Trending now:   Chelsea  •  Manchester United  •  Liverpool  •  Arsenal  •  Real Madrid  •  Barcelona  •  Tottenham Hotspur  •  Manchester City  •  Juventus  •  Hamburger SV

Aston Villa

Teams /  England  / Aston Villa 
Aston Villa have 865 fans
 
 
 
 
 
Jack Wilshere off the mark to secure victory for nervy Arsenal
Stuart James at Villa Park - 6 years ago

It is the time of year for giving, but Arsenal's generosity knows no bounds. For the second time in eight days Arsène Wenger's side conspired to make a two‑goal lead at half-time look like the most vulnerable position to be in. This time there was to be no repeat of the humiliating collapse against Tottenham Hotspur, yet it was still impossible to ignore the defensive shortcomings that allowed Aston Villa back into a match that should have been well beyond them.

Coasting thanks to first-half goals from Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri, Arsenal were forced to endure a nervous finale after Ciaran Clark struck either side of Marouane Chamakh's 10th goal of the season to give Aston Villa supporters hope of producing the most unlikely of comebacks. Arsenal ultimately prevailed as Jack Wilshere registered his first Premier League goal for the club with a close-range header in injury time, but it was ridiculous that the visitors were forced to wait until the closing seconds to kill off the game.

Wenger could be forgiven for wondering whether his players take some sort of pleasure from seeing him looking like a tortured soul on the touchline. Arsenal had 18 shots on goal and were so dominant in the first half that the match resembled one of those training sessions in which the defenders have to keep giving the ball back to the attackers to encourage them to have another go at breaking them down. Villa departed to boos and the suspicion was that this could turn into a rout.

Yet instead of continuing in the same vein in the second half, Arsenal emerged seemingly weighed down by events at the Emirates Stadium last Saturday, when Tottenham triumphed 3-2 after trailing 2-0. Villa, looking much more purposeful without the hugely disappointing Robert Pires – who was withdrawn at the interval and, on this evidence, would have been better off retiring when he failed to find a club in the summer – pulled a goal back through Clark's left-footed volley as the Arsenal defence unwisely chose to retreat rather than close the midfielder down.

Gérard Houllier, the Villa manager, reflected how interesting the game would have been had the scoreline remained at 2-1 for a period, but, within four minutes, Arsenal scored again. Chamakh, who had earlier drawn a brilliant point-blank save from Brad Friedel with a towering header, toe-poked Tomas Rosicky's slide-rule pass beyond the Villa keeper.

Clark pegged Arsenal back again in the 70th minute, when he nodded the ball in off the underside of the bar, but Wilshere's diving header – from Chamakh's unselfish centre – allowed Wenger to breathe more easily. "You do not always lose when you dominate the game," Wenger, casting his mind back to the Tottenham fixture, said. "We were very dominant in the first half. The only regret you have at that stage is that you do not score enough goals. And then, at 2-0 at half-time, you feel among the players that what happened last week had an impact in their heads. When Villa came back to 2-1 it was an interesting test for my team. We could have crumbled or scored again, and we scored again."

With Cesc Fábregas missing because of injury, the onus was on Arsenal's more experienced players to deliver and Arshavin answered the call. The Russian has flattered to deceive on too many occasions, but he shimmered with menace here. It was Arshavin's goal – drilled low into the bottom corner after Luke Young and James Collins challenged for the same ball – that put Arsenal in front and he also created their second with a perfectly weighted corner that Nasri volleyed inside Friedel's near post just before half-time.

Villa's second-half revival enabled them to recover some self-respect, but these are worrying times for a club that has spent the past three seasons ensconced in the top six. Houllier has a dreadful injury list, but he refused to cite that as an excuse for their anaemic first-half performance. "We never got started," the Villa manager said. "In the second half it was a different team. We showed more energy, took more risks and were more daring in what we wanted to achieve. But we have to be honest – we were beaten by the better team."

