The Date with United and O’Neill’s Problem

By on January 29, 2010

So, it’s finally here… the run we’ve all been waiting for since the fixture list came out. I still hold the draw at Villa Park was a decent result for us and now it’s United at home. Anything less than a win at home will have the pundits’ knives out again to cut Arsenal’s title chances to pieces.

Circumstances bode well ahead of the match. Arsenal have never lost to United in the league at the Emirates. United, despite their place in the table, are a shell of their former selves. Rooney’s emergence as one of the top 3 players in the Premier League has not offset the loss of Ronaldo. Also, one wonders how long Rooney can carry the entire club on his shoulders.

The fact is that United just do not inspire the same “fear factor” in the opposition as they have previously. We have another fantastic chance to make a statement about this title race, and we MUST take it. You can’t build confidence any better than capping a 10-match unbeaten run in the league with a win over United. And we will need that confidence when we come out onto the pitch at Stamford Bridge next weekend. With the upcoming matches being six-pointers, the two matches in the next 9 days can have the influence of 12 points in the League title race.

Song and Eboue return and are fit to play on Sunday. There is a “good chance” that Vermaelen won’t play and Diaby is definitely out. If Vermaelen is out, I would hope that Arsene would resist the temptation to play Song at CB and go with the same midfield as at Villa. If Song plays a bit deeper, with Sol back there, I think we can compensate. Song will be needed in the middle of the park and, should he get the call, Sol will have a golden opportunity to show that he can still be a Premier League center-half.

But you guys know all this already… I did just want to briefly talk about the hoopla surrounding Arsene’s comments about Villa and O’Neill’s reaction. Here is what Arsene said:

They stopped us from playing when we had the ball and when they had the ball. They played a very long ball game, closed us down and it was very difficult for us.

And here was O’Neill’s response:

If that is what he (Wenger) saw tonight, that is as ridiculous a statement as I’ve heard. He has made a few ridiculous statements in his time here and that is probably as good as any. That is only an annoyance at the end of it all. Anyone who saw the game wouldn’t take that viewpoint. But it is an appalling insult.

An “appalling insult!?!?” Are you serious. Perhaps O’Neill forgot to fill his valium prescription this month. Can anyone really deny that at least half of Villa’s gameplan was to pump long balls up to Heskey to try to take advantage of Arsenal’s weakness in aerial defending. The other half was crosses from wide areas. So I don’t really see how O’Neill can argue with Wenger’s assessment.

In fact, I would think O’Neill a lesser manager had he not gone with that gameplan and tried to expose his opposition’s most glaring weakness. The absurd reaction by the Villa manager is quite revealing of the insecurity attached to a team that is trying to achieve a Champions League place.

Though possibly a bit veiled, I believe Arsene’s comments were a form of praise. Everyone knows that to stifle Arsenal you have to close them down in the midfield and that we are weakest when defending in the air. Those are proper tactics to try to get a result from a match with us. Villa executed both of those tactics well, though Arsenal did end up with better chances and deserved a victory more than Villa.

Villa are a quick young side with some power, but if O’Neill thinks he has an English version of Barcelona on his hands and that Villa are a pure footballing side, then he is the “ridiculous” one. Get over yourself, Martin.


  1. adam

    January 29, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Villa are the long ball team’s long ball team.

  2. PG

    January 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

    O’neill fell to the trap of media hacks. He should not have been dumb enough to fall for it immediately after the game. However, the mutterings by the likes of Collins beggars belief. Are they dumb ? Have they actually read / heard what Arsene said ?

    The likes of Collins will always be fodder feed to media hacks.

  3. Abdul Salam Conteh

    January 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Martin over thinks and cannot therefore accepts the compliment from the honest Wise Wenger. Maybe a bee in his bonnet

  4. Gidster

    January 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I loved Wenger’s comments about Villa, just because it wound so many people up. Every pundit, commentator, presenter, manager, player, journalist, anyone with something to say about football, they’re all allowed to wade into Arsenal for being a good team but a bit soft, “they dont like it up ’em”, etc. Its a boring and insulting assessment, but they literally cant talk about Arsenal without dropping these types of comments in. So they can all say unfavourable things about us, but our manager cant about anyone else. Double standards at work again…

  5. Steven

    January 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

    ‘The absurd reaction by the Villa manager is quite revealing of the INSECURITY attached to a team that is trying to achieve a Champions League place.’ Classic,pure classic. Only insecurity will make a man fume in denial of a tatics that has seen his team lose just twice to the Big Four while beating the Top Two and drawing once.Not many teams can boast of that-including Arsenal!

