Written by fatgingergooner
With 3 defeats in the last 4 games and an unconvincing win against Leeds in the last round of the FA Cup, Arsenal fans were feeling far from optimistic ahead of this 4th round clash against Aston Villa.
Rumour had it that the Gunners injury list was starting to ease, and so it proved with Sagna, Henry and Arteta all named on the bench and also the young Frenchman Coquelin was deputising at right back. It was also good to see the Ox given another start after his fine 65 minutes against Man United last week.
On to the game and Arsenal started the first half reasonably well, stroking the ball around and finding space in the midfield. Within 2 minutes of the kick off, Ramsey had already registered a shot on target, but if truth be told it was more like a pass back as Given collected easily. The same cannot be said of the next shot from distance as Vermaelen received a short free kick from RvP before firing an absolute thunderbolt from all of 35 yards which Given did well to save to his left. Brilliant effort, great save.
Arsenal continued to dominate the ball, but with Fabianski back between the posts, you could feel the tension in the air whenever the ball was near the home sides box. The young Pole did well with his first piece of action though, clearing a free kick away with a commanding punch, but he soon reminded us why he is now second choice. Firstly, he wanted too long to make a simple clearance and was lucky to see his blocked kick go for a throw. Then he rolled a terrible pass into the feet of Song who could only return it to sender, thankfully though, this time, the young keeper managed to clear his lines before the block came in.
At the other end, dogged work from Rosicky saw a pass slid into the feet of Walcott who was away behind the Villa defence. Initially, Theo did well to evade a lunging tackle from Cuellar, but his lack of composure reared it’s ugly head again as he thrashed a shot wide instead of steadying himself and picking out one of his colleagues in the box. A waste.
The first 20 minutes had flown by with Ramsey and Rosicky getting the better of the midfield battle, and it was an excellent Ramsey tackle that created the next opportunity. The young Welshman did brilliantly to rob Clark before showing bravery to nick the ball wide to Theo who had space to run into. This time Walcott did get his head up and fired a great low cross towards RvP but the dutchman just failed to find the telling touch.
Arsenal had let Villa off the hook and nearly paid the ultimate price at the other end as the ball ricocheted in behind the static defence and towards the head of Darren Bent. Fortunately for the home side though, the sight of an onrushing Polish keeper was enough for Bent to pull out of the header.Thank god he wasn’t braver!
The game was definitely starting to open up and the Ox showed a great turn of pace to gallop down the left wing before cutting inside and pulling his shot wide of the near post. Good play by the promising youngster.
Arsenal were knocking on the door but just couldn’t find the killer pass to unlock the away teams defence. Walcott, espescially, was guilty of wasting a couple of good crossing chances as the half wore on. His lack of confidence was showing as he refused to attack the full back and instead fired aimless balls across the box. Not what you expect from an attacking wide player.
Thirty minutes had passed without too much to worry about, but a moments lapse of concentration can be deadly at this level, and so it proved. Arsenal switched off at a corner and Ramsey was caught 2 against 1 at the edge of the area. Keane had ages to pick out a cross and his dinked effort was perfectly weighted for Dunne to climb highest and nod in at the back stick. 0-1 Arsenal again undone by a set piece.
To the home sides credit they were straight down the other end trying to get an equaliser, but Dunne was on fine form, twice clearing dangerous looking crosses. The home fans were starting to get restless as Arsenal camped in the Villa half in search of an equaliser. First Ramsey showed quick feet before firing straight at Given from a tight angle, and then the Ox hit a rocket from 25 yards which got away from Given but just didn’t bounce for an Arsenal player. Was our luck deserting us again?
On the stroke of half time we got the answer, and it wasn’t a good one! Villa broke from another Arsenal attack and Bent was played in down the right hand channel. His powerful shot was well saved by Fabianski at his near post, but as it is with the Gunners at the moment, the ball fell perfectly back to Bent who slotted in well from a tight angle. 0-2 oh dear.
Half time and the boos rang out around the Emirates. To be fair to the home side, they had made all the running and should not have been 2 behind, but the same old story of poor finishing and defensive mistakes meant that Villa’s 2 shots on goal had resulted in a 2 goal deficit. New manager? New players? New tactics? If you’d have asked at half time I think many would’ve said yes please!
But with football being a game of 2 halves, the Gunners still had 45 minutes to turn their season on its head.
Surprisingly, there were no changes at half time. Even with the boos still ringing in his ears, and with Craig Burley’s bullshit whafting under his nose, Arsene had stayed cool and kept faith in his charges.
Arsenal came out fighting, and it wasn’t long before they carved out an opportunity. This time it was a set piece of their own as Mertersacker rose highest at a corner only to see his header cleared off the line. So close!
Arsenal had started the second half brightly and moments later Walcott was almost on the end of a Ramsey back heel, but a fantastic Petrov tackle thwarted him at the last.
The pressure was really building and a flowing move then saw Ramsey with a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box, but with the ball stuck between his feet, he could only manage a weak right footed strike when he might have been better going with his left.
