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All Killer, No Filler at Villa

This was perhaps one occasion when the meddling of television was quite welcome. After a rather raucous leaving do on Friday night, the extra couple of hours in bed was rather welcome, in fact it was kind of surreal waking after nine a.m for an away match. The thick Guinness head was slayed with a well timed fry up at the Little Wonder cafe, followed by a spot of Christmas shopping at the Armoury before joining the coach for the journey North. The away fans have happily been moved at Villa Park this season, so instead of peering through the goalnets in the cramped North Stand. The view from the upper tier was a vast improvement, however, the miniscule gangways and pre historic facilities were much the same. Villa Park is one of my least favourite grounds in the country, it's a decaying monument to a bygone era which the recently revamped Doug Ellis Stand does little to hide. Quite how it has a fire safety certificate I am not sure, the gangways leaving the stands and out onto the streets can scarsely accomodate a single file exodus. God knows how they would cope with an emergency situation.

Arsenal began the match in fine fettle, Villa barely touched the ball in the first ten minutes. Aliaksandr Hleb should have given Arsenal an early lead, Mathieu Flamini sliced Villa open with a slide rule pass, but Hleb never looked comfortable as he tried to round Carson and was eventually thwarted. Much against the run of play, the Villains crept into an early lead. John Carew teased Sagna down the Villa left, his cross glanced off of Gallas' mohawk and Craig Gardner ran in unmarked to slot the home side ahead. Arsenal's response was to up their game further, Lassana Diarra and Mathieu Flamini dominated the midfield battle, whilst the likes of Hleb, Rosicky and Eboue left Villa chasing shadows. A deserved equaliser arrived in no time. Eboue tantalised Villa on the right, playing a delicious one two with Adebayor which opened Villa up, Eboue's pull back was knocked on by Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini showed an animal desire to smash the ball past Carson with his left foot. Having given the ball away in the build up to Villa's opener, it was a sumptuous retribution and another stern performance from the in form Frenchman.

Arsenal's slick football had the purists purring and the travelling fans in acid tongued mockery, 'have you ever seen England play like this?' we asked the home support. Their retort of 'Eng-er-land' (hmm, witty) was quickly shot down with a reprise of the U.S.A chanting so often aimed at United, in response to the current tenure of Randy Lerner. Sure enough, Arsenal edged in front to seal their dominance, Diarra kept the ball alive with a strong challenge and twist and turn away from Gardner, he teed up Bacary 'Banger' Sagna, who provided another pinpoint cross which Emmanuel Adebayor rose to head home. The delivery from Sagna was paradigmatic of his excellent cross for Gallas' header against Wigan. The French right back has proved to be such a sapient addition by Wenger, when right back looked pretty well covered. Messrs Hleb and Rosicky continued to run Villa ragged as an exhibition of total football rarely witnessed saw out the remainder of the half. Flamini's scorching effort rose just over Scott Carson's crossbar. The applause from the away fans were warm and self congratulatory at the interval. The difference between the two sides was clearly more than one goal.

But Martin O'Neill changed it up at half time, moving Shaun Maloney upfront and Agbonlahor onto the flank. Villa disrupted our passing game by keeping the ball in the air, aiming long for Carew and getting in and around Arsenal's midfield.The Gunners' looked a little cumbersome and Villa sensed their advantage. Only Alex Hleb was finding space between striker and midfield, he looked to be our only danger as Rosicky and Adebayor drifted out of the game. Diarra and Flamini were pushed further back and we missed Fabregas' composure. Villa went very close around ten minutes after the break, Carew received the ball back to goal, turned but screwed his finish, which Shaun Maloney latched onto and hooked agaonisingly wide from close range. Minutes later, John Carew, so often the bane of Arsenal's fortune in the past, was to cause us further damage. His cynical hack on curtailed another one of Hleb's mazy dribbles, unceremoniously removing him from the game. I had a good view of the incident and it was a very poor challenge, whether Hleb had been a 'marked man' I doubt. I find O'Neill to be a figure of integrity and diplomacy and I do not imagine for one minute that he would send his side out to do that. But Carew's lunge was desperate and deliberate, this is now the third time this season Hleb has been the victim of a poor challenge, Noble, McShane and now Carew have all been guilty of hacking the Belarussian George Best. Probably an indicator of just how hard he is to play against.

