Match Reaction: Aston Villa 2-2 Arsenal


2-0 lead squashed with ease


#1. ABOU DIABY: A fantastic bounce back game for the Frenchman after a fairly dismal effort against Liverpool 5 days ago. Diaby displayed clever touches and good, quick passing movements all match and his defence was of a much more robust and diligent nature. I felt he and Eboue were linking up well and showed a real chemistry together on the pitch. The nutmeg on the Villa defender that sprang the counter-attack where Diaby found Eboue in time and space on the flank, combined with his determined run to catch up and present a target for Eboue to pick out and finally the smooth heads up clinical finish, was high quality stuff!.
I had been hoping in the days leading up to the match to see a 4-2-3-1 formation with Abou in the middle behind Robin because I felt it played to his attacking instincts. His performance showed that this is the type of formation and role were he can excel, hopefully we see it again in the near future. Congratulations Abou…glad to see you deliver the goods today!

#2. BACARY SAGNA: I felt Sagna pumped out a top shelf performance after looking a little sluggish in the Liverpool match when he was getting beat down the flanks and allowing crosses to be turned into our box almost all match. Tonight he had the old spring in his step and he did a great job neutralizing the right flank and Villa’s bright star Ashley Young. Bacary had a couple particular moments of defensive brilliance, the first was his bicycle kick that cleared the ball off the line late in the first half and then the big shot block on Agbonlahor in the 18 yard box around 75 mins when he stole in late to stretch a toe onto the ball and send it clear into touch…world class defending!. You can tell Sagna has a major comfort level with Eboue, as evidenced with the increased number of quality runs that he delivered down the right flank and by his increased influence on our attack. Great game Bacary…the two goals against had nothing to do with you.

#3 ROBIN VAN PERSIE: Showed a tonne of heart and a real battling spirit again today. Getting outed by Gallas in the media has seemingly transformed his intensity on the pitch. The enormous offensive talents were always in place, but the hunger for the ball, the willingness to bang and fight in the air for possession and get in the opponents face and jaw…well it is just a treat to watch him and his complete game now. Granted he didn’t score but he was doing many other things well as he battled alone up top against the Villa defence. His passing, one touches and 1-2’s were of a high calibre and he was really unlucky in the second half around the 58 min mark when he crushed that kind pass from Ramsey off the post…it was a pity  because at 3-0 the game would have been put to bed. Keep it going Robin…with your fingerprints all over the match…the goals will continue to flow.

Honorable Mention(s)

DENILSON: I had him penciled in as the #2 STAR for the match (not far off #1 classification) right up until the last 2 minutes of the match. BUT…he feel asleep at the end, neglected his defensive coverage, got caught ball watching and his man Zat Knight was left WIDE OPEN to slot home that loose ball at the top of the 18 yard box. A real shame for Denilson…because he played like a warrior today, which was a real turn around from the Liverpool match that saw him getting physically pushed around in the challenges. While his goal was a real basic head down hammer it at the net and hope job, his fleecing of the Villa defender to set-up the chance showed real opportunistic and poaching instincts. Denilson was hustling like a mad-man all over the pitch for 92 mins of the match. His passing was much much better and he displayed a calming influence over the ball especially after Villa scored to make it 2-1 to the Arsenal and they were surging against us. I thought Denilson did a good job of staying composed on the ball in the face of the Villa pressure and was able to slow down our game and keep possession and take time off the clock. I have been one of his harshest critics this season…but today he was 2 mins from his best match since Bolton back in September. Learn from your mental lapse, keep bringing the energy and you’ll be fine.