  6. Ted Harwood

    January 29, 2010 at 11:49 am

    The Guardian went so far as to call Wenger’s comments “derogatory.” I have no idea how they can find anything derogatory in what he said; even if one takes something completely out of context, it’s still almost impossible. The English sporting press continues to disappoint me. Rarely do they write with any kind of nuance.

  7. P'TangYangKipperBang

    January 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I used to like him but i’m afraid MON is a cock. Did you see the way he tried to square up to Wenger last year. The guy seriously has a problem. Maybe its sexual frustration or something but he is looking increasingly cross eyed and demented. Such venom to a nothing comment which was true. I think he is becoming a weirdo.

  8. crafty cottager

    January 29, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    O’Neill is talking rubbish. The opta stats prove it Arsenal, United, Chelsea and Liverpool have made twice as many passes as Villa this season. In fact Villa are well in the bottom half of the league when it comes to passing the ball. And also only 4 teams have had fewer shots at goal than Villa.
    They rely on set pieces to score goals and in open play they just play kick and rush percentage football and the defenders never pass the ball through midfield. Even Villa fans used to say that Gareth Barry had to do the work of two men in the centre midfield and now James Milner is having to doing the same. Petrov a top four player?… you’re having a laugh. Can see us playing them off the park tomorrow but they’ve got a big strong defence and can sort of seeing them holding on to an undeserved point.

  9. Daxxjoker

    January 29, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Mate – I agree that Song must be in our midfield against Man,and not playing along Gallas.My opinion is that Fergie will play only with Hybrid up front,and 5-man midfield.And I think that Campbell can do the job of containing him,with help from Billy and Alex.I think Alex will leave his heart on the pitvh like he never did before.I expect him to be everywhere.
    I also expect from Wenger to play like this – Song,Fabregas,Rosicky . . . Arshavin,Bendtner,Nasri.
    Otherwise – we are screwed in advance !
    I just can’t look Denilson and Ramsey playing the same match anymore ! Ramsey still has time to improve and I think best for him would be to play 1 season on loan for a PL club,not for one from Championship.It would be better for him to put one whole season in his body then to play smaller fixtures for us and collect 20-25 apps,half of them from the bench.Against top 8 clubs,he has nothing to look for except kissing the grass everytime someone put his body into him.That physical strength is the only thing he’s missing.And the somewhat of a longer run of games in which he plays 90 minutes everytime.
    I hate to repeat myself – but Denilson has been with us,he had his chances and the conclusion is – he is not good for Arsenal.He can run as long as he wants,he has that battling spirit – but he’s not good enough for our midfield.
    Know why Song became such a important player for us ???
    Because he’s like one half of a mountain ! He will win ball 10 times,and only once with a foul.Cause when he puts his body into a duel,he can’t lose ! He’s our gladiator !

    As for Martin the Leprechaun – he can’t stand Wenger,and talks a lot of stupid stuff.I’ve just read this article . . . http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1247182/Youre-talking-nonsense-Arsene-Wenger-getting-excuses-ready-blows-Premier-League-title-rages-Villa-boss-Martin-O-Neill.html?ITO=1490 . . . and I must admit – I like this part.

    The Ulsterman accused Wenger of being ‘consumed by his own importance’, failing to spot any failings in his own players and making excuses in case the Gunners do not last the pace in this season’s title race

    We face Manchester.We must beat them ! We can pull it anyway Wenger wants,but we must get these 3 points !
    I don’t care if our players play out of their positions,I don’t care if we score from the action created for Almunia to score and he does it.Anyway they want it ! ! !
    Just when we hear the final whistle – I wanna have one more goal then they do.If we don’t – we will hear stuff like “Well,I think we played really good,especially in the second half.But they started the match with 11 players,and I did not expect that.We got confused and couldn’t create as many chances as we wanted in the first half.But after the break,we were much better.We got our passing game going,but then they made 2 substitutions and after that,we couldn’t score.”

    So,Arsene . . . win by any means necessary !
    Win us a game we must win ! We are not interested in excuses if you don’t.Title race WILL BE OVER.For us !
    That’s that and we won’t need any excuses for why that is.You failed to win big games and when they mattered double – and that will the one and only explanation.

  10. anthony

    January 30, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    While United rely on Rooney the same could be said about Arsenal rely to much on Fabergas remember he came off bench to score twice to save two valuable points before going off shortly after which was class but most teams rely on one player to pull them out of the s*** sometimes look at Liverpool with Gerrard or Torres and Chelsea today with Terry

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