Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2 : And everybody breathe

I was a bit of a silly boy, on Saturday morning I decided to tell everyone that I predicted much laughter as the weekend results were sure to throw up a few results in our favour and at the expense of our rivals.

Well as we all know I got those well and truly wrong with everyone in the top 7 before the weekend winning their matches. So Monday night and a trip to Villa Park for us was starting to worry me, despite our stats at Villa Park it feels to me that they have had an indian sign over us at the Emirates, and maybe they could transfer that to Villa Park for just one night.

Arsène surprised a few of us by including Gnabry in the starting line up, the only other significant surprise was Monreal in place of Gibbs. Although in that left back slot Arsene has somewhat of a luxury as proven tonight, Monreal is a fine player and when Gibbs came on to replace him there was no change in balance or ability.

Villa were not in the game from the kick off, we dominated possession but were struggling to find a way through the parked bus, Lambert adopting the counter attacking game that works so well away from home in the Premier League, from what I have heard and read this seems to be Lambert’s default tactic not necessarily reserved for visits of the big boys, it probably explains Villa’s low points haul at home as visiting Premier League teams will be happy to take a point, only a few will push all out for a win. Anyway this is an Arsenal blog not a Villa one so on with the match report.

Young Serge Gnabry took it upon himself to start vandalising the bus, a left foot drive hit Villa’s centre back Baker on the temple and he was unfortunately stretchered off concussed having been knocked out for a minute or two. It is never nice to see a player stretchered off, but it meant that Lambert had to shuffle his pack from the three centre backs formation he decided to go into the game with, which would open up some space for us eventually.

After the restart we took some time to reestablish our superiority and Villa had a couple of nearly moments. We were controlling possession but not really finding a way through the defensive lines, that was until Özil did what he is brilliant at, dropping out of midfield to receive the ball from our defence he had the ball in space and time, his movement had also created a vacuum in the middle of Villa’s lines, Monreal made a great run into space and Özil did the other thing he is brilliant at put the ball on his toe, looking up Monreal found Wilshere who within two touches had put the ball in the corner of the net.

jw1

Less than 15 seconds from the restart Jack won back possession in Villa’s half, Giroud made a fine run and Jack flighted a gorgeous ball on to his left foot, Giroud took a couple of touches (one may have been a bit fortuitous but what is it they say about making your won luck?) and with his third drove the ball convincingly into the bottom corner. 2-0 time to relax, what was I worried about?

og 1

Both goals showed that technique that Arsène craves in his players, sorting their feet out while moving at pace and under pressure.

We played the first half out at a canter and it is easy to criticise the players for not going for the kill, we still had plenty of possession and plenty of it around the oppositions box, but there was an element of cockiness and there were one too many flicks rather than proper passing and moving.

Unfortunately someone applied the handbrake at half time and no one seemed to be able to find the damned thing in the second half.

Villa grew in confidence and played a bit better than they had in the first half, we continued to be frivolous in possession and made it hard for ourselves to control the game.

With 20 minutes or so to go, Santi gifted possession to Villa deep in our third, and the ball was swiftly delivered into our penalty area where Benteke could not refuse the invitation for a diving header.

We had been relaxing too long and found it difficult to re-establish the upper hand in possession and ended the game conceding a lot of ground and a few too many aerial balls into the box. Thankfully there was no real drama in the remaining minutes of the game and the defence held firm to see out the match and put another 3 valuable points in the bank.

The sad news of the night is that Monreal may be out for a while if as feared he has done a metatarsal, and Rosicky will probably miss a couple of games whilst his nose is realigned. Better news was the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain, and also the return of that change of pace from Jack, it’s still not there every time but he is getting stronger every game, and if he can continue to find those runs and space in the box he should be able to add a few more goals to his tally before the season is out.

Ratings

Szczesny – 7 didn’t really have a lot to do

Monreal – 8 I really like the way he plays, unlucky to get injured when trying to score a third for Arsenal, good assist for the goal.

Koscielny – 7 did very well to keep Benteke and Abonglahor quiet most of the night

Mertesacker – 8 leader

Sagna – 7.5 Some good crossing tonight strong defensively, can’t really fault his performance.

Flamini – 7.5 excellent cover in the latter stages

Wilshere – 8 one goal one assist, returning to form

Özil – 7 bit too quiet for my liking needs to get involved more

Santi – 6 very erratic with his passing

Gnabry – 7.5 thought he was roaming into the hole a bit too often first half which unbalanced the side, clearly has bags of potential

Giroud – 7.5 nicely taken goal, should have done better with an early header, and hold up play lacking

Subs:

Gibbs – 7
Rosicky – broken nose no time to rate
Oxlade-Chamberlain – 7 just for being back, actually made some nice runs and found himself in threatening positions, I’ve missed the lad

Gooner in Exile

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155 Responses to Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2 : And everybody breathe

  1. Thank you Exile for the match report. I’m a bit pushed for time atm, I’ll try and put some pics in the post a bit later.

    Love the idea that Mertesacker had a go at Santi for his mis-placed pass. For too long we’ve been a team that just shrugs when something goes wrong …………. sort them out Per, you’re the man. I do hope he gets the armband next season, proper captain :)

  2. chas says:

    A fine summary, GIE.
    As usual Arsenal decided we’d had it far too easy in the first half and thought we might all benefit from increased blood pressure in the second.
    I’d give Koscielny 8.

  3. chas says:

    Here’s the Arseblog summary provided by 7amkickoff. :)

    From arseblog

    92 – Percent pass completion by Arsenal in the first half (397/433)
    79 – Percent pass completion by Arsenal in the second half (191/245)
    54 – Misplaced passes by Arsenal in the second half
    18 – Misplaced passes by Arsenal in the final 20 minutes
    10 – Number of misplaced passes by Cazorla in the full 90
    7 – Number of misplaced passes by Cazorla in the second half
    5 – Number of those second half misplaced passes by Cazorla that he played in Arsenal’s defensive half
    1 – Number of times Per Mertesacker yelled at Cazorla after he made a poor pass that led to the Villa goal
    1 – Number of misplaced passes by Özil in the second half (28/29)
    0 – Misplaced passes by Özil in the Arsenal defensive half
    7 – Misplaced passes by Wilshere in the second half
    3 – Number of those misplaced passes by Wilshere that he played in the Arsenal defensive half
    2 – Number that Flamini had (the whole midfield, save Özil, couldn’t pass to each other)
    0 – Misplaced passes by Per Mertesacker out of 42 attempts
    1 – Misplaced pass by Koscielny out of 43 attempts and it was a long ball
    11 – Long passes Koscielny completed (of 12!)
    73 – Pass completion rate by Giroud (32/44)
    55 – Pass completion rate of Benteke (18/33)
    1 – Bad pass by Giroud to Özil that was an insult to bad passes
    67 – Percent of Giroud’s bad passes that were in the Villa final third
    80 – Percent of Benteke’s passes that must have been headers (guessTimate)
    3 – Perfect tackles by Per Mertesacker (3/3)
    3 – Flying tackles by Flamini (3/3)
    3 – Crazy tackles by Cazorla (3/3)
    3 – Back tackles by Sagna (3/3)
    3 – Kieran tackles by Gibbs (3/3)
    3 – Successful dribbles by Gibbs¹ (of 4, Wilshere was 3/7)
    2 – Handsome tackles by Giroud (2/2)
    2 – Surgical tackles by Gnabry (2/2)
    1 – Cheesy tackles by Monreal (1/1)
    1 – Tackles to save the cause by Laurent (1/1)
    0 – Jacked-up tackles by Wilshere (0/1) — he was the only Arsenal player to miss a tackle
    5 – Interceptions by Flamini¹
    1 – Broken nose by Agbonlahor
    1 – Wispy mustache on Agbonlahor’s hideous face
    17 – Clearances by Koscielny¹
    13 – Koscielny clearances in the second half
    14 – Clearances by Mertesacker
    4 – Clearances by Lowton²
    4 – Chances created by Lowton¹
    7.1 – Clearances per game average by Koscielny
    6.5 – Clearances per game average by Mertesacker
    18 – Clearances Arsenal made in the first half
    39 – Clearances Arsenal made in the second half
    23 – Headed clearances Arsenal made in the second half
    21 – Clearances Arsenal made in the final 20 minutes
    13 – Headed clearances Arsenal made in the final 20 minutes
    5 – Headed clearances by Per Mertesacker in the final 20 minutes
    4 – Headed clearances by Koscielny in the final 20 minutes
    2 – Clearances Villa made in the final 20 minutes
    21 – Passes from Özil to Cazorla, Arsenal’s most common pass combination
    19 – Passes from Villa keeper Guzan to Benteke, Villa’s most common pass combination
    Mertesacker and Koscielny record (both players play full 90)
    Played: 28
    Won: 20
    Drawn: 8
    Lost: 0
    Conceded: 14
    Clean sheets: 16

