What to say about the Villa game eh? You know when your team has turned into a winning machine when you don’t have anything to complain about. I mean, jeez, I’m really struggling to have a bitch today…
Wenger rotated in our star men, he kept some of the fringe on and we played out a; in the main, comfortable game.
Olivier Giroud missed himself two relatively easy chances in the opening 7 minutes. He glanced a free header wide on 4 minutes, and then he failed to connect with a low cross on 7 minutes.
Arsenal controlled possession against a timid Villa side clearly very nervous about taking a hammering. Our opener came after a Monreal give and go, the Spaniard cut Jack in on the edge of the area, he shifted his weight and poked an inch perfect cross goal shot into the back of the net. As he peeled off the celebrate, he made an ‘A’ with his fingers…
… Jack, mate, Adebayor left ages ago. Really didn’t get that?
Before I’d even had time to note down the goal, Wilshere found Giroud with a floated pass after winning it off Delph, the Frenchman brought it down majestically, kneed it clumsily for his second touch, and then buried home like a boss with his third. A great goal that really sums Olivier up.
The rest of the half was Arsenal in rest mode. It was like watching a really boring warm down. I had the feeling we were a little too casual. That fear was realised in the second half when Santi lost the ball out wide, a cross was nipped in to the back post where Benteke, a player suffering some severe second-season-itis, was on hand to score a diving header.
My flat mate and I agreed at this point that not enough diving headers were scored these days. A classic goal. Though not as rare as the scissor kick.
That goal put the frighteners on the team. All of a sudden, our slick passing disappeared. Villa grew with confidence and Villa Park started to heat up with some real noise. You sensed we could concede a goal. I wasn’t sure whether old fears died hard, or we really were losing control. Rosicky slowed down the game when he took a forearm to the face and broke his nose (well, it looked like he had). The ref didn’t stop play despite seeing the player was gushing blood. In fairness to Villa, we didn’t stop play when we had the advantage.
Anyway, when play did resume, Benteke missed an absolute sitter from 6 yards. Heading into the keepers arms. Really poor play, you have to say.
6 minutes of injury time played out, we took the three points, Wenger called Lambert a ‘vieux chatte’ for maximum fulltime LOLz… we all went home happy. Well, maybe not Monreal because there were rumours of a broken metatarsal.
Rotation has paid dividends…
Arsene has loosened up on the fear factor. The team we put out was pretty well rested and our bench looked as strong as it has all season. He’s now far more comfortable rotating than he was. It’s not perfect. He’ll need to sharpen it up if he really wants the league, but it’s getting better.
For me, this is where trophies are won and lost… if he gets it right, I think we’ll win the Premiership.
Podolski is not favoured…
This shouldn’t come as news to people. Even when he was flavour of the month, he was pulled off every game (substituted you foul people). Wenger doesn’t seem to hold him in that high esteem. I noted in the summer that the feeling at the club was that he’d be off if there was a decent offer. Yesterday, he wasn’t given a run out again. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave this summer.
He doesn’t look particularly graceful going forward, but he ain’t half effective and he’s very measured in his approach to bombing on. He had a lovely assist for the first goal, he defended well and his quality has allowed us to give Kieran Gibbs some breathing space.
He is what he is I’m afraid. He’s a hard working English centre forward who makes the most of his ability. He’s capable of moments of magic, but he’s also capable of moments of ‘what the f*ck did you do there’… that’s fine. He came up with a decent goal yesterday. He’s not super elite, but hey, nor was Alan Smith and we all loved him, right? It’d be great to get some striker support for him regardless.
The big news…
The manager is rumoured to have signed a new deal along with Sagna and Mertesacker. That’s banging news as far as I’m concerned. Firstly, Per and Sagna have been essential to the team this year. Both are capable of being the captain of our great club. They’re ambassadors on and off the pitch. They embody everything you’d want in a foreign player. Totally bought into the heritage and the culture of the club.
On Arsene Wenger, I said in September when this deal was first mooted that I didn’t agree with handing out £7.5m a year for someone who hadn’t proved anything. Well, we’re in mid-January, we’re in the FA Cup, the Champions’ League group stages after navigating the group of death and we’re topping the league. That’s off the back of some transformative changes to his management game and his approach to player values. Not to mention the fact that we cleared £500k worth of dead wood and we topped the calendar league table. So this isn’t a fluke… it’s where we are as a club.
So basically, despite still having reservations about him in certain areas, I can’t complain. As far as I’m concerned, 75% of the issues Le Grove has campaigned against for years have been addressed over the past two years.
Also, I think we’re in a fantastic position stability wise. I think big players will look at the Alex Ferguson departure at United and worry. We’re an even more attractive proposition this season because of the saga in Salford. Now we’re talking about signing superstar talent like Draxler and Diego Costa. That’s where we need to be as a club. We’re at the top table and Wenger has been integral in making that happen.
At the start of last summer I said it was the perfect storm for big changes as so it has proved. Arsene wanted a new deal and he pulled out all the stops to get one. I’m glad he didn’t get a rise as well… apparently he’s performance bonused quite heavily. Another masterstroke from Ivan… target him on winning, not breaking even.
So bravo. If a manager can change his approach, I can change my opinion of the situation.
Onwards and upwards…