Monthly Archives: January 2012

10 Positives Taken From Arsenal’s Stunning Comeback Against Aston Villa

Arsenal hosted Aston Villa in the FA Cup fourth Round on the back of three disappointing losses in a row. It was a classic game of two halves where the visitors rose to ascendancy in the first half only to brought back down to Earth following an inspired second half performance from the home team.

Aston Villa took the lead when Alex McLeish’s side perfectly executed a fantasy training move that reaped dividends. It involved some intricate passing from a corner kick that saw the ball lofted into Arsenal’s danger area. Richard Dunne rose the highest to nod the ball home.

The Villans doubled their lead courtesy of a swift counter attack that put Arsenal on the back foot. Darren Bent had a shot that was parried by Lukasz Fabianski but he showed his attacking predatory skills with a second bite of the cherry and it was enough to put the away side two goals up.

Robin van Persie scored Arsenal’s first goal from the spot after Aaron Ramsey was hacked down by Dunne. Theo Walcott had Lady Luck on his side when a defensive clearance was ricocheted off his body to level the contest. Van Persie scored the winner from the spot after Laurent Koscielny was scythed down in the box by Bent.

It was really heart warming to know that Aston Villa’s goal scorers (Dunne and Bent) offered Arsenal a chance back in the game with their fouls in the box. Arsenal also had two penalties awarded in a match and it’s been a long while since that feat was achieved.

This result will certainly boost the confidence of the lads and a lot of positives have been taken from this game. Here are my top 10 positives taken from Arsenal’s win against Aston Villa.


Arsene Wenger’s Halftime Team Talk

To be honest, I feared the worst when Arsene Wenger’s men where ushered into the tunnels with choruses of boos from the fans. I don’t know what the manager told his lads but in my opinion, it clearly worked a treat.

Arsenal came into the second half all guns blazing and the players were rewarded with three goals. The words of inspiration from the manager in the dressing room was a major positive.

Arsenal’s Attacking Verve

Arsenal was highly unlucky in the first half but the team got its reward in the next 45 minutes. A lot of plaudits should go to the way Arsene Wenger’s men attacked their visitors with positive intent throughout the game. Arsenal is renowned for being an attacking side and the showing was on display last Sunday.

Performance of the Make-Shift Full Backs

Arsenal has been without its four recognized full backs since the tail end of 2011 and this has caused Wenger to use his center backs as make shift full backs. A handful of players have switched between these roles and there have been panicky performances from a few and some solid outings from others.

Thomas Vermaelen and Francis Coquelin manned the full back positions against Aston Villa and the supported the attack well.   They were also adept in their defensive duties and they held the fort in the absence of the injured full backs.

The Return of Bacary Sagna

Bacary Sagna fractured his leg in White Hart Lane last October and was diagnosed to make his return in the New Year. Without deputy Carl Jenkinson out injured, Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou and Nico Yennaris have taken shifts in his absence.

In the dying minutes of the match, Bacary Sagna’s number was displayed in the dashboard and his entry into the pitch was a breath of fresh air. It’s good to see Mr. Consistency back.beroo

Laurent Koscielny’s Libero Role

The role of the libero came into light in the days of Franz Beckenbauer but it has been a bit extinct in recent times. Defenders like Inter Milan’s Lucio and Real Madrid’s Ricky Carvalho have made surges forward that led to goal scoring opportunities but it’s fair to say that Arsenal’s “libero” is Laurent Koscielny.

The French defender has a knack for making slalom runs upfront and another trademark run led to a penalty that was converted with consummate ease by Robin van Persie.

Alex Song’s Attacking Initiative

Alex Song starts every game as Arsenal’s “holding” midfielder but he has been phenomenal for the club in attack this season. He has made some great assists this season with my pick of the bunch being his jinking run against Borussia Dortmund before crossing the ball for Robin van Persie.

In the game against Aston Villa, Song made two telling passes that led to the penalties Arsenal converted. His through ball to Aaron Ramsey led to the first penalty while his one-two with Laurent Koscielny gave the center back the impetus to continue his run that led to the second penalty.

The Ox’s performance

The Ox has been a bright spark for Arsenal this season and he has been given a run-out by the manager following the exit of Gervinho for the African Cup of Nations. The Ox was a lively figure throughout the game and continued his fledgling Arsenal career with another great performance.

He was a terrorist down the left and was never afraid to take on his opposite number. The manager promised that 2012 will be the Year of the Ox; I’m glad to see that Wenger kept to that promise.

Robin van Persie’s Composure

Robin van Persie has turned into football’s definition of Midas, a player who everything he touches turns into goals. When Arsenal won two penalties against Aston Villa, he was faced with the ominous task of converting the spot kicks and he excelled admirably.

Van Persie now has 25 goals to his name in just January and he’s going to bang in more as long as he stays fit.

Mental Strength

In a period like this where thing have been going downhill for Arsenal, the team showed great mental strength to dust themselves up from a shaky first half performance to score three goals to win the tie. The players had the option of feeling sorry for themselves but they did well to put up a performance that has propelled Arsenal to the fifth Round of the FA Cup.

Arsenal’s Spirit

This season, Arsenal has shown great spirit to pick themselves up when the chips were really down. This team was bruised, battered and humiliated when they visited Old Trafford in August but the Gunners made a great run in the tail end of 2011.

