Daily Archives: February 25, 2013
Apologies for my blogging inactivity in recent days. I’ve been having serious issues with my Internet Service Provider – one day, it’s as efficient as Lionel Messi in front of goal, another day it’s Marouane Chamakh 2.0.
Let’s just say it had a “Moroccan Effect” over the weekend.
After back to back home losses in different competitions to Blackburn and Bayern Munich, Arsenal had it all to do against an Aston Villa battling for their Premier League lives.
The Villans had the unwanted record of being the team with the second worst attack as well as the second worst defense in the League. Paul Lambert had a great time in his Norwich days but he has clearly struggled with his Villa side that is now a complete shadow of the team that competed for European places in Martin O’ Neill’s reign.
Arsene Wenger made some changes to his starting lineup as Carl Jenkinson replaced Bacary Sagna that picked up a knock during the warm up, Nacho Monreal returned to the setup after he was cup-tied in the Champions League, Abou Diaby came in Aaron Ramsey’s stead and Olivier Giroud returned to the XI.
In a game that had its glimpses of quality as well as Arsenal having the lion’s share of possession, the Gunners had just enough in the tank to see out the threat the visitors posed, when it seemed as if a draw was on the cards.
The victory put the Gunners within touching distance of that coveted Champions League spot and their cause when certainly helped when Chelsea dropped points.
Without further ado, here are some lessons learned from Arsenal’s victory over Aston Villa;
A Better Start to the Game, for a Change
Arsenal has been culpable for very torrid starts to games this season, especially in the first half before they come out firing on all cylinders in the second 45 minutes. There were times when the Gunners managed to salvage draws like the Liverpool game for instance, but there have been others when the surge wasn’t good enough to gain any point – Bayern Munich, anyone?
Against Aston Villa, the Gunners came out of the blocks with a quick-fire goal from the outstanding Santi Cazorla, that brought an end to that recent unwanted trend of poor starts to games.
With crucial games against Tottenham, Bayern and Everton coming up, the Gunners could do with better first half performances because all Hell could break loose if Arsene Wenger’s men fail to turn up.
Tottenham’s red-hot Gareth Bale believes that his team is better than Arsenal. A win against Tottenham in next week’s North London Derby would go a long way in putting Bale and his team in their place (Arsenal’s shadow) and it would be nice seeing Bale eat his words, with a banana of course.
I’m sure you get my drift.
Wojciech Szczesny Needs Some Competition
Everyone knows that Wojciech Szczesny is Arsenal’s undisputed No. 1 goalie. His deputies, Vito Mannone and Lukasz Fabianski, haven’t done enough to prove to Arsene Wenger and the fans that they are good enough to displace the Pole.
With both players on the club’s payroll and no potential suitors coming anytime soon (Mannone was linked with a move back home), it would seem a bit awkward getting a new goalie with these men still around.
Believe it or not, I like Szczesny. He’s a great guy, has a very good attitude and he’s really outspoken but he can make that odd mistake from time to time, even in a game he’s doing well.
In the game against Aston Villa, the visitors leveled the tie with a gift on a platter from Arsenal’s undisputed No. 1. Villa hit Arsenal on the break from a corner kick and a punt further up the pitch was nodded straight to the opposition by Carl Jenkinson.
Andreas Weimann was unmarked at the edge of the area and unleashed a shot that would have been easy pickings for a keeper of Szczesny’s caliber but it breezed past the goalie despite putting a hand to it.
Had Weimann scored that goal in the 89th minute, Szczesny would have been on the back pages not Santi Cazorla.
Nacho Monreal’s Continued Impact
When Kieran Gibbs hurt himself against Liverpool, many Arsenal fans turned to panic mode because there was no able deputy in that department.
Andre Santos has been shambolic all season long and Thomas Vermaelen hasn’t been too impressive in his center back position, not to talk of him filling in at left back.
Up stepped Nacho Monreal from Malaga, Arsenal’s newbie that received a baptism of fire in his debut against Stoke City. This was followed by another impressive performance against Sunderland before he tasted his first defeat in Arsenal colors in the humiliating FA Cup loss to Blackburn.
When Arsenal hosted Aston Villa, Monreal returned to the team after a much deserved rest in midweek and put up a show that would give Kieran Gibbs a run for his money. When the chips were down, Monreal timed his run to perfection before drilling a pass into Santi Cazorla’s path.
The rest they say was history.
Jack Wilshere’s Influence
Since his long-awaited return from injury, Jack Wilshere’s influence in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield has been unrivaled. He has even scored two well-taken goals against Montpellier and Swansea this season.
With Santi Cazorla deployed on the left flank from the start, Wilshere was given the advanced playmaker role where he excelled admirably. Besides his trademark bursting runs that left his opponents for dead, Wilshere was directly involved in both Arsenal goals.
For the first, he made a burst forward before sending a through ball to Cazorla. The Spanish magician still had a lot to do but with a stroke of luck, he guided the ball past Brad Guzan.
Wilshere also had a hand in the match-winning goal when he lofted the ball to Monreal. The fullback did well to evade his marker before supplying a cutback that was latched home by Santi Cazorla.
Arsenal Can Always Count on Santi Cazorla
He opened his goalscoring account against Liverpool at Anfield and it was followed closely by a left-footed stunner against West Ham in Upton Park. He smashed in Arsenal’s consolation goal in that putrid outing at Old Trafford before getting in on the act in the North London derby.
He stole the show with a hat-trick against Reading before doing the double over West Ham with a cheeky back-heeled finish. After settling the contest two weeks ago when Arsenal visited the Stadium of Light, Santi Cazorla spared Arsenal’s blushes with a brace against struggling Aston Villa to give his team a chance in contending for a Champions League spot.
All game long, Cazorla was a constant threat to the Villa back line and he terrorized their rearguard with his intelligent play and canny movement. When a chance afforded itself after an initial blocked shot, Cazorla sweetly placed the ball past Guzan to give his team the lead.
Late on, he reacted quickly to Monreal’s cutback with a tidy left-footed finish to give his team some much-needed relief.
Arsenal can always count on Santi Cazorla like 1, 2, 3 and he’ll be there.
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