    @7amkickoff
    ¹Lead both teams
    ²Lead just his team

  4. Rasp says:

    Morning all, pics inserted :)

    Lovely match report GiE, you speak the truth!

    Unfortunately I could not concentrate on the game because I was meeting up with an old friend who is emigrating. I could sense the growing tension in the second half after villa scored.

    Well I said yesterday all we wanted was a win by any means and that’s what we’ve got. All 8 top teams won so if that continues, the league will be decided by the results between those 8 teams.

    We’ll need to up our game in the big matches but we are lucky to have some of the easier games in Jan/Feb. We cannot afford any more injuries in key areas. At the moment the squad is coping, we need a bit of luck on that front if we’re going to keep this up to the end of the season.

  5. Rasp says:

    Why the hell didn’t the ref stop the game when Rosicky went down?

    1. It was a clear elbow in the face
    2. It was a head injury so the game has to be stopped
    3. Even if he didn’t see the elbow, surely the claret on his shirt might have given a clue?

    Its amazing how linos have x-ray vision to disallow a perfectly good goal in favour of city but don’t see an obvious elbow right in front of them when we’re playing

  6. brian the gooner says:

    This will I am sure be the first of many comments by me over the coming months as to the huge impact the Walcott injury will have.The second half yesterday would have been so different if his pace had been there to force Villa back as they were able to keep coming at us without too much fear of being counter-attacked with his pace.

  7. Norfolk Gooner says:

    ‘morning AAers, great match report GiE thank you. I was out last night so recorded the game and didn’t start watching until eleven o’clock yet I was kept entertained, and awake, by a strange match. Arsenal were on top without looking really dangerous, we had vastly more possession without creating too many chances, we were comfortable.

    The goals by Wilshere and Giroud obviously stung Villa and they came to life in the second half as we eased off. Benteke took the one real chance that Villa created with a terrifically timed run and diving header. Arsenal’s new found resilience and belief saw out the rest of the half without too many alarms.

    Three points and back to the top.

    It’s seems a bit churlish to complain but… much as I love Olivier Giroud’s attitude and workrate doesn’t his finishing leave just a bit to be desired?

  8. T-SHIRT says:

    ya thanks GIE,for those who didnt watch the game this match report is the script,i liked that yelling the BFG issued to cazorla,perhaps that’s the origin of our defensive discipline this season,he’s a leader indeed,.
    Giroud seems to try too many flicks and crisp passing but unfortunately not all connect to the dismay of some fans but i think he’s in the learning process and once he perfects his moves flicks and touches he would be a nightmare for defenders.i love his goal though

  9. T-SHIRT says:

    chas,
    perhaps you could come up with more of those numbers and stats,i love statistics,have you read the ‘math of the day’ http://www.arsenal.com/news/features/math-of-the-day
    fantastic

  10. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Oh no! Not more stats, BORING! BORING! :D

  11. Norfolk Gooner says:

    OK here’s a stat I don’t mind….Per Mertesacker clocked up his one hundredth appearance for Arsenal last night. What a signing!!

  12. T-SHIRT says:

    NG
    if a manager takes those stats seriously and he could figure out how to defeat a team or select his most effective lineup,
    looking at özil you would see a player not playing top gear but his stats are up there hence his performance.
    i understand if you still dont like those numbers

  13. T-SHIRT says:

    you mean his 100th appearance

  14. kelsey says:

    Morning all.

    I believe that is a pretty good summary GIE though I would have said show boating to a degree as opposed to cockiness.

    With regards to your comment Rasp you are quite right but there were other incidents during the game where a player stayed down for a considerable time, Sagna being one, but to be fair it is a difficult one to call for a ref.

    If anyone would have told most of us that we would be top of the league at this moment of time back in August and that Ozil and Flamini and Bedtner would be in our squad I doubt anyone would have believed it.

    There has been a dramatic change of tactics which I presume is down to Bould and quite noticeable the same pattern as to how we play regardless of the opposition.to an extent this was evident when we played Spurs early on in the season.

    It is quite a transition to play neat intricate passes for a good proportion of the game and then try and bolt up the defence for perhaps anything between 15 to 25 minutes remaining. IMO it is a dangerous tactic when we play the better clubs, yet if we had a more clinical striker many a game would be put to bed a lot earlier
    .
    I never second guess who we maybe after as invariable those in the so called know are invariably wrong,but I don’t see much if any activity in this window for two main reasons. One is the availability of a game changing striker and two that AW most probably believes are squad is strong enough.

    My main concern is that Sagna should be tied down to at least a two year contract as young Jenkinson and he have a massive gulf in experience at this moment of time.

    Giroud is a work horse and his goals stats are quite reasonable but his conversion rate with headers is absolutely awful and that needs working on.
    My only other beef is that I would like to see a bit more shooting from outside the box and only Podolski and Cazorla seem capable of doing this.

    If only we had bid 10 million more for Suarez we would walk this league,but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  15. GoonerB says:

    Fine write up GIE. You called it to perfection as to how I saw the game. It is a tricky one this taking your foot off the pedal. At 2-0 up you really want the team to take the sting out of the game and conserve themselves for forthcoming games, but there seems a fine line between doing that in a smart and professional way and straying over into slight complacency and being overly casual.

    I feel many of our players just strayed the wrong side of that line yesterday, and you are right in saying that they found it hard to change the tempo again, especially with Villa Park and the Villa players re-invigorated after their goal. We gritted it out which is a positive trait we haven’t always shown in the past but I couldn’t help but feel we looked like a mid to lower table side holding on against a top table team for the latter section of the game.

    I started to think how Man Citeh may have responded if it had gone to 2-1 with a renewed Villa and feel the main difference is in their goal-scoring fire power. I feel they would have shown a greater danger to Villa on the break as the Villa players pushed up more for an equaliser and would have maybe caught them a couple more times and punished them.

