Today was about two things. Points and a display. Without doubt, the points were the wider vision. Without 3 to our name, we'd have been looking down the barrel of a 5th trophy failure of the season. Thankfully, we showed enough mettle over 90 minutes to close the Spurs / Chavski gap.
Performance though. That's important. Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. We needed a performance to reassure fragile player minds Arsenal are still Arsenal. That didn't happen. The players know that. The fans know that and the manager probably doesn't know that.
That Villa side had conceded the most away goals, they'd scored the least and their ten game record was atrocious. An Arsenal side chasing Champions League positioning should have wiped the floor with Villa. At the very least, we should have been talking about a 2-1 that involved 42 attempts at goal whilst bemoaning a world class performance from a second string keeper.
I know... surely there's no such thing as a bad 3 points. Winning ugly is great? Yes. Winning ugly is great, but only when the context is that you usually win handsomely. That's not the case with Arsenal. Winning with style and panache is what we've lacked all year. Our team doesn't have a playing identity. Winning ugly is the standard this year. Next week is Spurs, we needed a sound performance to go into that game on top of the world. Instead, I can't help but think there are question marks around the whole side.
Giroud was awful and looked every inch a second rate striker. Walcott played the way the sour half of the contract debate said he would. Our keeper showed once again that he's a long way from being top class. Captain quiet continued his terrible form. Abou Diaby went off injured. Arteta struggled with the pace of the game.
The points are important, but the flaws are more so.
Dropping Sagna was a bold move that I entirely agreed with. His shoddy effortless appearances of late deserved it. Diaby in the middle made little sense after watching Thomas have a super cameo against Bayern but outside that, we looked strong from a line up point of view.
We took the early lead from a Santi made goal. He found his way into the box, fired a shot, picked up the rebound and drilled a low placed shot past Guzan.
After that, Arsenal slipped into 'this is an easy win' mode. We failed to make the most of a very poor Villa side, there was very little drive to our play and in front of goal, we really struggled.
Even playing an awful side, there was a constant reminder we were always seconds away from a cock up. Monreal slipped on the left allowing Villa into the box. Only poor finishing and a smart save kept the score the same
The game was anti football. Neither team fancied it in the first half. The stadium was anti enthusiasm. Blocks of empty seats all over. So bad me and my pals took over the back row for a far superior second half view.
Arsenal came out for the second half with a bit more spark about there play. Giroud showed he was the nearly man. He's nearly got a great first touch, he's nearly got a taste for goal... he's nearly a hattrick hero. He's quite selfish at times, which is what you expect of a strikers, but when you're trying to drill home three points, a simple cut back should suffice over a lash at goal. He took the latter option which opened himself up to a rollicking from Jack.
We somehow managed to concede from an Arsenal corner. The clearance made it up to Weimann on the half way line, he ran at our defence, with no defensive midfield cover, lashed a shot down the middle of the goal and unsurprisingly, our keeper made a total hash of and conceded again. He's so average at the moment he deserves dropping... trouble is, Wenger doesn't believe in competition for places, so there's no one better than him to slip in.
The fans looked on exacerbated... how were we here again? Wenger made some positive subs bringing on Lukas, and Ramsey... sorry, did I forget to mention that Diaby went off injured... again?
We huffed and we puffed. The lack of know how was painful to watch. Villa had three players with a shirt number under 67 on display and we were making a meal out of beating them. Our attacks started to ramp up. Firstly came a Giroud free header from 6 yards that he rattled against the bar. The next came when Cazorla danced into the box and cut back to no one... why was no one following in? Theo did the same moments later with two people in the box, again, no finish. Then finally the magic man came to our rescue. Monreal bounded into the box, cut it back and Santi buried it low...
Finally... we had secured the three points and a massive, massive win heading into the next week.
So what to make of the game? Well, Arsene Wenger's prezzer after was amusing...
“I’ve not been 30 years in this job at the top level to be destroyed by people who say I don’t know what I’m doing,”
Less talk Arsene, more demonstrating that immense experience. The only reason there are questions about what you're doing at the top level is because you've consistently demonstrated over the past 5 years that at the highest level... you're not elite. I'll take on that point later on in the week. Yesterday was hardly the performance I'd expect a comment like that to come from... maybe if we'd beaten City 3-0 away I could stomach it. Not after successive cup defeats to Bayern and Blackburn and a tepid win against the worst Villa side I've ever seen.
Anyway, it's Spurs up next week. Hopefully they'll drop points tomorrow night against the Hammers. If they do, things are looking pretty interesting for the away game next week. If we win, it's game on for a top four finish, if we lose, well, things still might not be over. I watched the Spuds win late on against Lyon in the week. That means they've got a at least two more European away games coming up as well as a disgusting April fixture pile up... not to mention the two international games Bale will have to play soon. We need to build a run together. We need to start performing and we need to cut out the tragic defensive performances, as well as the amateur attacking performances.
Yesterday wasn't a Champions League chasing performance. It was a drab confidence sapping performance. The defence don't trust the keeper, the keeper doesn't trust the defence... no one knows who is doing what in midfield and no one has any confidence in the striker.
It's a sorry state of affairs and quite incredible we're still massively in the mix for Champions League football next year.
Anyway, onwards and upwards... yesterday was a points celebration. Will the performance be enough to convince the side they're good enough to pull out a massive result against Spurs next week?
Time. Will. Tell