Saturday, 23 February 2013

Arsenal struggle to overcome Villa

A win is a win, and the three points gained are a much needed boost to the squad following the week we've just had.

But there wasn't much to be pleased with other than the result.

Saturday was another afternoon spent in a nervy, anxious, agitated daze, as - in a typical Arsenal manner - we preceded to make a seemingly easy fixture much harder than necessary.

As Wenger illustrated in his pot match press conference, the start was quite tentative from the Gunners. Despite an early goal from Cazorla, his tenth of the season, Arsenal confined to struggle to assert themselves.

The passing was quite restricted, and the attacking players struggled. Jack was not quite at his usual standard, whilst Giroud and Walcott failed to get involved in the game, the latter being almost non existent for large periods of the 90.

As we struggled to dominate, Aston Villa started to cause problems in and around our beleaguered defence.

Weimann gave Monreal a lot of problems, whilst the pace of Agbonlahor and N'Zogbia gave us a lot of difficulty through quick counter attacks. In fact we were quite lucky that Benteke was not at his best, as Villa squandered a few chances before the half was out.

However, as we see on such a regular basis this season, the second half was started with much more of an impetus from the Gunners.

In the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half, Arsenal really took the initiative, showing almost as much desire as they had in the entire first half.

Cazorla was starting to dominate, spraying beautiful passes around as Villa simply couldn't get near him. Giroud was clearly the main threat, but seemed to lack support in attack, again highlighting the lack of option we have available up front right now.

As we attacked with more conviction, the corners came thick and fast. But time and time again we squandered the opportunities.

And it was costly.

After yet another wasted corner, Villa countered and we were left short at the back. Bu inexplicably Weimann was allowed to carry the ball forward for almost 40 yards without a single challenge coming in from a player in red and white. Noone got anywhere near him, and as he approached the edge of the area he let fly with a speculative shot. It was a shot that should have been saved, but Szczesny let slip through his arms as it nestled into the bottom left hand corner.

1-1 and the groans from disgruntled home fans were loud and clear. More of the same defensive errors were proving costly, as our slender grip on the top four was slowly fading away.

But credit to the players, as they truly went for it. Wenger took of Jenkinson for Podolski, as Ramsey was slotted in at right back. It was the start of an onslaught on the Villa goal.

The build up was with more conviction, and clear chances followed. Giroud hit the bar from a corner, before Mertesacker headed just wide. Whilst Podolski maybe could have done better following clever play from, at first, Cazorla then Walcott.

It was starting to seem like we were going to have one of those days. And agains a very poor Villa side it was going to be more disappointing then most.

However, with four minutes left, Cazorla came up with the goods. Arteta found Wilshere, who chipped a ball forward into the path of Monreal. The Left back was unfazed, and unlike other players yesterday, produced a ball of real quality, cutting the ball back to his Spanish international teammate who duly delivered.

It was the second of the day for Santi, who has done amazing for us considering its his first season in English football.

He was the one player who attacked with conviction throughout the game yesterday. He constantly had time and space when others struggled, and it was bound to be him that came up with the vital winner.

The performance may not have been great, and we didn't exactly see a major reaction from the squad following the dismal week we've just finished. But those three points picked up today will be vital in our chase for forth place.

After the game, Wenger expressed his delight at seeing his team return to wining ways.

“I am not here to lose games, I want win. We are in a catch-up situation and we depend a little bit on the results of the other teams but vastly on our consistency.

“The key for us is to be consistent and that is why today a draw would have been a very, very bad result for us.

“We cannot drop points, I have said that many times after the Chelsea game. That is what is in our minds, no matter where we go and who we play.”

Frankly he is exactly right. We can't afford any dropped points. Today's win was our third in succession in the league, and it's significant that all of them have been hard earned victories.

The 1-0 over Stoke was a pretty good performance, and showed some resilience. The 1-0 against Sunderland truly showed two sides to this team that we have to see more of. The first half saw us play free flowing, fluent, attacking football. The second half showed true grit and determination as the 10 men held on for a great win.

Today's win also showed that we can recover from the disappointment of the previous week. We were not amazing in any sense. But we came out with the win and that's all that matters for us right now.

4th place is completely integral for us this year. Every game matters, and next weeks battle with Tottenham will undoubtedly go some way to deciding who gets 4th.

We have to get a result next week. Today may have helped restore some confidence that we had lost, but we still need to retain focus for the remaining matches.

4th isn't exactly what we wanted at the start of the season, but we have to settle for it now.

Come on Arsenal!

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