    That may be the difference this year that in a situation like that where we are hanging on they may have got that 3rd or 4th as Villa pushed to make it more comfortable. It is why I still feel we need to add something to the squad in terms of goal-scoring. I love Giroud but players like Henry, Pires, and Ljunberg would have surely punished them on the break so as well as we are doing at the moment I still feel that a quality addition is required, if we want to win the league.

  16. Norfolk Gooner says:

    T Shirt, I’m not a manager so I don’t have to take stats seriously or any other way for that matter.

    If you like them fine, I don’t.

  17. Norfolk Gooner says:

    I think you are right GoonerB, a bit more ruthlessness, a bit more “goal greed”, a bit less “OK we’re two up, job done let’s take it easy.

    Goal difference could be crucial come the end of the season, right now we’re third, fourteen behind City, three behind Liverpool and only one ahead of Chelsea.

    Bloody stats, the’re like a virus, even I’m using them now.

  18. Rasp says:

    Hi Kelsey, I know what you mean but the rules are pretty clear regarding head injuries and Rosicky stayed down after an aerial clash so I still maintain the ref should have stopped the game and the Lino should have assisted him in that decision

  19. GunnerN5 says:

    Rasp how could you possibly have expected either the referee or lineman to stop the game?

    You are forgetting one very simple fact – our name is Arsenal and we are from Northern London – not Northern England!

    Enough said……………..

  20. Norfolk Gooner says:

    I think the ref was at least trying to let the game flow, he was ignoring the more “dramatic” tumblings, but penalising the more obvious fouls, although how he missed the assault on Rosicky I’ll never know and he should have immediately stopped the game.

    There’s little that is more annoying than players putting the ball into touch so that a team-mate can receive attention only to see the ball returned to them after the Lazarus like ressurection a few seconds later.

    Blatter has recently made it clear that it is the ref’s responsibility to stop play in the case of an injury and that there is no onus on opposing players to put the ball out of play. There still seems to be some confusion in the minds of players, coaches and officials.

  21. GunnerN5 says:

    For the next 3 games the league schedule is kind to us, we play Fulham (H), Southampton (A) and Crystal Palace (H) – should be another 9 points in the bag.

    The schedule for the other teams in the top 7 is —

    City = Cardiff (H). Spurs (A), Chelsea (H)
    Chelsea = Man U (H), West Ham (H). Cit (A)
    Pool = Villa (H), Everton (H), WBA (A)
    Everton = WBA (A), Pool (A), Villa (H)
    Spurs = (Swansea(A), City (H), Hull (A)
    Man U = Chelsea (A), Cardiff (H), Stoke (A)

    So we are the only team in the top 7 who does not play against another member of the group. It`s possible that they will all drop points but with 100% certainty some of them definitely will.

  22. Rasp says:

    :lol: GN5, I’m sure the ref regretted not taking action sooner once he realised the nature of the injury. My beef is more with the linos. Their job is to assist the ref in making the right decision. Recently they seem to be responsible for misleading the ref into the wrong decision. In rugby, the medical staff can come onto the pitch whilst the game continues. Maybe an independent assessor could have a quick look and advise the ref?

  23. Rasp says:

    GN5 @ 12:28, we should wish for as many draws as possible in the head-to-heads of the other top teams for purely mathematical reasons.

  24. GunnerN5 says:

    Rasp,

    We could come up with a probability chart to show us the most likely outcome of those games. But I understand that some of our bloggers are extremely sensitive to or may even be allergic to statistical probability.

    I will do some research to see if there are statistics relating to the percentage of people who enjoy stats and those that don`t.

    (lol)

  25. arnie says:

    Lovely report, GiE. What a pleasure!!!!

    A lot of positives to take from the game.

    First, and contrary to expectations, we do not provide the ROLF result of the week. Brilliant. :D :D :D

    In fact, and as others have said, our main achievement this season is consistency. Good to see this continue into the New Year. When we win the EPL crown this year, as I believe we will, we will turn back and probably find that our greatest virtue has been this consistency.

    Second, stick-man BFG! I like that!! Leading from the back (and the front)!!! I like that even more!!!! Brilliant. :D :D :D

    Wilshere, Monreal, Gnabry, Kos all credible performances. Giroud recovers his scoring boot from the locker room. Brilliant! :D :D :D

    What more can one want? Well, if only, we could defend our two goal advantage a bit better. Conventional wisdom would say keeping possession, playing good passing football, but retaining shape. And this is what we tried to do.

    But, unfortunately, we are not very good at this side of the game this season. And as in previous games, we faltered, gave the ball away, and then had to scramble to retain the 3 points.

    More importantly, we conceded injuries which may yet turn out to be crucial. Oh dear!!!! :sad:

    But, most importantly, 3 points, Top of the League, a good run of games, and conviction that we are not going to provide ROLF results!!!! On with the show!!!!! :D :D :D

    Have to run now, back laters.

  26. RA says:

    A top drawer Post, GIE, and pretty much the way I saw it too.

    I am not big on player ratings as they are so subjective but I have no quibble with your estimates, other than I thought Kozzer was immense and the way he and Mert dealt with everything thrown at them was superb and there was little they could do with the goal.

    So for me, Kozzer was at least an 8, but as I said these things are subjective.

    Altogether a good read.

  27. TwentyTwelve says:

    I am not as critical of the ref and lino in this instance, Rasp.

    Initially, Rosicky was lying faced down, so it would have been impossible for anyone to know his nose was bleeding. Arsenal even played on, with Ozil attempting a shot on goal. Eventually he rolled over, but by then Villa was going on the counterattack, and the ref became involved in tracking the action. The linesman was probably too far to see how serious that nose injury was.

  28. RA says:

    I could not suppress a grin when I read that L’il Jack said that he was an attacking midfielder and not a defensive midfielder after the game, and I figured that LB would be having a word with him at the earliest opportunity.

    Jack was very good in attack last night but if I was being hyper critical I would have to say that he and Cazzor were overwhelmed in the second half and gave the ball away too much for my liking.

    Jack was given MOTM for giving us the result we all wanted, and I would not object to that, but my MOTM was the BFG and his bollocking of Santi was good to see. :-)

  29. GoonerB says:

    Interesting how stats are variously viewed. I tend to fall somewhere in-between where I think stats can be telling and give out useful information but similarly can be misleading in a fluid game like football.

    For instance I have known friends moan in some games that we have not had a shot on target yet and it is now the 30th minute while the opposition have had 2 shots on target. I can remember this being in games that we have otherwise dominated and opened the team up dangerously on a few occasions while they have been restricted to long range hopeful efforts that have allowed Chezzer to finish off his cup of tea before catching the ball.

    We have often looked dangerous without specific shots on target because the shot went just wide or because we were a fraction away from getting a clear 1-1 with the keeper but the striker just couldn’t quite get to it. In those games I think the shots on goal stats are irrelevant.

    I also think back to the Spurs game early in the season where they had more possession. They didn’t really do much with it though and a lot of that possession was through sideways passing through their deep midfielders and defence. Despite their superior possession stats my clear thought by the end of the game was how little they troubled us while we had quite a few dangerous moments and could easily have beaten them by more.

    Obviously the key is not to dismiss stats as being irrelevant, but similarly not to look at all stats as being relevant to how a team is performing.

  30. TwentyTwelve says:

    By the way, should that be ROLF or ROFL? :grin:

  31. RA says:

    Hi Rasper,

    I too was pretty annoyed with the ref for not stopping play for Rosicky, but our players were also at fault for not kicking the ball out of play.