One break away part, where Adebayor misplaced a pass to Eboue that would have put the Ivorian through on goal, Arsenal's attacking prowess was muted after that. Without the link between attack and midfield, too often Almunia would hoof the ball forward only for it to come straight back. The ultimate injustice almost arrived when Carew headed Agbonlahor's cross onto the underside of the crossbar. Karmic retribution had never been quite so welcome. With Carew causing havoc, Wenger brought Gilberto on to usurp his aerial dominance. Despite some sustained pressure, Gallas and Toure held firm and Villa did not really create anything else of note. Ashley Young's dive in the box was lamentable, I suspect had he been sporting an alice band and a French surname we might be hearing more about that this morning. After some nervy moments the final whistle was greeted with high fives and howls of relief from the travelling support, I removed some rather ravaged looking fingernails from my teeth to acclaim the team with an always welcome rendition of 'we shall not be moved.' Arsenal showed two diametrically opposed, but very positive qualities. The first half was a footballing exhibition of aesthetic perfection. But when our level dropped in the second half, we dug in and showed a steely grit to get the points in a difficult away match, in difficult conditions whilst missing some key players. Of course, the national media aren't about to tell you that eleven foreign players are capable of fighting for a result away from home in howling December sleet, so they will bemoan Villa's bad luck. Meanwhile, we'll keep plugging away. Credit to Villa for their manful fight back, but a five point gap has now opened up at the top, and the gauntlet is once again thrown down. Bon faire Gunners.LD.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday December 2 2007

