I don’t know whether I’m just getting old and senile, or just in a chilled out period of my life (took me long enough – 40 years – to stop being an angry young man I suppose!) but for all the moans from Arsenal boss Wenger and the rather flat summary (watched it when I got home) from the BBC pundits (who to be fair were very complimentary about Villa when we got to the Carling Cup final) I though the game last night, especially for a 0-0, was a good one!
I would refute the long ball claim, I have often (OFTEN) moaned – and I think with good reason – when we have been a hit and hope side but think more often than not this season we’ve not resorted to those tactics or at the very least not all game. There is nothing wrong with being physical, if Wenger wants to moan about that side of the game then he should hang his head in shame because Arsenal come out with some woefully nasty tackles at times including a couple last night – and there is certainly nothing wrong with us mixing up the tactics so that we do SOME long balls. Where it does drive me crazy is when that is all we do but as said, we seem to be slowly but surely moving away from that and long may that move continue because it is pretty easy for the opposition defenders to deal with those 90’s style hoofs.
No, last night we came fast out of the blocks, Gabby Agbonlahor had the first good chance which was well saved, the angle was out wide so I don’t think there can be much criticism that it didn’t result in a goal, although it goes without saying it would have been a real tonic for the troops (sorry, been listening to the remastered Boomtown Rats cd’s recently!) and a boost to his confidence to score a goal in the Premiership (I could leave that sentence there, to score a goal in the PL full stop as it has now been six hours without the ball hitting the back of the net) ….. before I was so rudely interrupted by those brackets, I was going to add FROM OPEN PLAY.
I was going to say the game was end to end but frankly I thought – and the highlights didn’t reflect this although the possession stats do – that we had the lions share of the game and Arsenal were on their back feet a whole lot of the time. Now fair enough we all know – especially from this years trip to the Emirates – that they are dangerous when on the ball and we did have a few moments of great worry, especially when they hit the underside of the post but also a few nice moves in our box which the defenders largely dealt with but we also had chances and the main fear as the game wore on was that Arsenal would ‘do a Liverpool’ and break our hearts late on. They didn’t!
I said walking to the game that I’d walk out fairly happy with a draw, as MON said in an interview after the game, they aren’t top or near the top of the league for no reason – although on reflection and on our chances, if anyone deserved a win, it was us. If anyone says differently, they were watching a different game to me, my mate Lee Lindsay (good to see you pal) and my old man (he didn’t say be a City fan by the way) + those around me at the game.
It is frustrating that we would be so much higher if not for our finishing, that is the last bit of the puzzle as far as I can see (and I’m sure everyone else can see including the manager, coaches and board) and I’m sure we all also realise it is the most difficult bit of the puzzle to put in place. We’ve been here before, no need to expand.
As pointed out on an Arsenal site match report: Villa had woeful finishing to thank for ending the 90 minutes goalless. Again, that is nothing to do with long ball, just that our chaps aren’t finding the target. (Full report: Click Here ) MON did say after the game it isn’t a major worry because we are pulling saves, shooting, going close etc. I have to disagree, it is a problem and although Gabby had that early chance, I can’t remember him having a single threat for the rest of the game. Now I’m not the manager – thank gawd – but am also not the only one wondering what Gabby has to do to come off? Surely – and this is only shooting the breeze, MON’s decision and thinking is the only one that counts – Nathan Delfouneso could be brought on with 10 – 15 minutes left on the clock to give defenders something else to think about and to show us what he can do? What he did against Brighton & Hove Albion (I know, different level of football) was NATURALLY get in the right position in front of their defenders to virtually tap in the ball. As I said in that match report, our three front line strikers should take note (Click Here) as they rarely – naturally – anticipate and get in the right position.
I had a text from Vital member Skeggy last night who was listening on the radio. Apparently Dean Saunders (oh how I miss deano!) said with Owen in the team, we’d have been two up. There endeth the sermon.
If not for missed chances, Villa would have won last night I believe but then the Gooners could say the same! Our site stats say possession was 50/50. The BBC stats say 56% to us, I’d believe the BBC stats more in this instance. To come out of Villa Park disappointed – but not gutted – not to have beaten Arsenal isn’t bad going really. Maybe a draw was fair, if anyone edged it though, it was Villa.
Now for Fulham away, take them lightly at your peril but if we put in another attacking performance like we did v Arsenal AND if we bury our chances, we can come home from London with all 3 points.
Brad Friedel 7
never know what rating to give a keeper when he’s not really had to do a great deal
Luke Young 7
solid, I like him though, think he is no nonsense
James Collins 6
solid most of the time, a few worrying shaky moments though!
Steven Dunne 6.5
as Collins, generally solid, just a few worrying moments but then you are going to get those against the silky passing of some of the Gunners players
Carlos Cuellar 6
did a great deal right despite not being a full back but so nearly cost us the game giving possession to Fabregas. Would have been gutted for him if that had resulted in a goal as he’d not have deserved that for the effort put in
Ashley Young 7
floated a great ball in for Downing who sadly missed the great chance. Ash is starting to look much better following a poor (ish?) start to the season
James Milner 7
active and involved as usual
Stewart Downing 6
missed a sitter really, ouch, such a shame. But is settling in well nevertheless. Not his best game for us this one
Stiliyan Petrov 8
worked his socks off
Emile Heskey 7
how do you rate a striker who doesn’t shoot and score? So hard as he does put in the work and his flick ons were connecting with Villa players (unlike, for example, JC’s headers)
Gabby Agbonlahor 6.5
good early chance, runs and puts the work in, no real end result – come on Gabby, few goals next weekend please
Delph (on for Heskey 77) 7
active and determined
MON. In a final, still in the FA Cup, and pushing top six, (don’t think we’ll be pushing over and above that purely because of our finishing and with no striker deals coming this month, I think that will be around and about that) so all in all, this isn’t going too badly is it?! Wish he’d mix it up a bit striker wise and bring on the Fonz towards the end but hey ho, we are doing well and who knows, maybe we can push to 5th, just not really feeling it due to dropped points with draws
Arsene Wenger. Been a great manager but something eminently dislikeable about the whiner. Why be so rude about Villa? We didn’t play long ball last night unless I slept through the game and dreamt what I saw!