more shots from outside the box though, but there is a massive gap between our top scorer, Van Persie on 25, and Walcott who has hit the target 6 times.  We are still in the cup though- let’s hope this win also gives renewed drive and confidence in the league.

Follow me on twitter @shoegirl1968


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