Villans Shot Down, Park Rangers Next
Premier League 2011-2012 / Game 30 / Emirates Stadium
|Arsenal||3||(Gibbs 16, Walcott 25, Arteta 90)|
Arsenal continued their winning run with a commanding performance to comprehensively beat Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium yesterday.
Arsene Wenger was forced into a late change in defence, Laurent Koscielny unable to play due to a tendinitis problem in his knee. Johan Djourou came in instead to partner Thomas Vermaelen in the centre of defence. The other change was in midfield, with the manager choosing to go with a more attacking front three of Gervinho, Walcott and van Persie, Aaron Ramsey making way for the Ivorian.
Our recent success has been in no small measure due to our ability to play first choice defenders. The Emirates Stadium crowd was well aware of this, and there were audible groans when Djourou’s name was announced in the playing eleven. I believe this was an indication not of a lack of trust in Johan, but more an acknowledgement of how massive Koscielny’s been for us this season.
However, Djourou is prone to the odd mistake, especially in dealing with simple high balls against strong central strikers, and Alex McLeish immediately changed the formation, pushing Emile Heskey up front to try and cause problems.
In the end, the Swiss performed more than adequately, considering he’s not played in his favored centre-back position for quite some time now. To be honest, Villa were extremely poor and did not test him enough, except in the first few minutes when Heskey clattered into him on a couple of occasions. A clean sheet will do his confidence no harm, and we may need it if Koscielny’s injury is serious enough to see him sidelined for a while.
Up front, Arsenal started brightly once again, although we nearly paid for this exuberance in the 7th minute, with Marc Albrighton finding acres of space on the left as Gibbs was caught up field. The 3 on 3 situation looked promising but Albrighton preferred to shoot and blazed well over.
There were a couple of times when similar situations developed on the left, but Villa’s lack of quality, excellent anticipation by Vermaelen and some good tracking back by Gervinho meant that no threat was posed to Szczesny’s goal. In fact, that Albrighton effort was Aston Villa’s only shot of the entire game.
At the other end, Arsenal were exerting pressure with a Walcott shot saved by Given and Vermaelen heading over from a corner. The inevitable goal came in the 16th minute, from an unlikely source, after good work by Gervinho saw Gibbs through, who coolly slotted home under Shay Given.
The advantage was doubled when Alex Song found Theo Walcott with his now trademark chipped ball into the box, and the Englishman’s wonderful first touch allowed him to finish calmly to Given’s left.
Arsenal took the foot off the pedal after the second, and for a while, it looked like Aston Villa might find their way back in after some sloppy giveaways by the home team. However, the game meandered along with Villa not threatening and Arsenal unable to maintain the high tempo and quality they’ve displayed in recent matches.
The match would have ended at the same scoreline except for a belter of a free kick by Mikel Arteta. Instead of curling it around the wall, he chose to blast past it and the ball sailed into the top corner. It was a wonderful way to cap an assured performance, and a deserved goal for the hard working Spaniard.
The match statistics indicate Arsenal bossed it. With nearly 72% possession, an 88% pass completion rate and 15 corners, the home team certainly dominated the visitors. Fact is, it was not our best performance. Yet, we won comfortably and that augurs well for the near future.
Arsene Wenger praised the team for a dynamic performance in the first half and a controlled one in the second. On the second half, he said:
Our fatigue came in a bit because we gave a lot at Everton on Wednesday night to win the game. Overall I am very happy, very pleased because we managed to score goals and not concede any. We have consistency at the moment, so let’s go home and wait for the next game.
With Spurs drawing at Chelsea earlier in the day, we are now clear of the wannabes by 3 points. While they have an easier run in, the momentum is with us.
Up until now, we have been playing catch up in the league table. Now that we’re sitting in the 3rd place driving seat, the weight of expectation is firmly back on our shoulders. This presents a different challenge, but more on that tomorrow.
Until then, smile.