The start of 2012 saw Arsenal wan Leeds United before losing three games in a row. The manager and his team was under serious stick from the fans and at half time and it seemed as if the gloomy times where set to continue. The club under the  able hands of Arsene Wenger turned the tides around to produce a scintillating second half performance.

These were my top 10 positives taken from Arsenal’s stunning comeback against Aston Villa. Feel free to share yours with your comments.


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Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2: A Classic Game of Two Halves

van the Man

Before yesterday’s game, the aura surrounding Arsenal Football Club in January was the kind that could make the likes of Freddy Krueger, Frankenstein and the Grim Reaper feel at home.

Despair, frustration, anger and many more downhill attributes were the orders of the day as disappointing results on the pitch coupled with the club’s lack of transfer activity didn’t put the Board, the manager and his team in many Gooners’ good books.

Despite declaring that he was going to focus on the Premier League, the manager featured a very “strong” lineup to take on Aston Villa in his team’s bid to book a place in the 5th Round. Wojciech Szczesny got a breather while the back line was boosted by the return of Francis Coquelin to the right back position. Tomas Rosicky was given another start while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain retained his place in the team.

Arsenal drew first blood through a tame effort from Aaron Ramsey that was easy pickings for Shay Given in goal. Thomas Vermaelen stung the experienced goalie’s hands from a sweetly drilled effort from a cushioned Robin van Persie pass. There was a nervy moment when Fabianski challenged Darren Bent for the ball but he missed both the ball and the forward.

Against the run of play, Aston Villa took the lead from a well executed training move that caught Arsenal on the back foot. After some intricate passing from a corner kick, Robbie Keane lobbed the ball into the 6-yard box and Richard Dunne rose the highest to head the ball home.

Rosicky had the chance to level the tie but his shot was a bit too cheeky for a keeper of Given’s caliber. Aston Villa compounded the home team’s misery late on when a swift counter attack saw Bent drill his shot past Fabianski on his second attempt after initially forcing a good save from the Pole.

From the title of this post, the first half clearly belonged to the Villans but Arsene Wenger probably gave his players the hairdryer treatment and urged to step up their game. Arsenal began the second half as the brighter side and Per Mertesacker was denied his first goal in Arsenal colors when Stephen Ireland blocked his effort off the line.

Ramsey missed another glorious chance to bring Arsenal back in the game and the miss sent Thierry Henry to the turf. You can’t doubt Henry’s love and passion for this game. His reaction after Mertesacker’s miss against Swansea was definitely one for the cameras.

However, Ramsey atoned for that miss when he has hacked down by Dunne in the box. Up stepped van the Man to send Given the wrong way. In a few minutes, Arsenal leveled the contest courtesy of a freak goal by Theo Walcott.

In the buildup, Arsenal’s Usain Bolt made a fool of a defender before closing in on the goalie then goal-mouth scramble saw the ball ricochet off the pacey winger to send the Emirates into raptures.

Arsenal’s 3rd goal and match clincher arrived when Laurent Koscielny made one of his slalom runs forward after a brilliant one-two with Alex Song. He was scythed down in the box by Darren Bent leaving the man with the whistle no choice. Van Persie stepped up again to smash in goal number 25 for the season.

The Gooners activated their party mode when Thierry Henry and Bacary Sagna entered the pitch in the dying moments. I also forgot to mention that Mikel Arteta played some part in today’s fixture after coming in for Rosicky.

Fabianski (6.5) raised my blood pressure with every back pass he received and didn’t really do enough to displace Szczesny as Arsenal’s Number One.

Coquelin (7.0) was really good with the ball at his feet and supported Theo Walcott well in attack.

Vermaelen (7.5) offered a lot in Arsenal and was adept in his defensive duties.

Koscielny (8.0) continued his inspired form and made the assist for the match winning goal.

Mertesacker (7.5) has clearly grown in confidence but his first Arsenal goal still eludes him.

Song (8.0) showed more attacking initiative than Ramsey and Rosicky despite being Arsenal’s holding midfielder.

Ramsey (6.5) dwelt on the ball far too long but did well to win a penalty for his team.

Rosicky (6.5) lacked sharpness in attack but he made a few good passes.

The Ox (7.5) was a terrorist down the left and was never afraid to take on his opposite number.

Walcott (7.0) scored his first goal at the Emirates since August. He also showed some good dribbling skills to get past his opponents.

Van Persie (8.0) kept a cool head to beat Shay Given twice from the penalty spot. This goal machine can’t stop scoring 🙁

Arteta (7.0) steadied the ship in midfield when he came on.

Henry and Sagna didn’t play long enough to get ratings.

If you think Walcott’s goal was freaky, here’s a freaky fact for you. Aston Villa’s goal scorers (Dunne and Bent) offered Arsenal chances to come back into the game as they were the culprits that caused the two penalties for the first and third goals.

After three disappointing defeats on the trot, the Gunners can look into Wednesday’s game against Bolton with a newly found confidence and optimism. The mere fact that the injured players are returning to full fitness is definitely a breath of fresh air.

As Arsene Wenger reiterated, it’s time to focus on the Premier League.

Notwithstanding, this was a classic game of two halves.


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Aston Villa match preview on WaZoBia Gooners