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Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa: Fabregas Makes a Statement, But At What Cost?


Cesc Fabregas came on as a second-half substitute to completely turn this game in Arsenal’s favor by first scoring a sublime free kick from outside the area and second, by latching on to an exquisite Theo Walcott pass to secure all three points for the Gunners. But immediately after scoring the second goal, Fabregas pulled up and could be seen wincing from an injury that could derail Arsenal’s title chances such is the impact that the Spaniard has on this Arsene Wenger side.

Fabregas was substituted and shortly afterwards Diaby put the icing on the cake as he scored from a wonderful solo effort. Despite winning 3-0, the game was not as one-sided as the scoreline suggests. Aston Villa gave Arsenal a run for their money in the first half and could have gone ahead on several occasions after a shakey Arsenal defense had problems clearing the ball from the box each time it was floated in.

This was a pulsating and entertaining match that was open from the moment it kicked off. It was a battle between the continentals, Arsenal, who played their usual brand of wonderful football, against the British style of Aston Villa, who played a more physical and counter-attacking football and defended extremely well.

While Aston Villa defended well, especially with Emile Heskey coming back to help out on several occasions, Arsenal started brilliantly but then lost the plot a little when they started trying to float desperate long crosses into their opponent’s half. It was a game where they looked like they would be unable to get all three points unless some magic was created. And that magic was Fabregas, who completely turned the game and instantly used his imagination to create several clear-cut chances for Arsenal when before there was nothing.

After Arsenal scored the first goal from the Fabregas free kick, the remainder of the game was a true test for Arsenal to see how they could hold on to the lead. And how well they did as they put the game completely out of Villa’s reach, despite Brad Friedel’s herculean efforts in goal for Villa.

The 3-0 victory will send a loud message to the rest of the Premier League that Arsenal means business. The challenge however will be whether they can figure out a way to do it if and when Fabregas is injured. The three points today are a massive confidence boost, but if Fabregas is injured as a result, at what cost did it come?

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  2. GoFutebol

    December 28, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I believe Arsenal can challenge the title even without Fabregas and Van Persie. They have game in hand, and if they win and situation remain the same they only one point behind Chelsea.

    However, overconfidence always kill Arsenal kids.

  3. The Gaffer

    December 28, 2009 at 7:37 am


    Arsenal had more chances to score, but we’ve seen that time after time that the Gunners are unable to convert their chances (most of the time) to win tough games. The difference with Fabregas is that they instantly looked more dangerous and more likely to score from their chances.

    The Gaffer

  4. Simon Burke

    December 28, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Absolutely Baz – the stats dont lie.
    Gaffer you need to distinguish between half chances and actual chances.
    Look at the quality of Arsenal’s chances to Villa’s. Villa by my count had 2 decent chances and only one forced one save out of Almunia and the game was effectively over by then – i dont count potential possible breaks that didnt amount to anything. I dont obvious fouls on the keeper which lead to disallow goals.

    No question Fabregas turned the game up a notch but the way it was going I felt we’d win regardless though we’ll never know. Arsenal were well on top by Cesc’s introduction.

    I have no desire to slag off Villa – they were excellent at United though very lucky to win that game and they beat Chelsea and Liverpool too. They are a breath of fresh air. Arsenal are the first top team to beat Villa this year and deserve some credit.

    Rather than just blindly lavish praise at Villa I feel its only fair if people are tipping them to be in the top 4 that their faults are pointed out as well. If I was a Villa fan yesterday I’d have been very disappointed in them as they defended well and did nothing else. They had scored in every game in since the opening day and had the best defence in the Prem and Arsenal ended both of those statements while Villa sat back.

  5. Baz

    December 28, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Arsenal Aston Villa
    Shots (on Goal) 21(9) 9(2)
    Fouls 15 20
    Corner Kicks 10 4
    Offsides 1 5
    Time of Possession 62% 38%
    Yellow Cards 1 3
    Red Cards 0 0
    Saves 2 6

    QED, Villa did not give arsenal a run for their money, more the fact that Arsenal had a poor run of say 20 minutes in the first half. NO chances were created by villa, just shoddy defending by Arsenal.

    You tell someone to watch that game who has never watched the premier league before, would not be able to predict that Villa are as close to Arsenal on the table they are.

    • The Gaffer

      December 28, 2009 at 7:44 am

      Baz, it’s the final score that matters, not the stats. In this case, Arsenal won 3-0 and got three points.

      Here are stats from another game:

      Team A corners: 9
      Team B corners: 4

      Team A goal attempts: 11
      Team B goal attempts: 6

      Team A possession: 68%
      Team B possession: 32%

      Looking at those stats, which team would you say looked more superior and probably won the game and received all of the praise from the pundits? Team A?

      The answer is Team B. The game was Manchester United (Team A) against Aston Villa (Team B), where Villa won 1-0 at Old Trafford.

