Sunday, March 25, 2012

Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 0

We arrived at Las Mimosas earlier than usual in order to catch the latter stages of the Chelsea-Tottenham match, thinking which result would be ideal for us: Chelsea beating Tottenham to ensure we finish above Tottenham, Tottenham beating Chelsea to dent Chelsea's hopes of a top four finish, or draw so that both of our nearest rivals in the table drop two points? All of these were based on the assumption that we would win our game later on. In the end, Chelsea and Tottenham played out a goalless draw, which suited us fine.

Arteta's post-match interview for BBC gave us an impression that the players were aware of the result of the early game and perhaps they thought three points would do just the job. Arsenal's controlled second-half performance, which seemed to be a little bit flat at the same time, probably came from this notion. After difficult periods that they have been through this season, they seem to be more focused on results rather than the style. They have probably learned how results can affect confidence through experience. We used to play beautiful football, but could not get results.

Koscielny's absence from the starting line-up was a big mystery to us as the settled back-five's performance has been impressive recently and up till Saturday morning there was no news of fresh injuries. According to Arsene Wenger's post-match interview, Koscielny had tendinitis in his knee when he woke up in the morning. He tried the warm-up, but he couldn't carry on because of pain. Let's hope it is not too bad.

Djourou filled the void Koscielny had left in the central defence, which was much of our worry. To make it worse, even the stand-in Djourou suffered an early knock. There was no recognised center-back on the bench and using a substitution this early is always a disadvantage. However, our mood quickly changed at Las Mimosas bar as Arsenal got into the rhythm of their free-flowing attacking football.

We are very pleased to see goals come from the players who have been the subjects of criticisms. Gibbs, whose positional sense has been constantly criticised, showed how he can be an attacking threat to the opponents. Walcott, whose decisions in the final third have been questioned, took the goal very well with great control, composure and precision. Then, the third goal came from Arteta's free-kick. He has been doing a great job for Arsenal as a midfielder linking defence and attacking, but his set-pieces have been rather disappointing this season. In his post-match interview, the Spaniard said "I used to be good at it". Yes, we remember some of your great free-kicks for Everton, Mikel. We are glad to see such a sublime free-kick by him again, this time in an Arsenal shirt. This goal just shows you what confidence can do to individual players, when the whole team is playing well. He also had a long-range stinging shot in the first half, which forced a powerful save from Shay Given.

At 2-0, the scoreline wouldn't have been enough for the old Arsenal to settle with because if they had conceded a goal they could have started to panic and let the lead slip away. On this day, we kept concentration and didn't make a mistake. The third goal to kill off the game completely didn't arrive until the last kick of the game, but we kept the calm and had the game under control.

All in all, it was a comfortable win, which took our winning run to seven Premier League matches. Apparently, this was the Club's best run since October 2007. Not bad for "the worst Arsenal team in the recent years"! The convincing team performance and comprehensive victory surely did further good to our players' confidence. Bring on QPR!

Player ratings

Szczezny: 7
With Aston Villa registering only one goal attempt with no shot on target (according to Sky Sports, although BBC thinks Villa had 3 shots, of which 1 on target), he didn't have much to do, but looked solid.

Sagna: 8
Again good link-up with Walcott, overlapping with him often. Solid defensively as well.

Djourou: 7
Did his job. Made a crucial tackle.

Vermaelen: 9
He showed his determination and desire to win at the both ends of the pitch again.

Gibbs: 8
Scored his first goal in the Premier League. His smile on the pitch is rare as his goals, so the goal has an extra value in that sense.

Rosicky: 8
Maintained his red-hot form. Displayed his class and skills.

Arteta: 8
Passing success rate for this day's Arsenal side was 87.8%. As the second best passer in the Premier League with an average of 90%, only second to Yaya Toure, his individual passing success rate must have been phenomenal this day. His stunning goal wrapped up the very enjoyable afternoon for Gooners nicely.

Song: 8
The lofted pass to Walcott was another killer pass by him, which resembled those that set up for RVP's legendary goals against Everton and Liverpool this season.

Walcott: 9
He was a constant threat to Villa's left flank. Took the goal beautifully.

Gervinho: 7
Covered Gibbs well defensively, tracking back and keeping Albrighton at bay.

van Persie: 8
We have scored three goals and none of the goals came from him, but he still led the attack.


Ramsey: 6
68th-minute substitution for Gervinho. Got involved in the late charge and fired a shot wide.

Santos: 5
Replaced Gibbs in the 68th minute. His first involvement in the game was giving away the ball to Weimann in a dangerous position, but he got away with it thanks to Weimann dragging a shot wide.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7
Came on in the 78th minute for Walcott. Made a few runs and nearly earned a penalty.


Phil Dowd: 7
He is definitely not our favourite referee after staging the Premier League's biggest comeback drama against us at Newcastle. He was nearly hated even more by Arsenal fans after he had decided not to give the OX a penalty, but it is widely believed that replays showed Mr Dowd made a correct decision as Ireland was first to the ball. We let him off this time.

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