    Actually, I quite liked the style of Mr Swabrick and his more robust attitude to the Villa player’s theatrics. I can see a lot of problems for him when he comes up against the Maureens and Watery eyed Moist. Let’s see, :-)

  32. TwentyTwelve says:

    GiE, sorry I’m being impolite. Wonderful match report. Thank you for your insight about Ozil dropping back.

  33. RA says:

    It should be ROFL, TT, but Micky the Surf likes ROLF so it is best to go along with it, HIMO. (yes, I know it is IMHO, but why should he be the only rebel? :-)

  34. TwentyTwelve says:

    TYMV :)

  35. Gööner In Exile says:

    Morning all thanks for the comments, I find it interesting that most of us saw that result and the performance as hanging on…..is this just a hangover from recent seasons?

    In years of old would we have not called it “seeing the win out” or further evidence of how “we got the goals early and then conserved energy”

    I am not sure what is true, the players seem to be of the opinion they are being professional, perhaps the only flaw to this are mistakes like the one Santi made, playing a pass blind when Row Z would have done. For me it’s these “soft” goals that give opposition fans who were booing at half time some encouragement to try and lift their team to a point…or better. Games like Fulham away a couple of seasons back and Toon away still lie in our memory banks, but the squad and more importantly the defence is much changed from those days.

    Maybe something in that for a post for further discussion….what will it take for us to stop worrying towards the ends of games? We have examples of us seeing out marginal victories a plenty this season already, Marseille away, Napoli home, Dortmund away, Spuds home (league and cup), Palace away, Toon away, and now Villa away.

    We have also found the mettle to come back and step it up when necessary, Cardiff home, Hammers away, WBA away.

    So is the psychological barrier more in the pundits and fans minds than the players themselves? Can we keep “getting away with it” or are we actually “taking charge of the game”?

  36. RA says:

    GIE.

    Football is both an outlet and a magnet for all our more human emotions such as; exultation, despair, worry, ecstasy, envy, anger, etc, etc.

    I found the heightened feelings of the last quarter of an hour last night, as Villla staged a comeback absolutely wonderful and was part of what I love about football.

    What I find less enjoyable is the revisionist comments of those who have expressed dissatisfaction and covertly blamed Arsene for getting it wrong, blah, blah.

    As we sit at the top of the league and play some marvellous, exciting football, I hope he carries on getting it wrong!!

  37. jnyc says:

    I think we are seeing the best of jack when he plays because he is not being overplayed. A bit of rotation is a good thing. It shows in this case

  38. RA says:

    Hi jnyc,

    You make a good point and I think there is a lot more to come from Jack too.

  39. evonne says:

    ha ha ha GiE, you must have been worried yesterday after tempting fate like you did :)

    you are spot on about someone applying the handbrake at half time. It is so wrong even with a 2 goal lead. Look at shitty, they have 4-5 goal lead and break their backs to get the 6th goal. Not only it jeopardizes the 3 points, but it becomes a habit. Wenger should really address this behavious, it could cost us games.

    I was truly impressed with Jack (LB has conveniently disappeared), but far less impressed with Giroud. Yes, Ollie is a workhorse, he is a great team player, but he is not a great striker. He makes up for wasting great opportunities by going the distance, but not what he is employed to do. Great lad, but can we please have an outright striker?

    Also, Ozil had poor second half, I would not a point for that from his rating.
    Otherwise a great report, thank you GiE

  40. Gooner in Exile says:

    I have to say i am in agreement with RA on Swarbick’s performance, he didn’t give any free kicks to Benteke when he was falling over very softly at the slightest touch from behind, the guy is a beast and should be able to keep his feet from the challenges he was going over in, wonder if thats why Lambert is to sign Holt, he got the best out of him with this manoeuvre so maybe he is hopeful that Holt can teach Benteke how to con the referee/win the free kick better.

    Abonglahor was also going over easy to win free kicks, but Swarbick was more forgiving for him than others, he for me managed the game with a balanced whistle, allowing robust challenges both ways, not something we are used to seeing as normally it seems oppositions can kick us all afternoon for no foul but when we do it its a free kick, the only time i felt harshly done by was when Santi had been ruled to have fouled on the edge of their box, and then ruled to have not been fouled in a similar challenge in our final third.

    On the Rosicky injury i am of the opinion that if we wanted the ball out we could have put it out. The ref did run past TR7 as Villa counter attacked but i assume he saw him nursing the injury and eyes open so did not stop play, why our players then got annoyed is anyones guess as we had not put it out ourselves.

    On the whole putting into touch thing i think the following common sense should apply:

    a) if you have the ball and your team mate is down and staying down then you should put the ball out of touch of you think he is injured……i do not think that the opposition then have to give you the ball back so if it were me I would put it out of touch as close to their goal line as possible. (I always used to).

    b) if your teammate is down and the opposition have possession you should alert the ref but leave the decision to him, if he stops play, then you should compete the drop ball, if the opposition have been kind enough to put the ball out you should return possession to them.

  41. GunnerN5 says:

    RA,

    Are you still living in Wichita?

  42. Gooner in Exile says:

    Kelsey you are probably right about show boating rather than cockiness……although it may be something to do with the look of a player that gives the impression. Nevertheless showboating at 7-0 is ok, showboating at 2-0 not so much.

  43. That was shit the bed scary towards the end. Why do we make it hard for ourselves a better team would have caught us out. Still TOP OF THE LEAGUE.

  44. Gooner in Exile says:

    One for the rumour mill……

    Jan Aage Fjortoft is suggesting Draxler to Arsenal will happen…..

    he is not however suggesting when it will happen so i guess he could be proven right in 5 years, 1 year or tomorrow.

  45. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Peaches/Rasp, post e-mailed if you are short during the week.

  46. GunnerN5 says:

    GIE,

    Fine report, I just got back from the exercise room and it was almost the same game I watched, with the exception of the final 10 minutes. I was so nervous that I put the PVR on hold for the last 10 minutes and rewound to watch a very relaxing final 10 minutes – after I knew the score.

    Santi is like a fish out of water on the left wing and it shows in all parts of his game, he excels in the middle of the pitch where he can orchestrate things but is a different player on the wing. seems to be

  47. Gooner in Exile says:

    “Shit the bed scary” that is my new phrase ….. nice one Joe, and welcome, don’t think we’ve seen you round these parts before. :D

  48. Gooner in Exile says:

    GN5 I was sorely tempted to leave the room myself, but after DanDan accused me of being a wimp previously for doing a similar thing i try and see it out these days.

    Football is a lot less stressful when you know the result, i’d really like to be fast forwarded to end of May find out that we have or haven’t won the league and then time travel back to today and watch the game in a far more relaxed manor.

  49. Rasp says:

    Thanks NG, greatly appreciated

  50. Rasp says:

    …. and thanks to GN5 too, keep ‘em coming :)

  51. RockyLives says:

    Great write-up GiE

    My favourite line was in the ratings:
    “Mertesacker – 8 leader”

  52. arnie says:

    OK, two quick views, perhaps both tugging strings the wrong way.

    First, we are not good at stringing together a chain of passes for a considerable period of time. Holding possession, I mean. 20-30 passes, eating away 5 minutes in the process. This is what we have been trying to do and consistently failing. Related, when the ball is hooked out of our defence, we rarely challenge for possession in the midfield so that we find it pinged back straightaway. This is perhaps another way of saying what GiE said earlier about Ozil’s game in the second half. We are not particularly good in this aspect of the game. Perhaps not rubbish either, and this is what contributes to the nervy periods.