Time: 1:44PM

Your Comments

I think Arsenal did just about enough to nick the 3 points, and well done to the defence - resolute, for the most part. Hleb was my MOtM despite playing just 60 mins - he put in a sublime performance, but he must surely be the most fouled player so far in the Premership!! I thought Diarra and Flamini had good games as well. Overall, a good away performance against a side in good form. Nice way to start off a tough Dec.
prits
LD you still had time to change your facebook status a few times yesterday, the guiness couldn't of been too heavy ! and may i also comment off topic about the bird in the photo with you on a recently tagged image, PHRWOAR !
PUREGOLD
Everyone talks abt Ade, Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb.. but the guy who's provided us with a great outlet for goals is Sagna. He's been superb since day one.. Yes, Eboue was good offensively but Sagna is brilliant with his crossing and defending. He's my vote for the best signing this season. Simply superb by Wenger.. yet again!
arsenalrulz4ever
arsenalrulz4ever, theres really not much of a competition for signing of the season because there was only 3. :p And the other 2 havent played much.
gunnerkid107
Nice write up LD, see we face Burnley away in the FA cup third round :)
nikolaijns
Off topic - great to have Burnley (away) in FA Cup. :)
Louisa
Emirates?? Dubai?? Desert ?? Sand?? Arabs?? U.A.E. U.A.E U.A.E?? how you stomach supporting a club with so many foreigners is laughable... celebrating the fact you have so many foreigners is embarrssing. Arsenal fans are the worst fans in the country. Pathetic! No songs - just 14 different renditions of Arse-se-nal. Bunch of garlic breathed public schoolboys. Have you won the european cup??
JeffBeck-TheLeftSide
Fantastic to bet Burnley, finally a ground I haven't been to! And PG, she's a looker ain't she? :-) Jeff Beck, you my friend are "embarrssing." If you're going to eulogise your own nation, might I suggest learning to correctly use the language? My favourite of the 14 renditions of "Arsenal" has to be, "you need more foreigners!" Now, fermez les mush mon amis.
Little Dutch
Erm.... Judging by that gushing of BNP inspired rectum screaming you are way closer to the right Nazi boy, please change your moniker Jeff Beck was a classic talented guitarist... you on the other hand... well lets just say theres no justice in this world that all those other sperm failed to break through the egg.
nikolaijns
sapient...paradigmatic...? Have you swallowed a thesaurus mate! Just kidding LD, good article. Fair play to Villa, i hope they do well this season. I believe O'neill has integrity, unlike the winker that is JeffCock. Obviously a spud.
Cesky
Obviously not the guitarist from the Yardbirds anyway.........
Little Dutch
Erm Jeff, did you miss the 2 renditions of "You're letting England down, you're letting England down!" These nasty foreigners have good humour now and again :-)
Andy-bayor
Ground can't be that bad if you can get a Guinness before you go in ;o)
FatOldDave
Congratulations on a good win. The first half was one of the best performances that I have seen in a long time and had I been a neutral and not seeing it inflicted upon my team I would have enjoyed it even more. I can assure you that Big John is not a cynical player but I think was more guilty of a "forward's challenge"than a deliberate attempt to take the hitherto excellent Hleb out of the game. We are not that sort of a team. I think you do us a slight injustice for our second half showing when we played you off the park and you do not mention the elbow in the face on Freddie Bouma, off the ball, as well as the incessant surrounding and harrassing the ref and gesticulating for yellow cards, which I particularly hate to see. You really are too good a side to need to resort to this. Unfortunately I have to agree about Ash's dive, pretty embarrasing all round. All in all a good game with a sublime first half matched by a griitty and passionate response from us in the second, and we really did deserve a draw but c'est la vie.
Jon.H
Congratilations!
Bosko-Macedonia
Guinness in the ground? Not a chance. Think Villa deserve a lot of credit for their 2nd half but we made them look better. Our 1st half was brilliant. Off topic, good to see another Arsenal old boy doin the business at WHL
AFC85Lew
My Guinnesses were consumed a good fourteen hours before k.o! I absolutely honestly didn't see Eboue on Bouma, I saw Bouma on the ground. I don't think there was incessant surrounding of the ref, I was surprised when I had texts from friends saying we were getting flak for that on t.v, Gallas was rightly annoyed because he kept giving Villa soft free kicks. Larsson's was a cracker!
Little Dutch
does anyone know how serious is Hleb's injury, and how long will he be out for?
luckys_10
Quote from Tim Stillman " Their retort of 'Eng-er-land' (hmm, witty) was quickly shot down with a reprise of the U.S.A chanting so often aimed at United, in response to the current tenure of Randy Lerner (whose alleged involvement in arms dealing really bears more scrutiny than the rabidly right wing press are willing to grant)." now was there any need for that comment about Randy, it may or may not be true but to put it on a public forum only invites a lot of bad feelings from fans of Astin Villa. The last cuople of days have gave me a different out look on Arsenal fans but that IMHO has let a lot of you down. Saturday evening i met three AFC fans in my local Irish club and had a good chat with them and it was nice to see that football on all levels is appreciated by the PL best team at the moment. Maybe you should ask them thier views on the game Tim as if differed vastly from yours. Congratulations on the win it was a great game to watch and the first home defeat that i left Villa Park feeling proud to be a Aston Villa fan.
Mutt_Man
I think it was very necessary, if something of that magnitude is being covered up then I have every right to question it. I think the bad feelings of fans of Aston Villa is my last concern when it comes to alleged involvement in the obliteration of small nations. I'm not here to represent all Arsenal fans, I'm here to give my views on the game, and those are my views. I'm happy to debate them, but frankly I won't be swayed by other people, like Mr. Chips, I say what I see. I can't see what I've said about the game that is controversial at all, I said we were brilliant in the first half, Villa fought back well in the second, but I was glad to see Arsenal grit it out. If you deem that controversial I'm just gald you haven't read some of my other articles!
Little Dutch
Oh and the Lerner arms dealing thing was also brought up in the context that your supporters were attemtping to take the moral high ground based on our lack of English players. What I have done is to point out the irony of that position, given both the nationality of your owner and his rather litigious activities.
Little Dutch
Yes Villa played well and deserved a point. But I guess the Gunners just edged it. Like the boss said, brilliance and resilience shown in a match of two halves. And I wish you Villans good luck, especially against ManU in the cup tie!
Louisa
i remember last year at villa,when the villa fans started singing engerland engerlans,and i was in the front row to the left, shouted back "sold to the USA you were sold to the USA",which the gooners behind me joined in,it soon shut the villa fans up......mugs.
fran merida
