Yesterday’s game was one of those “it’s all over” games, one of those “heat in mouth”, one of those, “we’ve blown it” games, and also it was a comeback game! Basically, it had all the emotions under the sun. The delight of Oxlade starting and the excellent start turned into disappointment when we couldn’t score, which then turned into more disappointment when Villa scored, and then again when the scored again…
Disappointment turned into frustration, which turned into booing at half time, booing at the team and at the manager. Should we boo our team? Personally, I think not, but the debate after the game was focused on whether people should be allowed to vent their frustrations, how do fans show their thoughts? How do they express to the team that they’re not happy. Recently, the desire, the commitment and the individual mistakes have made the fans upset, and the booing at half time, was probably a cultimation of the last 3.5 games. I’m not a booer myself, but can see why some fans have resorted to booing.
Arsene spoke about the booing and said:
“I’m sad we can’t always keep them happy. The only thing we can do is to show the spirit we showed today. I must tell you I just want to do well for this club that I love. I understand that people question my decisions. I wouldn’t understand they question my commitment and dedication to this club. I understand they’re unhappy sometimes with the decisions I make.”
Going 2-0 down at half time, having lost three games on the trot, has created a sense of crisis amongst fans and the media, and the belief, faith and hope is very fragile at the moment. The line up yesterday did please the majority of fans – with Arteta, Henry and Sagna all named on the bench and Oxlade Chamberlain named in the starting line up.
Coquelin – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Vermaelen
Ramsey – Song
Walcott – Rosicky – Oxlade
The line up also saw the return of Coquelin, who does generally seem more suited to the right back role than the hapless Djourou. The second half was going to be one of the biggest tests of the season. 3 losses, 2-0 down, potentially out of the cup. And the second half delivered exactly what we needed. 7 minutes, 2 penalitues and a rather peculiar goal from Theo Walcott and 0-2 turned into 3-2.
The penalties were deserved, the peculiar goal too, a reward for our change of desire, change of style and change of attitude in the second half. For me, one change more noticeable was the improvement of Aaron Ramsey, who didn’t have the best first half in the world, but then really did step it up for the second half. Arteta’s return on 71 minutes, Coquelin’s return to the team and Rosiscky’s recent run of games means that we may afford to rest Ramsey a little more now – I think he could do with less minutes, perhaps some sub roles – he always does look tired.
For the manager, the comeback was amazing:
“It was a good test to show that we had the mental qualities to come back. On the other hand it was important that we didn’t panic [at half time]. To concede a goal just on half time for 2-0 was a difficult blow, but we responded very well against Manchester United here [last week] and we did it again today. Overall it was a classic FA Cup tie, 2-0 down and we came back. We had to fight to score three goals and we did it well. I felt it was harsh to be 2-0 down at half time, but Aston Villa are a good counter-attacking team and unfortunately we couldn’t score in the first half. In the second half it was all us.”
But for me, the fact that we went 2-0 down and stuttered over the line still makes me worry, it still gives me a sense that we have not yet turned any corner. Optimist or pessimist, this current Arsenal team doesn’t really allow you to really ever think anything or rest on any laurel.
The major plus was the return of Sagna – having him back in the team, back in defence, will add a lot of balance to our back four. There is also news that Gibbs will return too, and perhaps it won’t be too long until we see two full backs, Vermaelen & Koscielny in our back four. That will be pretty darn good.
There is a bit of debate on Van Persie and whether or not he did one on Cuellar – both players jumping in the air for a head and the Dutchman’s elbow connecting with the Villa defender. It’s a bit of rubbish and nonsense from Alex McLeish and personally very annoying to see such press and noise around it – if you want to read more, click here.
I really do hope that this is our comeback, our turning point and will push us onto turning our season around. We play Bolton on Wednesday at the Reebok and they’re currently enjoying some decent form – having beat Liverpool last weekend 3-1. We’ll need to be on top of our game, and the return of a few key players may be the catalyst we need.
Stay positive, stay Goonerish. Til tomorrow.