    Second, while astute analysts of the game have credited Bouldie for our more defence-centred focus of late, and indeed this may be partly true, I think this also has to do with Arsene. I have a strange feeling Arsene is trying to move away from type in an attempt to win silverware. Which we will surely do, sooner rather than later. What happens then is the question. I have a strange feeling that there may be changes in the management. But that is for later. Let us first try and win the double this year.

  53. arnie says:

    The Leader post-match: “All the teams in the top seven won, no-one dropped any points. There was a bit of pressure, the team could feel that, but we responded. I think everyone was expecting at home that we may drop points. That was very important, to let the other teams see that Arsenal are alive and that we can respond. We look at ourselves and think we are good enough to respond to any challenge they give us.

    “It is really tight at the top. There is no chance to drop any points, so we have to show the other teams that we can feel the pressure but we can respond. That is really vital. We are really happy with the fighting performance and how resilient we are.”

  54. RC78 says:

    Thanks guys for the awesome article and stats…I am really worried about Monreal and Rosicky – it seems that we are currently being hit by a wave of injuries…Not the best time…

    Anyways, the good news is that Wilshere is coming back to form but the worrying news is that Cazorla is really struggling this year and that Ozil seems to have a patch of low form…not ideal at this stage!

    The other confirmations are that:

    - We can grit some results out :-)
    - We are not able to score goals from outside the box;
    - Metersacker, Koscielny and Flamini are having solid seasons so far;
    - while Gnabry is a great prospect, we cannot rely on him to lead the right wing for a full 90 minutes and we are in real need of speed and grit on this right wing ASAP;
    - Podolski needs to come back fully fit asap because Giroud looked good but not as industrious as usual and he needs to be rested more often.

    Come on Gunners!

  55. Gooner in Exile says:

    I think it says a lot about what others think of Gnabry and something about his bullish personality the way the team played in the first half, Gnabry spent more time cutting in and playing the number 10 role than giving width, so much so that Ozil was often seen trying to find another space to play.

    Second half it seemed Serge held his position a lot more, perhaps after a few had had a word in his shell like. That seemed to restrict his play, so i am worried that we have found another “prefer to play through the middle type” :D

    I think actually i’d like to see Serge coming off the left wing, Ozil off the right and Santi in the hole, or maybe a rest for Santi or Ozil and playing Pod on the right.

    Fulham home next….could be a game to experiment a bit. More importantly looks like Rambo will be set for a return as will Arteta, much needed with the likely future absence of Monreal and Rosicky

  56. GunnerN5 says:

    I wonder if having Park on the bench was because he was the last resort or a show of confidence from AW?

    I would think it was because he was the last option, but it would be great if he were a viable option.

  57. Gooner in Exile says:

    Heres a stat for stat fans and non stat fans alike:

    Arsenal results since 22 January 2012 when BFG and Kozzer have played together for 90 minutes:

    Games 27
    Won 19
    Drawn 8
    Clean Sheets 16

  58. RC78 says:

    I like your idea of playing like that:
    Giroud
    Ozil – Santi – Gnabry

    but my gut feeling tells me that after last night, Wenger might be tempted to play Wilshere slightly behind Ozil and Santi as such:

    Giroud
    Santi Ozil
    Wilshere
    Flam Ramsey

    This would allow Wilshere to play in his preferred 8 role with the possibility to get a close look at goals at times, like Gerrard did for Liverpool when they won the CL…

    Ramsey can exchange roles with Wilshere will Santi and Ozil can play anywhere on the wings or in the hole so all and all, this might be the line up vs Fulham unless AW decides to rest some players

  59. TERRY MANCINI HAIR TRANSPLANT says:

    Thanks GIE, top notch mate.

    We deserved that. Nothing against Villa, but what a bunch of swines. Lamberts a genius allright. Agressive pressing, eight men behind the ball, and constant long ball to Benteke.

    What kind of man elbows a loveable guy like Rosicky. If there is one thing pretty boys like myself and Rosicky loath, its an elbow to the hooter.

    The referee was excellent. His demeanour was not like the stereotypical ref. Not once did I get the impression he was using the game to vent frustration over erectile dysfunction.

    I am left with the impression that were slowly but surely developing an adaptability to our game that will inevitably result in trophies

    I was going to say its a great time to be an Arsenal fan, but thats nonsense. Its always a great time to be an Arsenal fan.

  60. chas says:
  61. 26may1989 says:

    Nice write-up Exile, glad Peaches was able to pressurise someone into doing the business!

    I felt annoyed for the last ten minutes of the game, since we made such a meal out of a game I felt we had dominated and controlled in the first half. suffering two injuries limited what Wenger could do to change things but in those last ten minutes, the players on the pitch really did lose their shape and gave up possession too easily.

    But it was a deserved victory, and we got what we needed, the three points to neutralise what City, Chelsea etc did.

    I said during the game I was irritated by the referee for letting more physical challenges go. I was worried that we were about to be treated to another let’s-take-it-in-turns-to-kick-LJ-in-the-air fest, but I shouldn’t have been so concerned, Swabrick was excellent last night. Yes, he (or the linos) should have seen immediately that Rosicky had been hit in the head, but that one thing aside, I think can’t think of another bad decision, and his general management of the game was very good.

  62. chas says:

    Cut and pasted from twitter.

    For those who believe that English referees are incompetent but not biased, let me tell you the story of Paul Taylor…
    Taylor was 4th official for Sunderland v Arsenal on the opening day of the 2000-1 season. After the game there was a scuffle in the tunnel..
    Taylor claimed that Arsene Wenger had grabbed him by the throat & threatened him. Wenger was fined & given a 12 match touchline ban…
    Wenger appealed & the ban was rescinded. Why would the FA take Wenger’s word over one of their officials? More evidence had come to light..
    Taylor was a Tottenham fan & had left messages on an ex-girlfriend’s phone bragging about how he had got Wenger banned…
    He did this knowing that she had family members who were staunch Arsenal fans. When the FA were told of this they put it to Taylor…
    …who had no option but to withdraw his accusation.

  63. arnie says:

    Chas: Can this info be true at all? If so, perhaps we should make a freedom of info request ….. :D :D :D This will also set fireworks under the seats of the other cheaters. :D

  64. 26may1989 says:

    Chas, I know it messes up Sky’s graphic a bit, but that is a tiny bit misleading about Jack’s goals, since in 2010 he scored a goal for Bolton while on loan there too, so his total in 2008-13 is actually six.

  65. chas says:

    So you’d count a goal for Bolton as part of his “Arsenal Record”?
    Weird

  66. GunnerN5 says:

    26M.

    But why let facts spoil a good story line.

  67. 26may1989 says:

    I broke one of my cardinal rules today; namely always ignore anything with the name “Piers Morgan” on it. He had posted his PL XI and I couldn’t resist, wanting it to confirm how little he knows about the game. In fact, I was a little disappointed, the side was a pretty good selection (he must’ve got a researcher to do it for him), even if the formation isn’t obvious. But it did prompt me to jot down my own selection, based on performances this season.

    Morgan’s selection:

    Hart, Ivanovic, Kompany, Koscielny, Baines, Hazard, Ozil, Fernandinho, Toure, Suarez, Rooney (subs: Szczesny, Ramsey, Aguero, Barkley, Zabaleta, Negredo, Silva)

    Mine:

    Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Kolorov, Cabaye, Toure, Suarez, Ramsey, Hazard, Negredo (subs: Lloris, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Fernandinho, Ozil, Rooney, Navas)

    Thoughts?

