What a game; it was high tempo, free flowing and tense. It had plenty of goals, plenty of drama and plenty of edgy moments for us. I was nearly trembling near the end. In those final 20 minutes, when Villa scored the second I wasn’t even breathing properly.
This match was pretty similar to the one last weekend but it had a different result. We started dominantly in the first half and took a two goal lead heading into the break. Villa came back rejuvenated and scored their opener within 6 minutes of the start of second. Deja vu! Plenty of tweets were coming in with these words, “Please Arsenal not again”. Villa got plenty of half chances but we responded with a third. It settled the game for some time before Villa found the net again. With twenty minutes to go, we had a goal advantage but the game was anyone’s. Villa tried hard, we held well and looked for the fourth. We were rewarded in the stoppage time when Wilshere headed the ball into the back of the net from close range.
The first half was where we didn’t let Villa play at all. We started off to a flyer when Chamakh had a chance to score the first in the opening minute but the keeper saved it. Rosicky then had a shot on goal that went just wide. We were pressing nicely and having lots of possession. We tested the keeper from range several times. Still we didn’t have clear cut chances as we gave away possession quite a few times and Villa were very disciplined at the back. We had our fair share of scare when Young put the ball over the bar from just a couple of yards out, Villa’s only chance of the first half..
We got the opener when Arshavin got an aerial ball down the left and he ran with it towards goal. He wrong footed the defenders in front of him and slot the ball home. The keeper got a hand to it but it was always heading towards the far corner. Moments later Nasri got on to the end of a through ball from Arshavin and side stepped the keeper but his shot hit the side netting. Nasri, however, scored the second for us on a volley a couple of minutes later. Arshavin delivered in a cross and Nasri drove the ball in on the volley. It had a slight deflection on its way into the goal but nonetheless it was a nice goal.
The break came and went, we returned into the second half with a two goal advantage. Most of us, including me were thinking the same thing, last weekend’s result. And sure enough the second half started similarly. Villa responded with an increased tempo and Clark provided the breakthrough. Our defence was again caught ball watching as Clark gathered the ball on the edge of the area and smashed it into the back of the net with Fabianski unsighted by Carew, who was in an offside position. The home support was deafening at that moment. We however replied brilliantly with Rosicky sliding the ball in for Chamakh who smartly tucked it past Friedel for our third. We got or breathing space and the second half somewhat lost its high tempo.
The match was reignited again when Clark headed the ball into the back of net around the 70th minute mark for his and Villa’s second. We were again caught out defensively as no one rose to challenge Clark. The game was destined for a grand finish. It was end to end display of football now. We were carrying the ball forward nicely with Arshavin, Rosicky and Nasri leading the team, whereas Villa were using the aerial route with some dangerous crosses into the danger area. We were not comfortable at the back as we held onto the lead tightly. Upfront we were creating half chances as the game entered the final 10 minutes.
Nasri and Arshavin, two of our best players today, paved the way for Gibbs and Denilson. Stoppage time arrived. Chamakh and Wilshere combined to score the fourth and seal the game off for us.
It was job done with lots of nervous moments but some good character shown by a few players and some good football upfront ensured the win. At the back we were not convincing at all though. When Villa scored their second goal it was just their 4th shot on goal. Amazing!
The victory is sweet but there are still a lot of gaping holes at the back. The thing that is bothering me is the way the teams are playing against us. Like they know what is coming and what they have to do. Villa stayed back in the first half and allowed us to play. They defended brilliantly but two moments of individual brilliance got us the goals. They were a changed side in the second like they knew they can beat us if they went in hard at our back line. They nearly pulled it off too had we not got the important third goal. This is the thing that has to change. Our back line is not doing its job properly, specifically in the last three games. Our clearances are not good; we are week in the air and aren’t attacking the second ball and giving lots of open spaces. The second goal also came due to our bad defending at the back. Had Villa got their second before our third, it would have been a totally changed game.
And this was where it was different and better from us this time. We were nervous but we looked for the third goal and did hold on to it. Our backline was trying its best to keep them out and upfront we were playing brilliantly. Our midfield held the ball nicely and our movement was good. Arshavin, Nasri and Rosicky ran the show for us today. Chamakh held the ball nicely upfront and in the mid Song and Wilshere kept things ticking.
Although, we still require someone in the team that can calm our nerves when things don’t go to our plan. The team panicked whenever Villa scored their goals and this shouldn’t be happening. We should remain focused and do our job, which we did today but we have to do it convincingly the next time.
In the end I would say that it is a massive win and no doubt will help us get our confidence back. We still though need to eradicate the deficiencies that we have and only then we can build on this win. Consistency is the thing that we have to achieve. Not looking too much ahead as we need to take one game at time.