My overall impression of this game was that we played slightly with the famous handbrake on. Possibly a more accurate description is that we still looked like we were suffering a slight hangover from the previous 2 games, which obviously didn’t go our way. It wasn’t a lack of effort that was missing, but more a clinical fluidity and sharpness. Whether this was more from physical fatigue or was more a psychological issue on the back of the last 2 games I am unsure.
Either way it was a game that could have, and should have, seen us score 3 or 4 and run out easy winners, rather than endure a nervy narrow 2-1 win. Their goal should have been a consolation goal rather than a goal that kept them in it till the final whistle. I had a discussion with Rasp pre game and we were saying the same thing about the Blackburn fiasco. We should have been 3 up when they scored what should have been only a consolation goal instead of a winning goal. Despite good chances and superior dominance in some games we fail to clinically finish chances off and put games to bed early.
We will put 4,5,6, or 7 past some teams but we are not consistently clinical in our finishing at the moment. Maybe Arsène has identified this as a problem and the rumours about David Villa do indeed carry some weight.
On to the game and we had an early chance when Wilshere was put through behind the Villa defence by a good early ball from Giroud. He looked up and saw that Walcott was making an effort to get into the box but decided the better option was to go it alone and shoot from a tight angle. Was it the wrong option? Maybe the pull back to Walcott was the better option but hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing, so it is not a point I would criticise.
We continued to try and take the game to Villa and got the early break-through. Cazorla received the ball on the left side of the Villa box and seemed to try and play a partial through ball, partial shot. Either way the ball was rebounded to him again and his trademark quick footwork didn’t allow the nearest Villa defenders any time to get at him and he made no mistake with a low powerful shot that went between and through the legs of the Villa defenders, bending away from Guzan, and into the net. 1-0 to the good guys.
After this we seemed to become a little casual and passes seemed to come up short or just behind their intended targets. Even Jack was gifting away possession at times. Villa had 3 good opportunities to try and hit us on the break as a result and twice Szczesny was called into action with the third going dangerously across our 6 yard box with Agbonlahor just failing to connect. The interesting thing for me was that all 3 chances came from balls from our left flank where Villa had got behind Monreal. It seemed to be an area they targeted to me and is a point I would like to open for discussion. How did this situation occur 3 times when we were 1-0 up?
We entered the second half with a bit more purpose and continued to try and get the second goal. Giroud played a couple of flicks with Cazorla and immediately got the return pass putting him through on goal. Unfortunately the big man didn’t have his shooting boots on in this game.
On 61 minutes Ramsey came on for Diaby. I thought it was because Diaby was only having a so-so game but I now believe it was due to another injury. Shortly after this we had everyone bar 3 players forward for a corner which they managed to hoof upfield. Jenkinsons headed clearance was ineffective and the ball eventually found its way to Weimann. He was still a long way out but the 3 defenders left back from the corner retreated as he advanced and our returning defenders didn’t manage to get back in time. He fired a shot from some distance. It wasn’t a bad shot but was no screamer. Szczesny seemed to dive in slow motion and the ball squirmed past him. It is one he should have saved.
On 76 Podolski came on for Jenkinson to try and win the game. I was worried about how this would leave us exposed on the counter but Villa didn’t offer up much else and it was mainly all us trying to get the decisive goal. We had a number of wide balls coming in that no forward player seemed to want to take a chance with and get into the 6 yard box.
We have seen this many times before, and it seems to be a long-standing habit of ours. On 85 minutes, however, a good ball from Wilshere put Monreal through down the left. This time Giroud made the run into the 6 yard box. Crucially it dragged defenders with him and left space behind where Cazorla was lurking. Monreal picked the right option and left Cazorla a relatively simple finish.
There wasn’t too much drama after this, although it didn’t seem that way at the time. Koscielny came on for Walcott to shore us up for the closing minutes of injury time, and we saw the game out. 3 vital points especially with Everton losing. We can sit back now for the rest of the weekend and hope that Citeh and West-Ham can do us a favour.
On to the ratings.
Szczesny 6 - He actually made a couple of vital stops earlier on but should have prevented their goal.
Jenkinson 7 - I thought Jenks had a solid game. He generally put good balls in and didn’t seem to be found wanting when the pacey Agbonlahor tried to get at him.
Mertesacker 7 - Didn’t do too much wrong all game and it was a solid performance. A couple of key blocks also.
Vermaelen 7 - Much the same as with Mertesacker.
Nacho 7 - I didn’t like the way we were exposed behind him but he did get some good balls into the box and set up the decisive goal.
Arteta 7 - Nothing spectacular but kept us ticking and I can’t remember any mistakes from him.
Diaby 6 - Occasional moments but seems to have lost the powerful influence he showed against Liverpool earlier this season.
Wilshere 8 - Was a bit sloppy early but took more command as the game went on and any win normally has some key contribution from Jack. Maybe looks a bit tired.
Cazorla 8.5 and MOTM - I thought he was an influence the whole game as well as scoring the 2 goals. I was also impressed that he seemed to put in a good defensive shift as well.
Giroud 6.5 - Could have had a couple. He wasn’t too bad but it didn’t really come off for him today. His link up play though is still excellent.
Walcott 6.5 - Not his best game but he always gives off an air of danger that worries the opposition.
Ramsey for Diaby (61 minutes) 6.5 - Nothing spectacular but was solid when he came on.
Podolski (for Jenkinson 76 minutess) 6 - I didn’t notice much of a contribution and I thought he was guilty a couple of times in not taking a chance getting into the 6 yard box.
Koscielny (for Walcott 90 minutes) - No time to really rate him.
Written by GoonerB