Daily Archives: January 31, 2012
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.
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.
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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