  68. Gööner In Exile says:

    They had an interesting question on the PGMOL and Refs Match Reprts onThe Times Podcast yesterday.

    For example lets take Neil Jones decision not to give Toons equaliser….apparently this season more of the decision making has been given to the ref (ie in his opinion is the player impeding an opponent). Now he may clearly have felt that to be the case and as such would have stated as much in his match report.

    Could they make these reports public in the future?

  69. 26may1989 says:

    Given the finishing school purpose behind some (but not all) loans, it’s an interesting question Chas – but, in saying something about how Jack has developed (which is what Sky are doing), it is relevant (in a very minor way) that he scored an additional goal Sky did not record in the graphic.

  70. chas says:

    It doesn’t mention he missed a whole season either or that his son’s name is Archie. :)

  71. arnie says:

    26may: Based on the idea that a team is not a collection of great players but one that can play together as a team, I will be cheeky, with apologies :razz:

    Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Theo, Özil, Rosicky, Giroud (subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Wilshere, Podolski, Jenkinson, Gnabry)

    Surely, Top of the League means that Arsenal provides the best team at the moment. :D :D :D

  72. kelsey says:

    Many tweets and clips are misleading and everyone can interpret a clip differently.

    A clip was put up earlier of Podolski loking displeased or shaking his head when Ox came on and not him, and then one reads that Pod is unhappy and will most probably be sold in the Summer yet a few days ago AW said that Pod was never fully fit for a good part of this and last season and the best was to come from him.
    To AW putting the OX on was the right decision and maybe Pod was just infuriated that he didn’t get a chance last night.

    With regards to Giroud I see only Evonne tends to agree with me.

  73. arnie says:

    Ancelloti: “I think we made a mistake when we gave him (Ozil) the possibility to leave the club. However, we have fantastic strikers and don’t need a back-up after Higuain’s departure.”

  74. byron says:

    Per may be a leader but he switched off for the ville goal.

  75. RA says:

    Chas, you tell that 26M that the graphic clearly states L’il Jack’s Arsenal record. :-)

  76. 26may1989 says:

    Very good, arnie! Now have a proper go!! :)

  77. TERRY MANCINI HAIR TRANSPLANT says:

    What exactly is Piers Morgans problem anyway, apart from been a Knob?

    If he wernt famous he would probably post on here on as Spectersniffer or something

    These type of people must be heard, have the last say, and be proven right. There narcissistic and ego driven personality refuses to accept any notion of repentance or humble acceptance.

    I also suspect sexual problems, but I always suspect that.

    The other day my parcel from argos arrived a day late, so when the geezer turned up I said “Sexual problems mate”, he was like “What!, bloody thing was held up in transit, thats all”

    I was perplexed with his denial, so said “Sorry mate, you dont look refreshed. Is it a case of something nasty down below?”

    He got really angry and snapped “Eff of mate. Do you want this parcel or not? Sign here”

    I thought better not push it, so signed and checked the contents of the goods. All there. “Wonder Pills to alleviate a floppy disc” and book “How to make love to a women”

  78. RA says:

    26M,

    Why do you dislike Piers Morgan so much?

    I know very little about him, other than what is in the public domain, but it seems to be de rigour for all the hoy polloi to profess a sneering disdain for the man, and that in itself makes me think he cannot be all bad. :-)

  79. TwentyTwelve says:

    Hi arnie, about the 4:55pm quote. I also read that somewhere, but it seems odd to me. Why would Ancelloti follow the sentence about Ozil (supposedly) with a sentence about having enough strikers and not needing back-up. Ozil isn’t a striker is he?

    Something doesn’t seem right.

  80. RA says:

    rigour = rigueur — sodding Apple self correcting (not) :-)

  81. RA says:

    Terry, is your alter ego ………. Piers Morgan? :-)

  82. RA says:

    TT, that is over analysing a managers utterances – and you know that what you read in footballing comments is not what the manager said, or is not what he meant.

    Just ask Hairy Terry. :-)

  83. RA says:

    C’mon you lot – keep up before I have to go feed my nag, Geronimo. :-)

  84. RA says:

    Chas, since you made me aware of ‘Beijing Red’ I cannot stop having a peep at his twitter feed.

    He is such a comedian and it is such a laugh seeing the Manc fans swarming around like bees around honey to be ritually humiliated.

    Thanks for that. :-)

  85. RC78 says:

    Per was indeed at fault on Benteke’s goal…but overall, good display this season by the giant German

  86. arnie says:

    TT: “over analysing” indeed. I dont care that much what the s***face Ancellotti was thinking, but two things irked me. First, if it was a mistake it was in the decision to bring in monkeyface. From then on, they had to sell someone and the decision was taken out of his hands. Arsenal made an offer that he could not refuse. Second, there is a hint of patronising as if they let Ozil go for free, which is detestable. Arsenal turned out to be the sole winner in the 3-way deal, and this is most important for us. :D :D :D

  87. arnie says:

    I nominate ‘Beijing Red’ for the “Gooner of the Year” award!!!! :D :D

  88. arnie says:

    26may: a serious go will take a bit of time, laters. :D

  89. Gooner in Exile says:

    Kelsey you make an interesting point about video stills, could be that Pod was disappointed for his mate TR7 and his broken nose. Many different possibilities.

    RA Piers Morgan is a an absolute banned word.

    Apart from his generally slimy appearances on TV, and his self righteous tweeting where he seems to think anyone cares what he thinks about football and his odious voice there is this article that was run by the Mirror Newspaper while he was in charge that led to a number of Arsenal fans being banned from home games for life, bans that have not been lifted despite the Mirror’s subsequent small print apology…now maybe that is the clubs responsibility and maybe some of these fans were involved in violence at a game, but they would it appear only have been exercising self defence when coming under attack from Turkish fans as reported by several eye witness statements.

    http://ladyarse.co.uk/2012/02/why-arsenal-fans-really-hate-piers-morgan/

  90. RockyLives says:

    Bit harsh to say Per was at fault for the Benteke goal.

    If you watch carefully you see that he realizes the ball is going to clear Kozzer and bounce in the path of the other Villa attacker (Agbonlahor?). He has to move forward to try and deal with the anticipated effort from the Villan in front of him.

    But the bounce eluded botn Villan No 1 and the BFG, and bobbed up at a perfect height for Benteke at the back post.

    And a thought about Ozil… he always seems to have a quite game but last night he (a) made the crucial intervention that allowed us to take the lead and (b) was the only one of our non-defenders showing proper composure and keeping possession in the 6 minutes of injury time.

  91. evonne says:

    Joe is Special – great heading for your Gravator ” I have a deep love of all things Tech and anything relating to the Arsenal” :)

    You are in a right blog here iro Arsenal, but don’t expect any techie companions here – they all are accountants or away with the fairies. Except for me of course!

  92. RA says:

    So you really have a secret crush on him then, GIE? ;-)

  93. RA says:

    What Rocky said — me too. :-)

    If that bloody hoss does not shut up calling for me I will turn him into burgers.

    Who’s a fairy, Evonne? We are all elves on here! :-)

  94. 26may1989 says:

    RA, sometimes your enemy’s enemy isn’t your friend! :)

    I don’t think Mertesacker was at fault for the goal, he was just ambushed by Cazorla’s rush of blood with his pass inside when the ball should just have gone aerial down the touchline.

