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Aston Villa 2-4 Arsenal: Bonus Match Review

On a cold day in Greater Birmingham, UK, Arsenal visited Aston Villa looking to reverse the fortunes of the past week, including a home collapse against Tottenham and a Champions League loss to Sporting Braga. The Villans had only won once in their previous 5 matches, and needed to start finding their form for manager Gerard Houllier.

The first half was spent mostly in Aston Villa’s end. Aston Villa’s 4-4-1-1 formation was ineffective at generating offensive chances, and Arsenal’s brilliant passing regimen within Manager Arsene Wenger’s favored 4-2-3-1 form was in full effect. Wingers Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri were adept at getting the ball in open space and delivering crosses in towards striker Marouane Chamakh.

The scoring opened as Arshavin took advantage of a midfield mistake, and at the edge of the area cut back towards the center of the pitch. He rifled a shot through center-back James Collins’ legs and into the goal. Minutes later, Chamakh headed on goal a perfect cross from right fullback Bacary Sagna, and only a quick Friedel right hand kept it out. The ensuing corner kick by Arshavin was delivered to the far edge of the area, and Nasri volleyed the ball off the turf and past Friedel for a 2-0 lead at the half.

The Villans’ first half attacking philosophy was that of long balls in the direction of Carew, especially from right-back Luke Young. Robert Pires, acquired recently, was rather ineffective in being the bridge between the midfield and Carew, and it was no surprised that he was brought off for more firepower up front. In switching formations to a 4-4-2, Houllier brought in Nathan Delfouneso. He also swapped the wide midfielders, Stewart Downing for Ashley Young. This change brought Young more into the attack on Gael Clichy’s side, which was targeted by Tottenham the week before. With Young leading the team in assists, this would seem to be a sound strategy, and one wonders why it wasn’t tried earlier. By the numbers, Young completed only 9 passes in the first half; in the second half, he completed  twice that number.

The positive change paid off at first. Off of a deflection, Clark received the ball just inside the area, and he laced a shot past Lukasz Fabianski for 2-1.

Unfortunately for Aston Villa, 5 minutes later Rosicky fed a through ball to Chamakh, who directed the ball under a sliding Friedel’s arm to regain the two goal advantage.

The final adjustment to formation came in the 67th minute as Houllier brought off Carew in favor of a midfielder, Stephen Ireland. To keep the offensive pressure on Arsenal, Ashley Young was moved forward to the vacated striker role. As the game moved into the last 30 minutes, Houllier also brought center back Richard Dunne into more offensive wingback roles.

In the 71st minute, Clark found the net again. Dunne headed  an Ashley Young corner forward just inside the central area. Clark’s headed effort hit the underside of the bar and came down just inside the goal to make it 3-2. As the Villa tried to find the equalizer in the waning moments, youngster Jack Wilshere headed home a perfect setup by Chamakh from 6 yards to close out the scoring 4-2.

This game could have been sewn up more easily had Wenger made his defensive substitutions sooner, say after their 3rd goal. Of course that wouldn’t be Wenger, so you simply accept that his teams are going to leak goals and give teams like the Villans a chance to creep back into matches.

Aston Villa took too much of a defensive approach to start. A direct, disjointed approach in Carew’s direction did not produce. Houllier made adjustments  to get Ashley Young the ball against the left side of the Arsenal defense, and once that started happening, chances opened up for Aston Villa. Unfortunately for Villan fans they were behind 2-0 when those changes commenced.

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  1. Maury The Gooner

    November 28, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Clearly I am an Arsenal fan so I will probably sound biased. We played well yesterday against an Aston Villa team that should have beaten Man Utd. The first goal we conceded should have been dissalowed as Carew clearly impeded Fabianski’s line of sight. What troubles me is why Fabianski did not run to the ref to scream about it. Any other goalkeeper would have been running around like a lunatic complaining to the ref. Even the Arsenal defense seemed unaware after it happened. If you watch the replay you can clearly see thatFabianski was ducking around him to get a clearer view. This is a problem for Arsenal because good teams are always on the ball when this happens. This type of naivity will cost us the title.

    Other than that it was nice to see Pires on the pitch and I wish him well. He was amazing during his time with Arsenal.

  2. Rod

    November 28, 2010 at 7:25 am

    How many times do officials have to get things wrong before someone actually does something about it. Arsenal’s match at Braga clearly shows Vela fouled in the penalty area and 3 officials didn’t call for a penalty kick. What the hell were they doing? Yesterday’s match at Aston Villa clearly shows Carew off-side and interfering with play (text book) and nobody called it. The management of world football is still in the stone age. Maybe they don’t want to admit there’s a better way, as in American football with challenges and replays.

  3. pacificStyle

    November 28, 2010 at 1:14 am

    RVP needs to step up, absolutely. It’s been a long time coming and he can’t use injury as an excuse. He was fit for some time but still failed to shine (e.g. WC, and for Arsenal in Aug-Sep). Nevertheless, this was a good attacking performance in the absence of C-Fab. Good to know that there are numerous players who can compensate for the skip’s absence. I still feel that Rosicky, Diaby, and Denilson need to put in more consistent performances to warrant inclusion in the first team. Rosicky is such talent but seems to waste possession except for rare moments such as the pass to Chamakh this game.

    Meanwhile, I’ve always maintained that the defenders need to be put into a heavy strength-training regimen… I mean look at a lot of the goals leaked – nothing but Header duels lost! We need T.V. back desperately because Sq. and Dj. are not good enough. Dj. is too error prone. Kocielny’s got potential if he can bulk up a bit… scratch that – a lot more! Sagna is an underrated but brilliant RB while Clichy needs more positive encouragement. I also think we need to push Nordtveit and JEM to bouts of first team action… these boys are hard talents; not so much, Eastmond.

    Go Gunners

  4. vermaelen5

    November 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Well, at least Arshavin finally showed up for a big game. Also, Chamakh was playing up to game speed today, and not lagging behind in the attacking third like he has been. With our defense though, we NEED Vermaelen back.

    • Earl Reed

      November 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm

      Arshavin was the best player out there in my opinion today. I think Villa made it a bit easy on them though. Neither Carew or Pires played particularly well, and thus Arsenal just kept pounding and pounding until they struck gold.

  5. RVPFan

    November 27, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    This was a good win, no doubt. But still I find the back line porous. We played well today and controlled the game however we are vulnerable to long balls deep into our D-area. That problem needs to be resolved for us to keep us in the hunt for the title.

    Wigan coming up in mid-week, and I believe Van Persie is ready. He has had enough rest and it is time for him to step up and lead the line. Our home form is ridiculous at the moment. Wigan cannot be taken for granted. They are well-coached team. We must play extremely well and play well for 90 minutes to clinch this one.

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