Mutt_man it should be down to your boys to point out and question if there is anything unsavoury regarding Lerner, but why should anyone keep quiet about such matters?. Dutch pointed this out not as an Arsenal fan but as a human being, witness our own disgust and protest regarding Usmanov, to stay quiet and do nothing purely because they are involved in the financial side of football is just bollix mate, this is all too prevalent in this country when people of power with horrendous human rights records in their own country such as Thaksin Shinawatra can waltz unchecked and buy up a club with cash from highly dubious sources, pretty soon it won't be a league of 20 of our nations finest clubs it will be a league of twenty of the worlds shadiest gangster muthaphuckers.
nikolaijns
it sounds like we played 4-2-3-1 or something like that. And when Gilberto came on, we had our three defensive midfielders on the pitch! I didn't see the match, so if someone could please fill me in how that worked out...
afri-gooner
Afri, that's because Flamini was much more involved in attack (his goal's the best evidence) with Diarra alongside him. But later, even before Gilberto came on, Diarra also joined in support of the attack. I guess we can also ask the other paradoxical question of how the Gunners managed to play the beautiful game and win with quite a lot of dirty work well done. A game of two halves, but both meant in a positive way. :)
Louisa
To add to that point, I guess it's got a lot to do with how Arsene trains the guys by developing their technical skills and all-round game. It's not like you're a defender and he pushes you to the back and you only do your own thing. As I've said here before, one thing that I really really like this side is how versatile everybody is. We've got Ade and RvP who can lead the line as well as work as a second striker. Rosicky and Hleb, needless to say they're playmakers but also work well (way better than last year) on the wings. Midfielders like Flamini, Diarra, Diaby and Denilson who can both defend and attack, with of course Cesc being the really all-round one. Sagna, Gallas and Song are versatile defenders. That's why our formation isn't a set-in-stone thing. Even when we have only one striker up front, we don't look as defensive as some other teams playing in the same formation do.
Louisa
My other point surrounding Lerner kind of resonates with Arsenal. It shows where the media's loyalties lie. When a Russian (Abramovic) or someone from another continent (Shinawatra) comes in, their pasts are well documented. But when it's good old Uncle Sam with his hands in the tills, nowt is said. Look into Lerner, Hicks and Gillet's (both contributors to the Republican party in the States) pasts and these guys are just as bad as the less accepted face of Johnny Foreigner.
Little Dutch
that jeff geezer must have been smoking something funny to come out with that drivle... what team today doesn't have foreigners and if you took the top four teams foreigners away then someone like birmingham or bolton might win something, or have they already HEHE
PUREGOLD
And what does "Katita" mean anyway?! Does anyone know what our little Gattuso was trying to say on his shirt?
Louisa
"Katita was named after a female mutt in Rio who had just given birth to a litter of six puppies. She became a national hero in Brazil for having saved the life of a three-year-old boy that was being mauled by two vicious pit bulls. She was very badly hurt after fending off the beasts, but survived." I got this from http://www.kikkerland.com/prod/1578.htm. I dont know why Flamini has it on his shirt.
prits
Little Dutch (i take it thats Tim), nikolaijns football is football lets talk about it on a footie site, but to bring such talk to a front page of a football site is just IMO a woefull attempt at airring your political thoughts and misgivings, my post was in no way ment as a bitch or gripe at you personaly Little Dutch(Tim) i just thought that this was an uninportant peace of info to add into your report (in what ever context). I have to agree with a lot of what has been said above, 1st half we gained the lead but then folded to your one touch football witch is a joy to behold even bye the fans on the other end of it. But the second half, that was something else, at half time a fellow Villa fan told me that your possession stats were 75%-25% (dont know where he got it from) and it seemed fair after all we only hold of the ball for about 10 min the whole first half !. The second half the tables were turned maybe not as much as the first half but we made an account of our selves that seemed to have Arsenal on the back foot more than they would like. Anyhoo well played and i hope you win the league rather than the other 3 :)
Mutt_Man
I personally had'nt heard of this regarding Lerner before Mutt, had you ever heard anything previously regarding what LD said about his dealings? Things like this won't make it onto more established or official sites and I feel it is important and it's definitely of interest to me and another reason I enjoy vital. To me footy and politics are inextricable it's all a part of life and politics unfortunately plays a part in everything whether you acknowledge it or not, LD was in no way having a dig at Villa and I think you know that. Anyhow have a successful remainder of the season mate.
nikolaijns
Agree with niko on this one, it is not a dig at Villa but the individual but is still an important piece of information. As with Villa I like to see City doing well, I just think it is a shame that the basis for their recent improvement has to come off the back of a corrupt leader who happened to steal the money he is using to pay Sven and buy players from an extremely poverty stricken group of people. What the real problem is is not with Villa, or City, but that the FA allow criminals in any form to own football clubs and unless the crimes are pointed out and brought to attention it will continue in this manner. It is not a dig at you or your fans as most Arsenal fans have been carrying out a crusade against our second largest sharholder for similar reasons, it is a n issue of morals not football mate, it just so happens that in this case the two clash.
Ozi Gooner
i have to agree with Niko and Ozi, a little swipe at lerner was not a swipe at villa and i thought it amusing the way LD had written it in, also of interest, people are quick to tell us about some of arsenals owners or would be owners, but becuase we are a big club it is more news worthy. i must say, LD your talent is so wasted here, your musings on a game of football have me in stitches mate, you should send it into the fanzine mag or something !
PUREGOLD
Has anyone else noticed that Hleb is not really taking more shots on goal this season ? That was a huge gripe against him last season and considered one area where he must improve. Yet he is being lauded for having such a wonderful season this time around.
prits
did anyone notice that arsenal were without fabregas, hleb and rosicky for like the last 30 minutes.. and the midfield was being run by 3 defensive midfielders?? walcott lost possession quite a lot of times.. ade's service in the second half was poor.. but credit to the team to hold on and come away with all three points.. and i heard its freezing out there!!
go4it_adi
What you said about Randy was libellous and totally - completely - and without doubt WRONG. And yes, I do KNOW that for a fact, I'm lucky enough to know him very slightly and his right hand man well. Even through google and blogs there is no suggestion anywhere he is involved in any sort of arms trade (and to be fair, anyone who is involved has the right to be, it is a highly legislated industry that Britain also make a fortune out of) When google searching I've noticed a few other new chairmen mentioned, some from the USA, but again, they are only blogs and rumours. You need to be VERY careful what you put in print when you don't have facts to back it up.