    I also agree with Rocky, that Ozil played well when it mattered last night.

  95. RC78 says:

    Rocky – seems that I seem to see the cup half-empty whereas you see it half-full but I can agree with your comments about both Ozil :-) As for Per, I think that he should not have let Benteke sneak behind his back so easily…

  96. TwentyTwelve says:

    Right you are, arnie and RA.

    GiE, very good point. We don’t really know what Podolski was shaking his head about. Wouldn’t be surprised if he gets his opportunity to contribute with the up-coming fixtures.

    Talking about fixtures, it’s time for Arsenal to increase the gap! Chelsea has a visit from Man Utd next, and Man City has (hopefully) a tough trip to WHL.

  97. RC78 says:

    In terms of fixtures, we got clearly shafted towards the end of the season…We have a really rough patch with all our rivals in a row…

  98. RA says:

    RC78,

    Some might agree that Per should have anticipated that cross – and I do not think he had any chance with it – but you have to credit the young Villan who put that and other excellent crosses into the box.
    It happens.

    26M, you are not my enemy, so the rest is moot. :-)

  99. TwentyTwelve says:

    RC78, true that. Hopefully we will make hay now, and be able to hold on over that nasty stretch in March.

  100. arnie says:

    TT, RC78: Agreed. We should “make hay” now, and surely Shitty and Chavs to drop points. Get our players back to fitness as well. Then, in a month and a half, we will see. :D :D :D

  101. RockyLives says:

    Having a nasty run of fixtures is not necessarily a bad thing.

    If we get on a roll we can carry our momentum through those games and knock down our enemies like dominos!

  102. arnie says:

    Rocky: Thats the spirit!!!!!! :D :D :D

  103. 26may1989 says:

    Ah, RA, you old softy……

  104. fatgingergooner says:

    I hope Sagna’s contract gets sorted out. I was happy for him to leave last season when he appeared to have had his head turned. He was pretty poor for most of the season, but maybe i was being harsh and it was actually due to his leg break rather than interest from elsewhere.

    He has been outstanding this year, both in defence and attack. His crossing has improved massively and he has set up numerous chances for Giroud this season (5 assists already, should’ve had 2 more against United away, could’ve had 1 last night, as well as loads of other missed opportunities). At first I thought it was the usual final great season in order to get a move elsewhere, but it seems he is willing to stay if the terms are right. IMO he has earned his extension.

    Also, Jenkinson does not look ready yet for first team responsibilities and letting Sagna leave could be a huge mistake.

    Get it sorted and sign da ting!

  105. fatgingergooner says:

    I find Özil very interesting this season. He’s already got 5 goals & 10 assists, yet I don’t think we’ve seen him move out of 3rd gear, apart from the odd glimpse.

    He still seems to be struggling a little with the pace of the PL and hasn’t quite found his own position within the formation. His link up with team mates has also been missing sometimes, and other players moving into his spaces has hindered his play.

    Next season he should hopefully have a full year playing with Walcott, and he will be used to the PL game. If he can move up to 4th and 5th gear on a more regular basis then we could easily be looking at a 10 goal, 25 assist player.

  106. arnie says:

    FGG: About Ozil and the PL, I think it is not so much the pace but the aggression with which opponents close down. If you watch Spanish football on TV, it is not quite the same. Having said that, Dortmund were very good in closing down as well. There is too little protection for players holding on to the ball in the EPL. :D :D

  107. Gööner In Exile says:

    Before I update the swingometer some numbers:

    The remaining 17 fixtures yielded 24 points last term, had we matched last seasons results in the first 21 we would have 49 points.

    The League winner scored 89 points.

    The games we slipped up in last season?

    Losses : Norwich away, Swansea home

    Draws : Sunderland home, Stoke away, Fulham home, Southampton away

    That’s 14 points, and doesn’t even include beating Spuds away, and United at home.

  108. arnie says:

    OK, despite having been chastised by Redders, and despite causing some misery to GiE, and despite having promised that “mum’s the word”, here we go.

    The Draxler story is getting very strong. The rumours have progressively become stronger all day. Now, there is high speculation that a deal will be concluded this week. €45m apparently – is it too high?

    Nothing like some transfer speculation to get fellow AA ers awake! :D :D :D

  109. arnie says:

    OK, GiE, got the message. That gets us to about 4th/5th on the Swingometer I guess. :D :D

  110. chas says:

    RA,
    I first saw Beijing Red when GoonerMichael retweeted one of his tweets, so blame him. :)

  111. LB says:

    BTW I did see the interview with Wishere after the game, you would have thought that the researchers for that programme had been reading this blog, anyway as for Lil, Jack’s comment of being an attacking midfielder all I shall say is:

    Poor Lamb…….he will realise, sooner than he thinks.

    Actually, I thought the position he played last night was perfect, slightly ahead of Flamini, just behind Cazorla; yes, of course, he augmented the attack but that was not his main purpose on the night.

    Top Drawer match report, GIE, if the rating on Ozil was the bait then I will bite, I agree with Rocky’s 5.37.

  112. fatgingergooner says:

    LB,

    I was reading Robbie Savage’s comments about the game last night on the BBC website (not sure why!) and it had a picture showing each players average position over 90 minutes. Interestingly, Wilshere’s average position was bang on the centre circle, just in front of Flamini and just behind Cazorla.

  113. fatgingergooner says:

    You’ve got to love ze Germans in the Arsenal squad. More the merrier I say.

    Reus, Hummels and Schweinsteiger next! :)

  114. arnie says:

    chas, this tumblr is nice, thanks a lot. :D

  115. 26may1989 says:

    FGG @9.11pm: I think that’s the point about Wilshere isn’t it? His talents are probably most naturally accommodated in a 442 formation, which would have him play between the 4231′s DM and AM lines.

  116. GunnerN5 says:

    Mertesacker a legend in the making

    Posted by John Cross
    One thing stands out in the memory from Villa Park ahead of everything else: Not the goals, nor Jack Wilshere’s return to his best form, nor even Arsenal returning to the top of the Premier League, although that was pretty satisfying for Arsene Wenger.

    - Mangan: Arsenal make a tedious match terrifying

    There was something else really striking when Arsenal conceded a late goal to Aston Villa after Christian Benteke pounced following Santi Cazorla’s mistake. Per Mertesacker stood there, in the heart of Arsenal’s penalty area, looking absolutely appalled, shouting his frustration at his teammates for letting in a goal.

    It made for a nervy last quarter of an hour. Arsenal went from cruise control in the first half — when it looked so easy — to a white-knuckle ride as they had to hang on for victory. They managed to cling to the goals by Wilshere and Olivier Giroud to see out a 2-1 win. But that wasn’t the point for Mertesacker.

    Mertesacker, the vastly experienced German defender, realised Arsenal had lost their focus and concentration. And when you do that, you risk losing leads and throwing away points. In the heat of a Premier League title race, you can’t do that.

    The top teams are neck and neck, and there is little room for slipups. Increasingly, there is no margin for error. Chelsea and Manchester City had laid down the marker and Arsenal needed to respond.

    Afterward, Mertesacker spoke maturely about that, too — about handling pressure and winning games. That’s him all over. That’s why Arsenal are close to tying him down to a new contract. It’s all but signed. Mertesacker has taken Arsenal to his heart, and the Arsenal fans — after (by his own admission) a difficult first season — have accepted him as a real club man.