      The Gaffer

  6. jleau

    December 28, 2009 at 12:13 am

    3-0 is flattering to Arsenal but not dramatically. The first half was very even with both teams having some good spells. Villa had a good 15 minute stretch in the first half where it looked like they might take control.

    The second half in my opinion was a different story. Arsenal was in control and Villa never really threatened. Even before Cesc came on, it looked as though Villa had settled for the draw. Cesc was fantastic and Arsenal may very well have drawn this match without his 25 minutes. The whole Arsenal squad seemed to come to life when he came on the pitch. Arshavin was a complete non-factor until Fabregas was pulling the strings.

    Overall I thought Villa were outstanding in defense and a bit of a disappointment in attack. Outside of those 15 minutes in the first half, Arsenal were not troubled. I can’t recall anything particularly excitng from either Milner or A. Young and I expected both to make their presence felt.

    The Arsenal player that seems to be flying under the radar in this match is Diaby. He followed-up the Hull match with an equally impressive effort today. He was at the center of most of Arsenal’s build-up prior to Fabregas’ appearance and created a great chance for a poor Eduardo. His goal was class, even though the Villa defense was on it’s last legs.

  7. Simon Burke

    December 27, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Bit disappointed in this article. Arsenal were far superior before Fabregas came on (Eduardo missed a bad one, Nasri had one deflected just over, one cleared off the line from Eduardo) all before Fabregas came on.

    Problem with this blog like many media outlets is that its so big 4 centric – no-one is talking about Villa (in fairness i have seen several City articles). If you were a United fan today (or an Arsenal one) and your team played like Villa did away, which was to offer incredibly little and play for 0-0, would you find that acceptible?? A huge test live on TV to beat your nearest rivals in the league and make a statement and Villa offered nothing. Defended well blah blah… offered nothing going forward.

    People need to look at today’s game , not as a case of Arsenal struggling to break a team down but also as a supposed pretender to the top 4 offering nothing at all away from home and being outplayed by a team who wanted to win.

    Villa had by my count 1 decent chance in the first half that Cuellar got nowhere near the goal and then one decent chance in the second half when they were already 2-0 down and it was well dealt with by Gallas and Almunia. Can someone now write an article about what exactly Villa offer rather than Arsenal’s limitations?

    Stilyan Petrov was a shadow today, Ashley Young was dreadful and Agbonlahor was tactically poor – with his pace he should have worked much harder rather than relying on others to do his work. Heskey – woeful.

    As for Cesc – we played most of the second half of last season without him – it meant we drew some games we should have won but we didnt lose any in the Premiership while he was gone. None. Some turgid 0-0’s but we ground out some wins and finished top 4. He didnt play against Hull and we won that last week.

    Cesc is going to be out for 10 days or 3 weeks – Arsenal will cope. Will we win the league? Probably not but we are right in it now.

    • NetherHolland

      December 27, 2009 at 6:35 pm

      Right, commentary from someone about how poor Villa was from someone who uses the word WE to describe how good Arsenal is. I thought Arsenal was a contender for the title and rolled through an easy group to the Round of 16 in the Champions League.

      I don’t think anyone really thinks Aston Villa can contend with the international sides with depth like Chelsea, Arsenal, and Man U. They have played over their heads but have been holding their own this season.

      Can anyone explain to me why people that come here and read an OPINIONATED ARTICLE complain about the opinions so much?

      • Simon Burke

        December 28, 2009 at 6:14 am

        Thats the catch Nether – people do think Villa can contend – several pundits have tipped them for top 4 and the build up to this game was that Villa can overtake Arsenal and go second. They have spent a lot of money in the past 2 years and actually have pretty decent squad depth and no European competition after being eliminated. Villa’s bench yesterday was very strong.
        I am not out to defend top 4 sides – just my own. If you were a Villa fan yesterday you had very very little to get excited about and I’d be questioning the work rate of the Young’s, Heskeys and Petrov’s if they were in the Arsenal team yesterday.

        • The Gaffer

          December 28, 2009 at 7:32 am

          Simon, Heskey played well, so did Petrov. Ashley Young didn’t have his best day by far. Luke Young was solid in defense. Yes, this wasn’t a great Aston Villa performance but they held their own for the first half.

          The difference in this match was Fabregas. If he hadn’t come on, there was a good chance this match would have ended 0-0. Or either team could have sneaked a late victory.

          The Gaffer

    • Fletch Spigner

      December 27, 2009 at 7:14 pm


      Your points are, overall, valid. However, anyone watching this match could clearly see that, once Fabregas appeared, Arsenal kicked it up a notch. During the first half, Villa played extremely well defensively–Arshavin was a non-issue. Arsenal enjoyed much of the possession and had nothing to show for it since Villa stuck it to Arsenal in Villa’s defensive third. At times, I thought Gabby Agbonlahor was the only person NOT behind the ball! And, just to be clear, clearing the ball off the line is called good defending.

