Reaction: Aston Villa (H)

Man of the match and one of the few who turned up today.

Man of the match and one of the few who turned up today. (Credit: Flickr – Stuart MacFarlane)

Arsenal ended a poor week with something to smile in a last ditch 2-1 win at home against Villa. We dominated and had 26 shots with 7 on target together with 64% of the possession. How did it become a last ditch win? It does when you are Arsenal of course.

 

 

First Half

Arsenal started the first half brightly and scored in the fifth minute after Santi’s initial shot got blocked and the rebound saw him score through the legs of two Villa players. What was kind of disappointing is that we almost immediately switched to defending. Maybe the team was paying too much heed to the old adage of ‘you’re most vulnerable after you score’ but we proceeded to play with caution. That was in stark contrast to the manner in which we started the game.

 

Arsenal were on top but we weren’t exactly comfortable.

 

Villa had two good chances to nick one back and we had a couple ourselves but a combination of final ball mistakes and some last ditch saves kept the scoreline at 1-0 into the break. Arsenal were on top but we weren’t exactly comfortable.

 

 

Second Half

The Gunners stepped things up in the second half. We had Villa camped in their box. Pinging the ball all over but no one seemed to remember how to finish. Giroud was caught in two minds all the time while Theo had an extremely quiet game. We had corner after corner but you know what happens when we win a corner? We get hit on the break and concede. It was pointed out that Arsenal supporters are probably the only fans worried about their team winning corners and it played out again today. WS1 had his positioning all wrong as Weimann took a long range shot which managed to elude our No. 1  even though it was smack low down in the middle. Most keepers would have caught that.

 

Arsenal supporters are probably the only fans worried about their team winning corners

 

Giroud continued to frustrate. I give him credit for trying but he was getting nearly every decision wrong today. The only thing that worked out for him was his flicks and touches. Unfortunately, that was about all. That sinking Blackburn feeling came all over and at one point I was asking myself if we really deserve Champions League football. But this is football, to hell with logic.

The move started from Ramsey who had to take over as right back after CJ was brought off for Poldi. It was swept to Arteta and then Wilshere who found Monreal. Monreal, who has been our only reliable crosser this game, sent an absolute beauty of an assist square into the middle of the box which the grateful Cazorla finished to make it 2-1. Arsenal fans heaved a massive sigh of relief. The game then played out with Villa trying to draw level again but thankfully there was no more drama until the whistle.

 

 

Gifts from Malaga

Cazorla was obviously the man of the match. He injected creativity and balanced his role on the left and centre well. His passing and first touch were excellent as usual. What he also adds is the ability to nick balls off opposing players when tracking back. The little Spaniard put in a great shift – winning balls, stringing play and scoring both.

 

The little Spaniard put in a great shift – winning balls, stringing play and scoring both.

 

Credit must be given to Monreal for an effective display capped with a glorious assist. In a game that saw most of our final balls go wide, loop the goal, miss the corner flag or hit row Z, Nacho delivered near perfect crosses into the box. His final cross made things easy for man of the match Santi.

I’m glad we laid out some cash for these two players. On a day where our right flank produced nearly nothing useful, the Spanish duo delivered where the rest failed to.

 

 

Giroud

Giroud had one of the worst displays I’ve seen from him this season. He wasn’t at the right place as he usually would, and even when he managed to be on the spot, he just couldn’t get the ball on target.

 

He was split between moving in for the kill or hanging back to build up play.

 

In his defence, he was closely marked by two players at all times and he was getting frustrated by absolute disastrous crosses coming into the box. (Again, I don’t believe we practice crossing.) He was split between moving in for the kill or hanging back to build up play. You can’t afford that as a striker and there is still massive work that needs to be done between Giroud and the supporting crew.

 

 

Szczesny

I’d pin the full blame on WS1 for the second goal. The defence was caught on the counter with Villa having a man advantage four to three. The shot came outside the D and went low down the middle veering very slightly to the left. Somehow, WS1 managed to lit it slip by him. It wasn’t under his body, it was past his outstretched arms. What does that mean when the ball was almost in the middle? WS1 got his positioning all wrong.

 

This is not the first game Szczesny has been caught dozing and conceded long range shots.

 

This is not the first game he has been caught dozing and conceded long range shots. The same occurred at Blackburn just last weekend and a couple more has marred his performances this season. The irony is that Szczesny does a lot better at close range shots in which he has a pretty amazing save rate.

Great reflexes but ridiculously poor concentration. The cocky Pole needs a slap for this. He did wake up after that to make some good saves but we cannot afford such mistakes in the first place. Too bad he has near zero competition for his spot.

 

 

Conclusion

Well, this is the usual week where the Arsenal season ends. Even during the invincibles season, we will have a week in February where we get knocked out of every cup competition. The positive is that we managed 3 points on the back of a morale sapping week. The team has to focus and make their possession count. We had laid an embarrassingly extended siege on the Villa goal just to endure such a nervous win.

Efficiency is the one word that sums up what the team is lacking and we have to fix that before heading for the North London derby next week.
 

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