EMMANUEL EBOUE: He wasn’t super dominant today but he turned in another good quality effort both on defense and offense. Back on RW he immediately re-connected with Sagna and their chemistry was on full display all match. He did a good job staying wide and rewarding Sagna’s over-lap runs with nicely weighted balls for Bacary to attack with pace. On defence he helped Sagna and Denilson to take away the right side of the pitch from Aston Villa. Eboue gave us a few nice attacking runs with the ball and alot of sweet passing as he worked 1-2’s with Diaby on several occasions. His pass to the on-charging Diaby was very precise in its weight and location…allowing Diaby to close on the ball and hit it with his right foot while in stride (Dennis Bergkamp would have been pleased Emmanuel). I did see a bit of folkway in the second half which i didn’t approve of, Eboue just needs to play strong and hard and good things will happen…no need for the folkway!. Good match all around Emmanuel.


#1. GALLAS: I have to call him out for the ill-advised sliding tackle on Agbonlahor that served to turn the momentum around and against the Gunners late in the second half. Even though the call against him was extremely harsh and there was basically nothing in it…a 10 year veteran like Gallas has to understand that going to ground in the box gave Agbonlahor the opportunity to “sell it” to the referees. Most referees are going to cave in and give up a soft call on that play to the home team…it has happened many times to The Gunners…Gallas should have known better…especially because if he had just stayed on Agbonlahor’s shoulder he could have harassed and harried any attempt on net and given Almunia to come out and take away any shooting angle on net. Disappointing and rash decision by Willy “G”.

#2. TOURE: While i was happy to see him back in the line-up after a long absence…i have to say i was disappointed with his performance tonight. On more than 3-4 occasions he made some very very questionable decisions…sigh…more of the same of what we’ve seen from him since his return from the ACN tournament 11 months ago!. Two decisions in particular jumped out at me in the second half…the first was when he ignored the screams of “MY BALL” from Almunia who had an easy play on it only for Toure to bungle his clearance and put our net under a direct and very real threat only to get bailed out by an offside call against Villa by the linesman. The second example late in the second half was his decision with the weak aerial ball that Villa played towards our 18 yard box. He decided to just head the ball back directly to the attacking Villa players camped outside our 18 yard box instead of controlling the ball with his chest and legs and playing a deep clearance or picking out one of his team-mates. He was under no pressure from Villa when the ball was played in to him…he had loads of time to control but panicked instead. Hopefully it is just rust from being out of game action for the last 4-5 weeks. I still believe we need him to get back to his old form if we are to win silverware this season. C’mon Kolo…get your head together…with Cesc down we need you more than ever!


It could have been such a statement win…in their park, without our big guns (Cesc, Butta’-legs) after playing 42 minutes of a shjiit first half and Villa hitting the woodwork 3 times. It could have been the kind of win that sent the teams in different directions in the League Table. Now it is going to be a long and bloody battle to rein them in and keep our noses in front…we’ve thrown them a life-line which is more than a bit disappointing. Ramsey didn’t look ready for any type of starting or large role with the First Team, our CB’s looked sketchy again and the defensive mid-fielders lose their focus at the worst times. I think it wise of Wenger to bring in some players with experience and a big motor at CDM and CB in January. I say this because with Villa in front of us…if we go down to injury in February after not adding depth and experience in January…it can make life very very difficult for us to rein Villa back in and finish Top 4. Time to make difficult decisions about players: who is added to the squad and who is loaned out and who loses their position in the First Team. It has been a very difficult season emotionally and mentally for the club, players, manager and supporters…today was just another serving of frustration on a season already full of frustrations. Thankfully we have almost 8 weeks to re-tool the mid-field and get our squad together in time for the Champions League match-up with AS Roma…a team i think we match up very well with…even with out Cesc. As always there is still much to play for…so we need to keep our chins up and focus on what lies ahead of us and not think about what might have been.

See you Sunday…when we take on Pompey. Until then…



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15 thoughts on “Match Reaction: Aston Villa 2-2 Arsenal

  1. Diaby?

    OMG man, he threw the game! He switched off at the throw that led to Villa’s second goal…

    I think you need to look at the highlits mate!

    I would have agreed with you otherwise but a game is more that 90 mins!

  2. BTW: AW says..

    “I think we have to keep the belief that we have because we played against Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool and nobody beat us apart from Villa at home,” he said.

    “I believe we have improved in those last two months tremendously. We look much more solid.