If fans thought Ramsey was at fault for that finish, then he certainly made up for it 2 minutes later as he burst into the box from a Song pass and just managed to toe the ball away from a lunging Dunne. Stonewall penalty and should’ve been a 2nd yellow for Dunne. How he stayed on I will never know! With the pressure on, RvP stepped up to send Given the wrong way and get Arsenal back in the game. 1-2
The tails were up and Ramsey was starting to control the game. Two minutes after the penalty he slid Walcott in down the line. This time Theo ran straight at the full back before squeezing a shot towards the near post. Given did well to get a hand to it but the ball fell to Hutton who somehow managed to smash the ball straight at Theo and into the back of the net! Barely 10 minutes gone in the second half and 2-2! Could it get any better!?
On the hour mark Koscielny collected the ball in defence and marched past the half way line before exchanging a slick 1-2 with Song. With Bent tugging at his shirt, Kozzer stayed strong and charged into the Villa box before Bent, in typical centre forward style, hacked him down with a badly timed/advised lunge. Another penalty to Arsenal and another goal to Arsenal as RvP sent Given the other way this time to put a resurgent Arsenal into the lead.
It was quite telling the way Robin and his teammates galloped over to Henry to celebrate. Maybe Wenger wasn’t the only person who had given out a bollocking in the changing room!?
The comeback was complete and the stuffing had well and truly been knocked out of Villa. Rosicky was dominating midfield, Ramsey was dominating the match, and Walcott was dominating his demons.
It was a joy to watch the young winger suddenly burst into life as he collected a long ball before driving at his full back and fizzing a shot at Given. Could this be the lift Theo needed?
After a brief penalty scare on 70 minutes, Arsene brought Arteta on for Rosicky to sure up the midfield, and it worked perfectly. The last 20 minutes saw very few chances at either end with a right footed RvP effort and a Clarke header straight at Fabianski the most the teams could muster between them. The highlight of the last 20 came on 88 minutes when Sagna returned to first team action for the first time since breaking his leg 4 months ago. Fantastic news.
It was also good to see the Ox and Theo both given standing ovations as they were replaced by Henry and Sagna respectively.
It was a tough 90 minutes to be an Arsenal fan that ultimately ended in elation as the boys turned into men in the space of 45 minutes. Ramsey showed just how to grab a match by the scruff of the neck, controlling the midfield for large chunks of the game, and especially in the key 15 minutes after half time. He was aided brilliantly by the energetic Rosicky who put in a sparkling performance to show that there’s life in some of the ‘deadwood’ yet!
It was a fantastic result for Arsenal, not because of the scoreline, but because of the way the team came back from 2-0 down. The second half performance was a joy to behold from every single player. People have questioned the manager’s and the player’s desire in the last few weeks, but no-one can say they don’t care, and they proved that in the second half.
At the end of the game I saw a banner about DB that read :
‘why fly, when you can walk on water’
We are nowhere near his high standards yet, but one small step at a time. If the first half was a crawl, then by the end of the second we were definitely up on our feet.
‘why crawl, when you can walk’
Fabianski-couple of shakey moments early on and may get blamed, unfairly, for parrying Bents shot back to him. Was solid in the air though and did little wrong 7
Coquelin-offered little going forward first half and was undone a couple of times by Agbonlahor. Kept everyone onside on build up to 1st goal. This shouldnt detract from his overall game though which was very good 7
Vermaelen-Much better in supporting Ox going forward and unlucky with a great strike early on. Caught out of position for second goal. 7
Koscielny-quiet first half but mainly because he makes defending look so easy. Came to life with run for 3rd goal and solid as a rock. 2nd best PL defender behind Kompany. 8
Mertersacker-great in the air at both ends and nearly scored. Maybe should have been talking to Coquelin in build up for first goal but very solid nonetheless. 7.5
Song-quiet game again but much better than recent games. Good second half and had a hand in winning both penalties. 7
Rosicky-drove forward whenever he could and worked hard. Gave Ramsey the platform to dictate the play. Looking back to something like his best 8
Ramsey-outstanding performance. If you think this kid is on par with Denilson then you are having a laugh! Controlled the game 9 MOTM
Ox-a solid display and showed maturity beyond his years. A natural footballer who looks dangerous whenever he has the ball and so composed for one so young 7.5
Walcott-Jekyl and Hyde. Had a poor first half as he failed on numerous occasions to get at Warnock when one on one. A different player second half and looked like he had his confidence back. Just wish he would attack the byeline more as he is so much more dangerous when he does it. 7.5
RvP-2 good penalties and linked up play with his usual mixture of strength and guile. Difficult day against a tough competitor in Dunne but eventually came out on top. Got ESPN Motm. 8
Arsène Wenger-maybe a slight risk starting with Coquelin but the young Frenchman was excellent. Brought Arteta on after 70 minutes to shore up the side and it worked well. Good substitutions, but earned his money in the half time interval. Many managers would’ve panicked and made changes, but Wenger’s faith was repaid by his players and he has to take a lot of credit for the half time turnaround as the players came out pumped up for the second half. 8