Sunday, January 29, 2012

Arsenal 3 Villa 2: Ten Thoughts on a (potentially) Season Defining Comeback?

At half-time today, I admit that I feared the worst. We were losing 2-0 and staring in the face of exit from a competition which, realistically, offered our best opportunity of silverware this season. Fast forward 45 minutes, and Arsenal had completed one of the more memorable comebacks of recent times. My thoughts as follows:

* On the one hand, we were unlucky to be losing at half-time. We had a number of shots on goal in the first-half, including a scorcher from Vermaelen that Given did well to palm over the bar. Villa had enjoyed less shots on goal than us, and hadn't really taken control of the game, despite their goals. The 2-0 scoreline didn't, therefore, reflect the balance of play in the match.

* On the other, who cares what statistics say - we were 2-0 down at half-time, no matter who had more passes, shots and possession. For the first Villa goal, we simply failed to defend a set-piece properly, which was criminal, as was Dunne out-leaping about four of our defenders to head home. Not good enough. The second goal was a bit more of a breakaway affair, and Bent's finish from close range was class. Football is largely about taking chances, as much as creating them, and Villa had taken theirs very well.

* People have speculated hugely about what was said in the dressing room at half-time; but one would hope that Arsene didn't really have to give the epic team talk that has been ascribed to him. I think enough of the players knew that being 2-0 was an unacceptable state of affairs, and I hope the reaction in the second half was down to quite a few of them trying to save their reputations.

* I've seen some writers question how rousing our comeback was, given that it was based, in part, on two penalties. Yet winning penalties in the manner we did was a direct result of the pressure we put Villa under. Last-ditch tackles come from team's who are struggling to hold other teams out. So I would argue that the penalties reflected how we had fought our way back into the game.

* Also, you still have to score a penalty once it's given. And Robin put both of them away with aplomb in a high-pressure situation. According to various sources on Twitter, that put him on 120 goals, equal to that of a certain Mr. Bergkamp. If that's correct, it's fairly astonishing.

* What can you say about Theo's performance? His attempts on goal were almost universally awful, but he showed grit and skill to score his second goal, and he arguably deserved his little piece of luck. A turning point for his season?

* The Ox put in another fantastic performance. Some of his passing is absolutely sublime. I wonder if he has a future in a more central role, given his ability to pick a pass. For now, he is surely now part of the first XI until Gervinho comes back. And Wenger may now have a pleasant headache over who to start between the Ox, Gervinho and Theo after the ACN ends.

* After being at fault for Dunne's goal, Koscielny proceeded to put in a massive performance. Indeed, there was something deeply ironic about seeing him being fouled by Bent for our second penalty. Koz has been massive for us this year, and were it not for Robin's goals, you could make a case that he's been our player of the season.

* The return of both Arteta and Sagna was huge. The game slowed once Arteta came on, but he gives a shape and solidity in midfield which is absolutely vital. We have looked positively adrift without him, and Arsene now has a real conundrum, with Wilshere's absence, of how he is going to manage Arteta for the rest of the year. Because while he is a great player, he does not have a great injury record, and he must not be overplayed.

* It's probably a little trite to say this, but I don't care - Alex McCleish should shut his mouth. His attempt to bring up RvP's alleged 'elbow' in the post-match interview was pure deflection from his side's (embarassing) defeat. It was exactly the same manoeuvre that Warnock tried to pull when we beat his QPR side at Christmas. If you remember, McCleish is the same manager that defended Roger Taylor to the hilt after 'tiny'  snapped Eduardo's ankle in half. Here's to many more victories over McCleish teams in the future.

* Finally, this game will hopefully be a turning point for the club's season. We've had a rough January (to put it mildly), but the manner of the victory today is massive for morale - not just for the team, but also for the fans. Losing today would have been huge - it would have ended our cup run, and meant we were on a four game losing streak. Instead, we have a spirited come-back, and we remain in a competition that we have a real chance of winning. If nothing else, let's just savour the fact that we proved some of the doubters wrong today.

After the game, Ivan Gazidis gave a very revealing interview with Fox Soccer here in the US about Arsenal's current transfer strategy. If anyone has a transcript of this, please get in contact. Otherwise, my blog tomorrow may be based on my slightly hazy recollections of it....


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subesh said...

Go Arsenal.Come on gunners.No more defeats this season.

Anonymous said...

problem is van persie's genuinely looked deliberate. nobody could seriously argue taylor's incident was on purpose.

Anonymous said...

thanks for all that. I really appreciate your insights on the game. Nobody could have gleaned that 'Football is largely about taking chances' without these 'Ten Thoughts'. I'm grateful for this pearler too: 'you still have to score a penalty once it's given.'. And finally your observation that 'there was something deeply ironic about seeing [Koscielny] being fouled by Bent for our second penalty.' One more thing, it's McLeish not McCleish.

Anonymous said...

5 things i noticed

1. Theo's goal created by bad decison making and luck, over shadowed his otherwise terrible game

2. Ramsey doesnt defend well

3. OX is better than wallcott

4. Rosiscky is better than Ramsay

5. RVP too good for Arsenal

Praham said...

Today on fox sport I heard I Gazidis and what a lot of tosh he was talking and saying money is available and saying did not approve spending too much money. You lot on the Board are same old BS. AW will not spend he has done when money was available in his early days when he spent on players, not he has become your puppet and U Gazadis and the Board will dispose AW when it suits U and will only say we need change. What a pathetic and every one new and before you Gazadis that AW was always buying young players but also buying experienced players before you. You and the board are just having good time instead of performing what did U do for the exhaust at the end of last season and expected AW will do wonders to keep them, it is your fault not supporting AW to buy and extend players contract well before expiration date and wait till the end, we will see the same scenario end of this season, RVI< TW and others soon will be asking the same question and possibly loose out

Anonymous said...

1 thing I noticed was that Wenger was the luckiest Pr*ck on earth yesterday!!

2 pens and a fluke from a completely useless Walcott enabled them to get a result that they never deserved!

This only served to save Wengers ass until the next league game when even half the performance from Bolton that they showed against Liverpool will be sufficient enoughh to beat this sorry excuse for an Arsenal side.

Wenger and the Board have made a bloody mess of our club and leave us with a group of average players, playing in a souless ground for a manager who should have been sacked 5 years ago!

It's only a matter of time before more inept performances lead to us being out of all competitions and finishing in 6th place by the end of the season. Stupid signs aound the ground platered there by the club look ridiculous too "Keep the Faith", In Arsene we Trust....yeah very professional looking, how pathetic, our greats of the past must be turning in their graves at this classless bunch (in that I include the players,manager & Board! Bring back Herbert Chapman please....even his corpse would do a better job than this lot!!! What a disgrace!