    “We miss a bit of belief I think, but we are still young as well. With one, two or three years more (experience), Villa would never have come back.”

    OMFG: do we have to wait 3 more years with this crap?

  3. It’s as if he knows what his players lack when he brings them in, but still sticks with them.

    It’s as if, he’s been forced to buy these naive stars for cheap. This is absurd.

    Wenger knows what’s wrong as much as we do, but he just won’t change his mind. Could financial issues be a factor? I think so.

  4. Yeah, right on Randy…

    Financially Arsenal have less than they let on. The stadium took a big hit and will do for 20 years or more. Thats why a ticket costs the earth!

    These kids are on an average £35k per year. Compaired with the top 3 Prem sides who pay £135k per player.


    Then we are getting what we pay for….

  5. AW has made his bed and now he sleeps in it, with thousands of Arsenal fans!

    This is as good as it gets. At least until the Stadium is payed for…

    Does anyone really think he will change his methods and philosophy and go back on his words? No, that would put egg on his face!

    We have become a mid table team who buy small and sell big to pay back the big dept…

    AFC would never admit that to anyone that this was forseen when they decided to invest in the new stadium. That would be bad for business relations. The fans will never turn away and they know it. AW took the responsibility because he was the best “Business man” to do the job. As a manager with limited resourses he is buggered and he knows it!

    We have to get used to it, cos you know it too and there’s nothing you or I could do!

  6. I think there is a lack of understanding of Arsenal’s financing here but I can’t be bothered to go to great lengths. First thing we have the third biggest wage bill in the Prem and relative to their age the youngsters get more.

    Wenger has been restricted not his own doing. If we never got the stadium move then we will have definitely had to find a buyer as we wouldn’t get the necessary income. We have negative net assets and rely on getting money in the future to get rid of this debt from housing. The money for buying players is likely to come from an overdraft if really required.

    Anyway analysing is my forte and I’ve done my own I feel goes much deeper done giving good star stickers to players.

  7. Hi Randy. Analysing is the main part of my weblog so now I’ve got a new competition in town I’m just trying to make you guys step up your game. It’s decent analysis but you’re friend can go one further by analysing the match better.
    But seeing as you get more hits than me, that means you guys are doing something right for your readers. Anyway my site is differentiated hopefully to your blog as it is meant to offer something different to what you have.
    It’s just banter don’t worry. Kee pup the good work.

  8. Thanks. You don’t need to change it much as history shows people like your way better. I just prefer writing my way and I will continue to do so.

  9. boy oh boy…oh boy…

    I agree with some or most of what you wrote; but I have a couple of issues;
    1. I want to go on record to say that Badary Sagna is the best defebder in world football and in this particular game I thought he was in a class of his own.

    2. I think Gallas made one terrible mistake. apart from that I think his defending was top drawer. In more than one occasion he gave AW reason not to even think about selling him.

    3. We missed Ade terribly; I tell you guys he is the most important player we have. in his absence no one was capable of holding the ball upfront…and I mean no one RVP included. It put too much pressure on the midfield and the defence…it kept those young midfielders on the back foot for most of the first half.

    4. For the equalising goal…I blame the entire team and for the first time in my life I even blame AW (unbelievable) I have looked at the highlights a million times and I can never understand why at the 92nd minute of such an important away game the oponents can outnumber us in our own box……

  10. Brain…my column is focused on the Gunner players (in my opinion ) whose performance (or lack of) merits comment and assessment. Randy does the game analysis piece.

    As for the format…”game stars” and “lemons” is a vehicle used to spark debate amongst the faithful. Everybody sees the game a little differently, so my game stars and lemons are a jumping off point for others to agree with or disagree with and then express themselves as to who they felt were more or less deserving of these classifications.

    I agree the title should be changed back to “Game Reaction” because that is the purpose of the column…to spark reaction with Gooners and get the debate flowing.
    Nobody has the “last word” on The Arsenal…everybody should feel free to express themselves.

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