    He looks fun; the fans have their own song for him. “Big F—ing German” is sung loud and proud. He likes it so much that he’s endorsed a T-shirt with the words.

    But there’s a serious side. I saw Tony Adams in the press room before the game at Villa Park, and he will go down as one of Arsenal’s greatest-ever leaders. While Mertesacker has some catching up to do on domestic medals and cups, the similarities are obvious.

    Mertesacker is driven, and he has a will to win and a burning desire to lift trophies this season. That’s why conceding even a consolation goal hurt. Mertesacker has a great big-man, small-man understanding, and his partnership with Laurent Koscielny and Arsenal looks so solid.

    And in Mertesacker, they also have a man driven to succeed. And driven to lead Arsenal to succeed. (I also like Mikel Arteta’s leadership qualities as a stand-in captain.)

    Mertesacker is still young enough to become an Arsenal legend. The fans love him, and with some trophies to remember him by, he will become even more popular.

    A legend in the making.

  117. fatgingergooner says:

    26,

    That all depends on how you line up a 4231 or 451 or 433 or whatever you want to call it!

    Arsenal tend to play their midfield 3 with a DM, CM, AM trio. With that line up then Wilshere can play the CM, the same as he would in a 442. Only problem is Ramsey is best in that position also! Although squads are bigger than ever these days due to the amount of games so it’s not really an issue.

  118. byron says:

    If Arsenal do win the title and it’s a big if, then this would be the worst Arsenal side in history to win the league title.

  119. VCC says:

    Byron……odd assumption?…….you obviously did not watch them in the 60′s and 70′s…….like I did.

  120. byron says:

    Arsenal never won a league title in the 60′s and the 71 Double side would walk all over this side if they’re were ever to win the league this season.

  121. VCC says:

    Maybe the 71 double side would beat the current one, but to say they are the worst Arsenal side in history is a tad strong imo.

  122. byron says:

    VCC

    i think you misunderstood me what i meant was if Arsenal won the title they would be the worst Arsenal side to win it compared to the 13 previous winners.

  123. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Exile

    Sorry not around yesterday for your excellent MR. Thank you very much anyway.

    Bit late to join in, but for me the three points were fantastic, while the performance was not so great, particularly in the second half. Bring on the next game, and let’s absolutely smash someone. Oooo, Fulham at home :-)

  124. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Exile

    Sorry not around yesterday for your excellent MR. Thank you very much anyway.

    Trouble with broadband. Might not get sorted out till I phone at 9am

    Bit late to join in, but for me the three points were fantastic, while the performance was not so great, particularly in the second half. Bring on the next game, and let’s absolutely smash someone. Oooo, Fulham at home :-)

  125. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Yipee, I am working

    Right Chas, where are those Beijing Red things RA was on about.

    I might tool on over to Twitter right now. I did join simply to make my Christmas Card, so will see if I remember how to access, then make Bezzie Mates with Beijing.

  126. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Found him. :-)

  127. chas says:

    Motning.

    Bayern tickets go on sale for 15+ credits next Thursday 23rd at 3pm. That’s if they’re not sold out before to those with more away points.

    http://www.arsenal.com/match/report/1314/tickets/first-team/bayern-munich-v-arsenal-tickets

  128. chas says:
  129. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Chas
    Any chance of two? I’ll confirm possibility by this time tomorrow.

  130. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Crikey Chas,

    Wait until The Arsenal Gentleman gets hold of names like Brandon Ormonde-Ottewll and Ainsley Maitland-Niles :-)

  131. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Legend and Fit. I mean Gorgeous :-)

  132. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Wow. Who be this Poznan in My Pants?
    It gets a ROLF from me

    Must dash. On school run.

  133. Gööner In Exile says:

    VCC, don’t worry about Sniffer (Byron) he is at a loss to explain why against all his hopes and aspirations we are still top of the League.

    Would this team beat the Invincibles….unlikely, I doubt any in the current PL could. In sure some would say Shitty but they would be silly.

    Pires vs Kolarov/Zabaleta
    Ljungberg vs Clichy
    Toure vs Vieira
    Kompany vs Henry
    Campbell vs Aguero
    Cole vs Silva
    Lauren vs Nasri

    Would our current team beat the 88 and 90 title winning sides? I’d guess it would be very close.

    Don’t see too many City players coming out on top

  134. kelsey says:

    Quote of the day by Evonne

    “You are in a right blog here iro Arsenal, but don’t expect any techie companions here – they all are accountants or away with the fairies. Except for me of course!” ;)

  135. evonne says:

    thanks Kels, which category are you in :)

    GiE – you had me lost for a mo with Kompany vs Henry, etc. I couldn’t understand why are you comparing players from completely different position. don’t worry, one more cup of coffee and i got it :) Could Kompany stop Thierry? No, he couldn’t.

    Sadly, if you compare likes for likes, us vs Shitty it doesn’t look so good. I’d take 4-5 of their players without battling an eyelid.

  136. kelsey says:

    As a straight debate betwen the 1971 double side and the Invinsibles there are so many factors to consider it would make a great debate. 30 odd years is a long time in football.

  137. kelsey says:

    evonne

    I better not answer that as I promised to be a good boy ;)

  138. Gööner In Exile says:

    Kelsey I think it’s always been impossible to judge against generations, as the Invincibles are the first of the new breed of PL footballers I think it’s possible to compare them with Shitty.

    But can anyone compare say Pele to Messi?

    Probably not one played at a slower pace with defenders who were allowed to kick them ten foot in the air and only receive a ticking off from the ref, whereas the other plays at a much quicker pace but with players who can’t touch them anywhere near as much.

    Same with our 71 team playing on mud fields with heavy leather balls i reckon give Johnny Radford a modern day football in his peak the keeper wouldn’t see it, and give George Armstrong the ball to cross and it would be sailing over the opposite touch line, which is why it’s so frustrating that we struggle to clear the first man and can’t lift the ball over the oppositions defensive line from fifty yards away.

  139. kelsey says:

    Morning GIE

    Your last paragraph sums it up but in my lifetime I suppose I couldn’t count that many truly world class players,something that I believe is inbred within the player and can’t really be taught.

  140. chas says:
  141. JanMan says:

    Strange email earlier from Byron. Not sure how he can compare todays team against the one from 71 and make the comment that todays team would be the worst ever to win a title, based on what? How does he come up with that assumption? All rather strange! I think it is really impossible to make comparisons with past teams as so many factors are different.

  142. Rasp says:

    Byron = troll

  143. VCC says:

    GiE 8:01 :-)
    Rasp 9:47 :-)

    One thing I would say to Byron/troll, is Arsene Wenger is the best Manager of Arsenal in my lifetime. And boy, believe me, that’s a long time, unfortunately too long. ;-)

  144. Morning all

    New post …….

  145. Vinay says:

    If Arsenal win the league this time, i think it will be their greatest league win along the 98 triumph, invincibles never looked like losing, 91 we only lost 1 game, 02 we were the best team, this time around we are in competition with the 2 biggest money spendings bastards whose A team can also play in the league and if we beat them all and win, i think its one of our greatest achievements ever.

  146. byron says:

    VCC

    Of course Wenger is the best manager of Arsenal in your lifetime, l’d be disappointed if you had said anything different. This site should be renamed ArseneArsene

  147. byron says:

    Vinay

    Agree but we have not beaten a top 4 side for quite a while.

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