THE FANS' PLAYER RATINGS AND VERDICT MARK RUTTER, Observer reader In the first half we were really poor – we lacked commitment, structure and leadership. Carew was stuck up front on his with no supply from the midfield, while Pires looked past it and no longer capable of playing at the top level. The second half was a lot better, probably because of a much-needed Houllier telling‑off. We pulled ourselves back into the game, but were denied a clear penalty, while Chamakh's fouling somehow went unpunished. We are missing power in the middle of the park caused by Milner's departure and injuries to several key players.

The fan's player ratings Friedel 6; L Young 6, Dunne 6, Collins 6, Warnock 5; Downing 5 (Herd 85 n/a), Clark 7, Pires 6 (Delfouneso ht 6); A Young 7; Carew 5 (Ireland 66 6)

BEN LOVER, Observer reader It's been a difficult week for us, so it's good to get back to winning ways. We need to be more solid at the back, but we're still in a good position. It always looked like we'd concede – it's the way we play, going forward when we should sit back. A clean sheet would have been great, but not many teams go to Villa Park and score four. Wilshere and Arshavin played really well. Wilshere didn't give the ball away and looked assured, and Arshavin was dangerous every time he got the ball. He played a more central role and created all game. People talk of a crisis at Arsenal, but plenty of clubs would like a crisis like ours.

The fan's player ratings Fabianski 7; Sagna 6, Koscielny 7, Squillaci 7, Clichy 6; Song 6, Wilshere 8; Rosicky 7 (Djourou 90 n/a), Nasri 7 (Gibbs 85 n/a), Arshavin 8 (Denílson 85 n/a); Chamakh 8

To take part in the Fans' Verdict, email sport@observer.co.uk

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.

Share your thoughts
Sign in to comment
Comments
Page 1 of 1
chamakh just keeps delivering. great result arsenal. lets just try to keep a clean sheet. hate to think what the man uniteds and chelseas will do to us if we can't keep clean sheets against these teams.
Bigg Chamakh

Latest News, Blogs & Podcasts

Newspapers
 
Blogs
 
Podcasts
 
Aston Villa finished just 13th in the Championship this season. Aston Villa chief executive Keith Wyness has eased any financial fears with the club ready for a summer clear-out. The Championship club ...
Aston Villa chief executive Keith Wyness is confident of signing the club's transfer targets within next season's budget.
Peter Darling and colleagues find the stolen European Cup, May 1982It was gone 2am, and I was on patrol in Sheffield city centre; I was a duty sergeant with South Yorkshire police. It had been a quiet ...
More than 18 million fans watched English Football League games in 2016-17 - the highest figure since the 1958-59 season.
Mourners gather to pay tribute to the former footballer who died last month aged 44.
A late Jack Grealish goal secures Newcastle the title - and a £60,000 payday for a lucky punter.
The funeral of former footballer Ugo Ehiogu was taking place in Highgate on Wednesday
Doncaster Rovers complete the signing of on-loan Aston Villa defender Niall Mason for an undisclosed fee.
Aston Villa Brighton & Hove Albion 1 1 FT Game Details  ...
Preview followed by live coverage of Sunday's Championship game between Aston Villa and Brighton.
Aston Villa Brighton & Hove Albion 11:00 AM UTC Game Details  ...
Overseas fans of most English Football League (EFL) clubs will be able to watch live games next season on a new digital platform called iFollow
Jonathan Kodjia (centre) has scored 19 Championship goals for Aston Villa this season. Aston Villa striker Jonathan Kodjia could miss the start of next season after breaking his ankle. Kodjia, 27, who ...
Aston Villa striker Jonathan Kodjia could miss the start of next season after breaking his ankle in the loss at Blackburn.
Aston Villa striker Jonathan Kodjia could miss the start of next season after breaking his ankle.
Seán Cooke’s father says his son’s dream of playing in the UK was harmed when he was denied the opportunity to play in front of talent scoutsAn Irish teenager has lost a case taken against his fo ...
Preview followed by live coverage of Saturday's Championship game between Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa.
Wales will be without the defender for World Cup qualifiers against Serbia and Austria as a result of a FIFA suspension for the horror tackle
   
Kick4Life - changing lives through football