Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 0: If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Fix It
It clearly seemed as if Arsenal was back in business following the resounding victory over Tottenham that was accompanied by an efficient performance against Montpellier to seal qualification to the next phase of the Champions League.
With Manchester United and West Brom, yes, West Brom winning their games, coupled with the fact that either Chelsea or Manchester City were going to drop points today, a win against a struggling Aston Villa side would have helped the Gunners in their bid to chase the leading pack.
Arsene Wenger had seemed to have found his winning formula in recent weeks but for some strange reason known to the Gorgonites of Hasbro’s Toy Soldier series, Wenger tweaked his starting line-up to include everyone’s favorite pantomime villian, Aaron Ramsey. The midfield triumvirate of Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere have been phenomenal in recent weeks, but the manager felt it was high time to bring the former Welsh captain to the fold, sacrificing Wilshere in the process.
The boss also handed start to the dynamic young fullback duo of Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, which offered captain, Thomas Vermaelen and the recuperating Bacary Sagna chances to get breathers.
Aston Villa drew first blood when Andreas Weimann fired a shot straight at Wojciech Szczesny and this was followed by a sweetly curled effort from the cultured left foot of Barry Bannan, which was easy pickings for Szczesny. At the 19th minute mark, the Aston Villa faithful rose to their feet, applauding their captain, Stiliyan Petrov that is recuperating from his Leukaemia. It was a truly emotional moment, even if it was cliché.
The home side continued to be on the ascendancy but Karim El Ahmadi earned himself a booking for a silly dive. There was a moment that caused concern to everyone connected with Arsenal when Per Mertesacker was clutching his shoulder after landing awkwardly. Theo Walcott has been in a somewhat similar situation and we all know how that has panned out.
Arsenal found their footing as the game progress with the first real chance for the Gunners coming Aaron Ramsey’s way. The Welshman showed good footwork to fashion a chance for himself, but his tame attempt of a finish was saved by Brad Guzan’s leg. Shortly afterwards, the game settled in a scrap-fest as both teams produced some terrible football with misplaced passes, lots of air balls and what have you.
A nervy moment arrived when Szczesny anticipated a cross aimed at Gabby Agbonlahor but the Polish goalie ran out of room and in unfortunate circumstances, the ball was adjudged to hit his hand, leaving the ref no choice but to blow a free kick. The Villans attempted a training routine that unlocked the Arsenal rearguard but an offside call spared Arsenal’s blushes, as Weimann blasted his attempt into the net.
Right at the death, Olivier Giroud waltzed to the left before drilling a cross into the box but to everyone’s surprise, Laurent Koscielny fired his point-blank shot over the bar, when it seemed easy to score. In his defense, you can say that the ball came to his weaker left foot but it’s really perplexing to know what Koscielny was doing there in the first place as it was from open play.
In the start of the second 45 minutes, Santi Cazorla attempted a neat one-two with Giroud but his left-footed shot went over. Giroud instigated a lot of attacking moves and teed up the Ox that burnt some reserves of pace before stabbing in a cross that was spurned by You-Know-Who, Ramsey. The Welshman clearly left his shooting boots at home, as he was on the end of a flick from a corner kick but he killed a bird in the sky with his attempted shot.
After some intricate passing play between Brett Holman and Christian Benteke, Agbonlahor fired a goal-bound shot that was saved by Szczesny. The moment of inevitability arrived when Podolski was substituted for Gervinho, that turned to be a peripheral and disappointing figure all game long.
Aston Villa hit Arsenal on the break with Weimann sending a teasing ball into Benteke’s path but Carl Jenkinson was on hand to make a vital interception. Wenger responded to Aston Villa’s assault with the introduction of Andrey Arshavin. The home side almost grabbed the headlines when an unmarked Holman blasted a goal-bound shot that was tipped over by Szczesny before the ball the cross bar.
In the dying minutes of the game, Wenger brought on Francis Coquelin for Giroud, thereby allowing Gervinho to attack through the middle. The ref’s whistle ended the game and it clearly felt like two points dropped rather than a point gained.
I might seem harsh but Ramsey’s performance was questionable and he has proven that he;s not ready to start ganes for this club, especially fixtures where the stakes are very high. Despite being out for a long while, Wilshere had blended into the nucleus of the team and his goal against Montpellier showed how well he has progressed.
But Wenger chose to drop the Englishman for the disappointing Ramsey. As the saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
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