ASTON VILLA 1 ARSENAL 2
With our game being Sky’s ‘Monday Night Football’ it was a weekend of sitting, watching, and waiting. And it was rather uncomfortable viewing as City, The Russians, Liverpool, Everton, United, and the enemy all recorded wins, adding pressure to our trip to Villa Park. But it was a pressure situation which we handled well, coming away with three very precious points thanks to a 2-1 victory.
At this moment in time I’ve only seen the opening 70 minutes. Between the UK kick-off time of 8pm (that’s 7am Tuesday morning here in Sydney) and the 8 minutes of first half injury time (due to Villa’s Nathan Baker suffering concussion as a result of blocking a Serge Gnabry thunderbolt with his face) I had to leave home for work before the match had reached its conclusion.
When I left the house we were 2-0 up and looking comfortable. The first half was like a training ground defence versus attack exercise, with Arsenal having 70% possession and Sagna playing pretty much the entire half as a right winger. And we deservedly got the reward for all our patient build-up and probing when Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud scored 59 seconds apart.
The first from Wilshere started with a lovely ball down our left hand side, from Özil to Monreal, with the Spaniard cutting the ball back to Jack who took two perfect touches, the first controlling the ball as he drove into the area and the second coolly stroking the ball home. One-nil to The Arsenal.
And as I say, we didn’t have to wait long for the second; just 59 seconds to be precise, as Villa gifted away possession in their defensive third, Wilshere gladly took control and lofted a beautiful curled pass to Giroud who, after one excellent touch and one lucky ricochet touch, calmly slotted home to double our lead.
From what I’ve seen of the second half (so far, I’ll watch the rest when I get home from work) Villa improved and started to get forward more (not hard given they couldn’t have been any more negative in the first half), but Szczesny was still largely a spectator. And then I left the house. I left feeling pretty calm, sure that we’d see out the game without too much hassle. Blowing leads late on is a thing of the past; this current squad of players, especially in the last 12 or so months, have got me feeling confident about defending leads. Shutting up shop is something we can now do rather well.
But by the time I got to the train station and checked twitter Villa had pulled one back and Rosicky was soaked in blood. I’m not going to lie; all my confidence about this team not blowing leads vanished. Not because I suddenly lost faith in their ability but because of the weekend’s results; it was a must win game and I started to fear the worst (as did many overs based upon my twitter timeline).
Thankfully this team proved, once again, that it knows how to win. It knows how to win games; important games, under pressure. And having watched the ‘bite size’ highlights on Arsenal Player the Villa goal only came about when Santi Cazorla gifted away possession in a dangerous area, so it’s not as if our excellent back four were carved open and sounded the panic alarms. I love how The BFG went absolutely mental when their goal went in (presumably at the out of camera shot Cazorla) and it hopefully helped to re-focus everyone to see the game out. Afterwards Arsene said:
It was a big win for us; it was about two different halves. The first half was about playing our game with the speed of our passing and controlling the game. The second half was more about fighting.
As for why Rosicky was soaked in blood, I haven’t yet seen the incident (yes, yes, I sound like Arsene). Going by twitter updates, it was the result of a clash with Agbonlahor. Despite not seeing a replay as yet I still 100% find Agbonlahor guilty of an elbow and hope the FA ban him for three games. He’s a despicable diving little shit, with a face you want to punch. So who cares that I haven’t seen the replay yet? He’s guilty your honour.
FULHAM AT HOME
Next up is Fulham at home on Saturday. February and March are littered with top of the table clashes so we need to ensure we keep beating those in mid table and below; if not to help ease any potential slip ups in the coming months then simply for the fact that’s what you have to do if you want to become champions. The injury list seems to be teetering on a knife’s edge at the moment, so fingers crossed things ease off over the coming days and weeks. Until the next time, up The Arsenal.