Some Thoughts on our Draw with Bolton… I mean, Villa

By on January 28, 2010

Since we find ourselves engaged in a 3-way title race at the end of February, from here on out, every draw will have us considering one of football’s most philosophical questions: Was it two points lost, or a point gained?

I know. I did it after the Everton match. While many disagreed with me, though not most according to our poll, I believed we had gained a point on that day. The same goes for yesterday. Chelsea lost at Villa Park while City and Spurs drew there. A draw at Villa Park is not going to lose anyone the title. In the club-by-club table, we actually picked up a point on Chelsea.

But, yesterday’s point may have come at the cost of points down the road as the entire Arsenal global community waits with bated breath for news on Thomas Vermaelen’s injury. We have also lost Eduardo for Sunday’s crucial fixture home to United. Sad to say, but that might not be a bad thing. Bendtner’s return could not have come sooner. He gave us an extra dimension that we have looked towards the front of our attack for some time. He was able to win headers and hold the ball up, something we have been sorely lacking.

There’s usually not much to say about a nil-nil draw, but it was a hard-fought point. Let’s be honest. We were shit for much of the first half and at 35 minutes I was thinking, “Let’s just get into the break even.” We looked better in the second half and hit two posts on the night. On another night, we might have won 2-nil.

As for Martin O’Neill’s reaction to Arsene’s comments, I don’t see how he can argue. with the Boss’s assessment and his being insulted is hysterical. How sensitive is O’Neill? Villa were, without a doubt, hoofing the ball up throughout the match. If I didn’t have a life and some admiration for what O’Neill’s done in the Midlands,  I would go back and watch the match again counting how many times they hoofed the ball up trying to take advantage of Sol and Gallas. Yes, they played some football too-mostly Young and Milner.

Most importantly, they closed us down in the midfield and created space by getting the ball wide in attack, when they weren’t lumping it forward. The return of Alex Song is greatly awaited as Denilson left a little to be desired. Rosicky continues to take steps towards getting back to his best form and his return has been really impressive considering the length of time he was out and that many of us thought that even if he did come back, he wouldn’t be the same player.

We learned that Clichy is nowhere near his best yet. He really struggled to contain Young for much of the match though he did win a few important battles. One can only imagine how bad Traore would have been embarrassed by Young last night had he been in the left-back spot.

Sol Campbell also deserves a mention. When the trainer went out to check on Vermaelen, you could see little gash in his shin. I didn’t think he’d be coming off. And I have to admit that considering how shaky we had looked defensively in the first half-hour, I was more than concerned when Sol came on. It looked a perfect opportunity for Agbonlahor to use his speed against the slower veteran. But Sol looked as solid as you could hope from what is essentially our #4 center-back overall (if you consider Djourou ahead of him when fit). He won headers, and though he was beaten for pace once or twice, he used his experience and his ability to read the game to compensate, like a veteran should.

I think I also learned, or came to accept, that Eduardo doesn’t look likely to ever again even approach his pre-injury level. He used to make up for a little lack of pace with his top-class finishing, but when that is there, he looks a very ordinary player. It pains me to say that because for over a month I’ve been saying it he just needed a run of games, but it’s starting to look as though that’s not the case and I think Arsenal would benefit more by giving some of those minutes to Vela, who has tons of potential and needs to play.

Anyway, I originally thought that we needed 7 points from these 4 matches to remain in fairly close contention, especially now considering Chelsea beat Birmingham quite easily. I think we must beat United and at least get a draw at the Bridge to remain in a firm position. How often are you involved in a three-team race for the League and play the other two teams consecutively. This is a rare opportunity for us. We can make a statement even bigger than the 10-match unbeaten run that put us on top last week. On to Sunday…


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  1. steve

    January 28, 2010 at 9:17 am

    o’neil’s teams always back to front with quick wingers & big lumps up front always plays that way total wanker shit player aswell

  2. Steven

    January 28, 2010 at 10:05 am

    @Steve, no foul language on O’Neill;a decent coach if you ask me and that is his preferred style and he shouldnt be slated for it. He played what he felt would work against us and since it won him the games against Chelsea and Man Utd who are presumably stronger than Arsenal, what right-thinking manager would not play that way?

    I admit that I would do same rather than allow those quick and sometimes endless passes that Arsenal uses to open up defences cause my team problems. My only grievance is his offence at the use of ‘long balls’ to describe his tactics;its your style MON, why deny or even feel ashamed of it;Pulis and Fat Sam arent!

    Why did SAF unleash Flecther on Cesc and Arshavin? Why did Ancelotti ensure that Essien was fit for the clash at teh Emirates? Just to stop us from playing and capitalise on our weaknesses.

    Now that we have began to find a way to deal with their physicality and the so called ‘direct balls’, I am eager to know what they’ll be playing next. Song will be around to handle Fletcher and Essien is injured. Wecan cope even in TV5′s absence but Gallas MUST not get injured all thru these run of games.

    Unfortunately for us Arsenal doesnt play to neutralise a player or I ‘ll say get someone to man-mark Rooney. Without him Man Utd are toast. No fear whatsoever for those games as I saw we have found a new resolve to get stuck in even when not playing well; a vital learning curve for the team if you ask me and that mentality will help in these games.