The USA retort is fine when we sing England, that is all banter, but attacking a really good mans integrity (and he is a really good man) is totally wrong, especially when you look at a couple of chairman in the Prem who are actual scum!

Lets get back to talking about a great game, I don't think Arsenal will be given a tougher test this year and I thought both teams were excellent.
The Fear
cant believe villa allowed yu back into the game! and lost a poxy 1 goal lead! unbelieveable! well i guess its gonna be down the CFC to be the 1st team to take 3 points!!!
SMOKIEJACK
I can't wait for that game SJ, it's gunna be a scorcher.....also can't wait for the Spuds game because hey, everyone wants to improve their goal difference don't they!!! Lol.
Rocky7
The word "allegedly" appears several times, I'm aware that Britain make a fortune out of arms dealing and it's something I'm not at all happy about, my gripe is not with the man's nationality.
Little Dutch
If you honestly think adding the word "allegedly" to an accusation in any way covers you, then I suggest you do not publish anything again until you do a little reading.
NeilBaker
Well it's been taken out now, which is fine with me because I don't own the site and it's not for me to attract any unwelcome attention. If the site was mine it would have stayed in and I'd have taken any consequences. Ultimately, the consequences don't just fall with me on this occasion. C'est la vie. Well played Villa anyway, and thank you for not reprising the distasteful "stand up if you hate the French" chants this season.
Little Dutch
The word allegedly does not mitigate libel in any way, shape or form.
The Fear
 

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