      As for your comment about this blog being Big Four centric, I think you have missed the point of this article. The reason this match was a huge fixture (and that an article was written about it on this site) is because we are in the middle of a season where Liverpool are mid-table and Villa, Spurs, and Man City are all realistically challenging for a Top four finish. This wasn’t an Arsenal article; this was an article that is following the pulse of the EPL season at this point. It happened to involve a current Big Four team and another VERY good team who are trying to get into the Top Four by the end of the season. Naturally, this is a notable event in the span of the season and it should appear on this site!

      Just my thoughts! Cheers!

      • MasterBlaster

        December 27, 2009 at 7:52 pm

        Right on! It’s too bad that so many of the Big 4 fans come out of the woodwork to defend each other while trying to knock teams like Villa or Fulham.

    • The Gaffer

      December 27, 2009 at 8:45 pm

      Simon, Arsenal was superior before Fabregas came on, but it was still a close 0-0 game at that point and Villa looked like they had several good chances to break on the counter to nab a 1-0 lead. Fabregas coming on for Arsenal was the turning point in this match.

      The reason why I wrote about this game was because it was the biggest game of the weekend not necessarily because it was about the Big Four. It was a good head-to-head game, but it’s not in Aston Villa’s style to go on the attack and try to beat Arsenal at their own game. Villa played similarly to how they did against Man United from about a week ago when they nabbed the 1-0 lead and held on by playing very defensively.

      As for Villa, they offered a lot of hope in the first half of scoring including the header by Heskey to Agbonlahor, whose shot skimmed a few yards wide of the goal, as well as the attempted header by Dunne (he clattered into Almunia) and the shot by Milner which he jabbed wide. Arsenal looked very nervy in the back at times.

      The Gaffer

  8. Cord4Gooner

    December 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Portsmouth, West Ham, Bolton, Everton, Bolton, Villa

    The next 6 EPL and FA Cup matches …… Cesc Can get some nice rest during this time! In Cesc we Trust!!! he will be just fine!

  9. masterblaster

    December 27, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I’m pretty sure for Villa playing at The Emirates they would be quite happy to earn a point from this game. So by rendering Arshavin as non-existent in the first half, getting a few solid chances on Almunia’s goal and looking like they would keep Arsenal from scoring until Fabregas came in was getting a good run for their money.

    Tyson, you seem to misunderstand what it means to sit everyone behind the ball. This is what Chelsea did against Barcelona. It’s not what Aston Villa does, as they leave as much space on the other end open for Agbonlahor and Young to use their speed to try and create chances. I know you are bitter that Villa didn’t send everyone forward after they scored against United so they could give up their lead, but you need to either pay more attention or take off the foggy glasses while watching these games.

    Chamika, who taught you to randomly capitalize words in the middle of a sentence? I know that because Arsenal scored 3 late goals you feel like they dominated the entire game, but they did not.

    • Tyson

      December 27, 2009 at 7:07 pm

      Chelsea played intelligently against Barcelona by shutting down movement and passing between the midfield and strike.

      Xavi and Iniesta are both great at crossing and long passes. If you allow them to pass they will eventually score. That is how you expose their weakness.

      It doesn’t really matter how you try to defend Aston Villa the fact of the matter is it says it all in the scoreline.

      Aston Villa were picked apart when they didn’t get the intiative making excuses doesn’t change anything the fact of the matter is they were drawn out to play and when they required a goal their “top 4 beating” skills were exposed as non-existant.

      3-0 is a damning score especially when you consider a substitute was the one to take the team apart. Very poor performance.

      • NetherHolland

        December 27, 2009 at 7:49 pm

        The first goal for Arsenal had nothing to do with being picked apart. Fabregas went down to draw a free kick and that connected to the near post to put them ahead 1-0. The second goal came on a counterattack after Villa had brought everyone forward on a good spell of play and multiple set piece opportunities.

        Nice try talking about a team getting beaten by a substitute. If you can’t figure out why your comment is rubbish as it involves Fabregas, then you are worse off than I thought.

      • MasterBlaster

        December 27, 2009 at 7:50 pm

        Does Villa’s 1-0 win over your United squad count as “top 4 beating”?

  10. Chamika De Zoysa

    December 27, 2009 at 10:58 am

    what? “Aston Villa gave Arsenal a run for their money in the first half” ,where were you….they had a 5-10mins good spell in first half, if you call that is Run for our money….goodness me, what can i Say more….very funny and generous in festive season….hahahahahaha….

  11. Tyson

    December 27, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I hope Fabregas is ok it looked like he was in real trouble.

    Like I said in the other thread if Arsenal get the intiaitive Aston Villa will have to both chase a goal and defend at the same time.

    Aston Villa only win when they get the first goal and then sit everybody in their own half for the rest of the match.

    A good team but in a shootout with either Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or United they wouldn’t have a chance.

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