    • Arsenal Station

      January 28, 2010 at 10:48 am

      Exactly right, Steven. Does he really think that his team weren’t pumping balls up to Heskey half the time? I like O’Neill as a manager, and I know he wants to think Villa play football. They do at times but to act insulted because Wenger pointed out the obvious only makes him seem overly sensitive or blind to his own team’s style. In fact, with someone like Heskey up top playing a side that has trouble with aerial attacks, I’d think him less of a manager if he didn’t go that route. I don’t think what Wenger said was meant to be an insult, at least not directly. The way he reacted says more about O’Neill’s own insecurities than Wenger.


    January 28, 2010 at 11:03 am

    How can you sit back when your at home?? it’s villa fans that need to be asking that question!!! your telling me the club has traditions and so on and so forth!!! we have european cups; is this how you played when you won them all those years ago?? i would rather see my time play a certain way and LOSE rather than play THAT version of football, even burnley play more attractive football so you have no excuses!!!!!!!

  4. Ted Harwood

    January 28, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I can’t fault O’Neill for his tactics; he’s always managed his teams in a very rigid style, and he’s always done relatively well. His reaction is (god, I sound like an apologist now–sorry) probably borne out of frustration more than anything, bitchy as it was.

    A draw at Villa Park is fine. I personally don’t think that that match was going to be the easiest of the four; I think Liverpool at the Emirates was always going to be a little easier. 7 points from these four games is what we need. 8 would be great. 10…the mind reels.

    I just hope TV5 is okay. Rio’s out for Sunday. Song maybe is back. Can’t wait.

  5. Daxxjoker

    January 28, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Mate – you can’t write Chelsea lost at Villa Park while City and Spurs drew there without writing – West Ham also drew there.
    So,our game last night must be described as “2 points dropped”.
    And why did they close us in the midfield ?! Because we played Denilson and Ramsey there.And playing these two against Petrov and Milner is like playing raccoons against pumas.Damn – how much we need Alex back ! If he’s not there on sunday – we are screwed ! If Wenger decides to play him along Billy – we are screwed ! Alex and Diaby must be in our midfield against Manchester ! It is as simple as that.And I hope Cambell does well at the centre of the defence.
    Knowing our luck – Tommy Gun is out for the season.I don’t expect anything different.Being that Eduardo is also out – we have only Bendtner up front.Only thing that keeps me from crying here is part of my memory which tells me that we were without RVP and Ade for ManUtd last season’s visit to Emirates.We played with Nicklas as a lone forward.But,that day – Nasri stepped up and got us a win.
    I’m sure he will be in the starting lineup on sunday,so . . . we need some magic moments from our captain and him,since Arshavin is playing like shit since his last appearance in CL.But we must have Song and Diaby on the pitch !
    I don’t know how you can count on a point from the Bridge.I really can’t see that happening.As a matter of fact – I see Drogba and Anelka running a riot and I see us getting blown away.I hope I’m wrong about that.I’m not counting on anything from that,BUT WE MUST BEAT MAN AND LIVER ! ! !
    If that doesn’t happen – it will be a DISASTER ! ! !
    If it happens – that will be 7 points I expected in the worst case scenario from these 4 matches.

    • ArsenalStation

      January 29, 2010 at 9:56 am

      Daxx, I can mention those matches because they were against the other top 6 clubs in the league. Let’s also not forget that they went to Old Trafford and won. We didn’t. My point is that Villa is no pushover and teams just as good as us have fought for a point at Villa Park.

      Thankfully, it looks like your prediction on Vermaelen did not come true. It’s disappointing that Diaby won’t be fit for Sunday but at least we will have Song and we all know that he makes the difference. I just hope Arsene doesn’t play him at CB.

  6. Daxxjoker

    January 28, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I’ve just read some news.There are 2 yaaaaays and 1 damn.
    Yaaaaaaay – Tommy didn’t break his fibula and he may be even avaliable for sunday ! I guess we were due some luck !
    And yaaaaay – Song will play ! But,damn – Diaby will not !

  7. geoffreid

    January 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Just buy and we would be o.k

    • ArsenalStation

      January 29, 2010 at 9:53 am

      Buy who? Buy what? Just spending money alone does not guarantee success. Ask City how well buying Robinho worked out. Or go ask Leeds and Pompey how well “just buying” worked for them. If the right player is not available at a reasonable price, Arsene will not buy and anyone who expects anything else is deluding themselves and getting upset for no reason. It’s like getting mad at a pig for not flying.

      • jonathan

        January 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm

        yeah i agree. i think arsene is one of the smartest when it comes to finance.

  8. jonathan

    January 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Does anyone else think Nicky Bendtner is total rubbish? I know the kid just came back from a long injury and all, but he is so horrible! Even before the injury he was bad. Whenever he gets the ball he just fumbles it around. There were several chances yesterday when he had the ball and should have either 1. Taken a shot, or 2. pass the ball to one of the three open team mates screaming for the ball. He sucks, I back up arsene wenger on pretty much everything he does, but I honestly do not see what Arsene sees in bendtner. We should have got a new striker.

    • ArsenalStation

      January 29, 2010 at 9:51 am

      jonathan, I think Bendtner had a classic “return-from-injury” performance. His touch wasn’t what it normally is and neither was his movement. But that is solely down to coming back from a long layoff. Bendtner did show good signs by winning headers and holding the ball up on the line between the middle and attacking thirds.

      • jonathan

        January 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm

        I will give you that. He is good in the air, and that is something that we desperately need. It just pains me to see him trying to dribble the ball.

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