Now that’s a result that I call “grinded out”. It was a hard, intense and open game. It had everything. Pace, skill, shots, saves, penalties, sending offs and more importantly – 3 points for the Arsenal. After a physical and mental battle against Man City over the weekend and with 8 players out injured, players playing out of position too, it was a game that had draw written all over it. And with the scoreline at 1-1 with a few minutes to go, it looked like it was headed that way. But summer loan signing make it 2-1 from a header in the 87th minute, and the points were ours!
Arsene experimented a bit with the team, mainly because Miquel was out through injury and this meant Vermaelen to left back and Coquelin to right back. It’s been quite a season for Coquelin, and the fact that he slotted in to right back is a testimony to his adaptability. Song was out suspended yesterday, so Frimpong came into the middle of the park and the team line up was:
Coquelin – Koscielny – Mertersacker – Vermaelen
Arteta – Frimpong
Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho
But, as predicted Aston Villa did target the full backs, and Coquelin especially. He did look a little exposed, but it’s a newish role for him, so fair enough. If we do need to play Miquel and / or Coquelin for the next couple of games, at least we’ll be at home – first against Wolves and then QPR.
We did start brightly, but it was obvious to all that we were jaded. Tired from the weekend’s exertions and thread bare due to the copious amounts of injuries to midfield and full backs. Even though we haven’t had a lot of games, due to those injuries, the players don’t get a chance to rest. Arteta is a prime example, he has played every game this season.
The first goal for us came through some excellent play through Walcott, a great turn and into the penalty box, before being dragged down in the box – penalty awarded and Van Persie dispatched with aplomb, for his 34th goal of the calender year and 21st goal this season. Amazing stats to be honest… 2 more goals before the end of the year and Van the Man will match the record of 36, held by Alan Shearer.
Aston Villa came out in the second half and really started well, put us on the back foot. We did well to hold off, until a mistake from Mertersacker allowed Albrighton in to score the 20000th goal in the Premiership. We turned it up a level and the introduction of Rosicky and then Benayoun was excellent – changing the game for the better. Rosicky looked sharp and has done for a while. It will be interesting to see if Ramsey is rested in the future and Rosicky started – with two home games coming up, that may not be a bad idea – the Czech midfielder certainly adds some creativity to midfield.
Arsene spoke after the game:
Villa were dangerous but first I must say two things. We had two difficult away games where we had to give absolutely everything just over Christmas, physically. In the first half we controlled the game quite well and in the second half when they came back to 1-1 we had quite a difficult period. Then we stabilised the game and in the last 15 minutes you could feel we were on top again.
I can only congratulate Villa – they played well, gave everything and again it was a very intense game. In the end we got three very late points that are vital for us. We were a bit unlucky on Sunday and today maybe a bit lucky. Overall it was important to re-start with a win tonight. But if Villa continue to play like that then they will go up in the table, they had an outstanding game.
Finally, the Wolves game has been moved from bank holiday Monday, Boxing Day to the 27th. This is due to tube strike action, which means we’ll be on catch up by Tuesday as everyone else will have played by Monday.
It’s Sp*rs vs Chelsea tonight, scum vs scum… I want them both to lose – they’re both ahead of us in the league table, but as that can’t happen, I suppose a draw is the best result for us. And lots of yellow cards, red cards and non career threatening injuries (because that just wouldn’t be nice to wish for)…
We got the three points, and that’s all the matters right now… Roll on Christmas and very soon, roll on the mid-season review from JAT… all the way from his new found home in Aussieland….