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In the Nick of Time

In the Nick of Time

This was a game very much played in mitigating circumstances, after a week of idle chit chat in which the club has amazingly come under fire in the wake of Eduardo's injury, this was the time to respond and demonstrate to the pernicious vultures that weweren't going to crack. Ultimately, we did not respond. With last week's baleful trauma serving as a conduit to yesterday's match, Arsenal came up short against a panoramic Villa side. Having gone behind early on, Villa were superbly marshalled and an injury ravaged Arsenal side just did not have the available options to sufficiently alter the game.

Arsenal began brightly enough, Fabregas played a ball into Theo Walcott, with his back to goal Walcott riggled past Davies but had his shot tunred away by Carson. It was a positive sign from young Theo,the first time he has looked dangerous with his back to goal, obviously some work has gone into this aspect of his game. But Villa gradually got a foothold in the game and nullified Arsenal easily. For once an away side was proving that an overly caustic approach was not necessarily required to play the Arsenal. A Barry through ball but Gabby Agbonlohor through on goal,only for the wing heeled youngster to be denied by a superb last ditch tackle from Gallas. However, the warning was not heeded. Maloney this time slipped Agbonlohor through on the shoulder of the last defender with Clichy playing him onside, Agbonlohor played a low ball in which took a freak deflection off of Senderos and went in. It was a cruel demonstration of what can happen when your luck is out. Senderos was not in line with the goal, on any other day the ball cannons off him and goes out for a corner. But the ball ricocheted off him at an unlikely angle and a defecit we hardly welcomed had been actualised.

But Villa responded to their serendipitous goal commendably, applying a widescreen approach to the game which the Gunners found difficult to dilute. Villa might have moved into a two goal lead when Maloney cracked one from distance and Almunia's selfish amateur dramatics nearly cost us. Almunia tried to make a routine save into a piece of Bohemian art and nearly pushed the ball into the net when he should have palmed it well clear from danger. Arsenal could not establish any kind of rhythm, the usually ubiquitous Flamini looked tired and weary. The mesmeric Hleb looked ambivalent, Diaby was his typically idle self and Adebayor and Walcott were isolated against the superb Davies and Laursen. For all the commendation for Villa's team, the fans hardly did themselves any credit with a quite shameful song celebrating Eduardo's injury clearly audible in the Grove. I would like to tell you it was a minority but the volume and malicious valour with which the chant went up indicates that most of the 3,000 joined in. Banter in football is all very well, lord knows we are happy to sing about Tottenham manager's mothers, but this one did stick in the craw. Ironically about 90 seconds later Curtis Davies was stretchered off with a ruptured achilles tendon. I would like to wish him a speedy recovery, I would hope his misfortune would make those Villa fans think twice. But given Makelele's despicable challenge on Faubert yesterday, I can only deduce that nobody has really learned anything this week. So I don't hold much faith in Villa Park suddenly becoming a cauldron of enlightenment.

Right on half time, Arsenal made their best chance. Walcott raced down the right, skinning Laursen before playing the ball to Adebayor, he laid off for Fabregas, but Cesc's chip was overly pronounced and the chance had gone. Arsenal began the second half with gusto, a one two between Fabregas and Walcott saw Theo force a save from Carson. But thereafter, Villa looked comfortable with Arsenal's pressure. Bendtner was the Gunners only option from the bench, with so many injuries we did not have the facilities to change the game. If anything, Villa looked like grabbng a second on the counter attack. Ashley Young and Marlon Harewood forced good saves from Almunia, whilst Adebayor headed over from a Sagna cross. It all looked incredibly desperate. With mere seconds remaining, Clichy elucidated his newly found crossing prowess to curve an arced cross to the backpost, Adebayor stretched every sinew of his neck to head the ball down and Nicklas Bendtner was composure personnified as he slotted home from close range. The goal was greeted with a sense of muted euphoria. The point still did not represent excellent value for us, though we probably did not deserve the point we got.

However, the point keeps us top and with the margins as tight as they are, it could be the point that makes the difference. Hopefully, the point will be of great psychological value. If a last minute equaliser knocked the stuffing out of us last week, a last gasp equaliser might rejuvenate us this week. United now may live to regret knocking us out of the Cup, their commitments next weekend deny them the chance to go top prior to our game against Wigan and really crank the pressure up. Instead we are instantly awardedthe chance to stretch the lead to four points and heap the pressure squarely on United. It is very disappointing to have squandered a five point lead so quickly, but don't believe this 'United are unstoppable' crap. They have seven points from their last twelve, we have eight. United lost to Citeh and much like us, grabbed a scarsely deserved last gasp leveller at Spurs. United have not handled the pressure of being top, every time they have reached the summit, they have immediately surrendered their advantage within two games. The power is still with us, particularly with van Persie and Rosicky to return. United have been impressive in their last two games, but Newcastle and Fulham hardly represent the league's stiffest challenges. There are many forks in the road yet, I just hope Bendtner's last ditch goal represents greater mental value than the point it ultimately salvaged.LD.

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Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday March 2 2008
Time: 10:51AM


this season is like a movie script 10 games to go, 1 point lead and we are still to face manu and chelsea the cl we play AC Milan at the san siro, this is what we dream about. its good to be a gooner. i hope this is just a blip for adebayor coz he is a confidence player and theo is looking good he has definately improved and is showing alot of promise, i think the eduardo injury took alot of media attention off his performance (im being positive) which is good coz the hype doesnt seem to help young walcott.
02/03/2008 11:12:00
A couple of adendums. Firstly,the people who left early. I'm so glad you missed a goal. Please don't come back, if you can't support the team now, go away. I'm sure comeMay when the prizes are handed out, you can brag to all your mates about how you got home ten minutes earlier to see Strictly Com *****ing or whatever it is. You are all a disgrace to this football club and any success they do earn this season will be in spite of you. Secodly,I fly to Milan in the early hours and won't be back until Wednesday night, so I'll do a write up on Thursday about the trip and post match impressions, but if somebody else wants to do a more immediate match report feel free.
Little Dutch
02/03/2008 11:35:00
Excellent write up as normal. I was at the game too and thinking we'd picked the wrong time for all our team to hit collective poor form. That equaliser could be massive (you only have to hear Fergie's comments about it being scored in "Wenger time" apparentely), and I think Bendtner makes it look easier than it was, because he puts into a gap in the corner. IF we can get through against Milan, what an amazing and timely lift it would give us.
02/03/2008 11:42:00
The late point gained is of some significance and might be enough to keep us motivated over the next few games. There is a lot of mental fatigue in the team which injuries prevent us from alleviating but we should get some relief on that front over the next week or so. We are still in there and the others have tough games coming up as well. Let's take it one game at a time. It can be surprising where that takes us.
02/03/2008 11:43:00
Great write up, having missed out on seeing the game, I rely on these write ups to give me a real sense of what the game was like instead of just hearing us get slated every week on Match of The Day. It seemed liked a nervy one, but once again Bendtner pops up with the goods at the end. Though it wasn't a great result, the spuds hammering by birmingham rose my spirits a bit. :)
02/03/2008 12:12:00
I agree LD. Some fans are a disgrace. Groaning at missed passes and some even booing at half time to which we sung F*** off if you boo the team. Luckily most fans in my section sing their hearts out and get behind the team. I will be flying out on tuesday morning around 6.30. Lets hope for the right result. I hear both Kaka and Seedorf are out the game.
02/03/2008 12:22:00
Also do fans think if the players hear us get on their back and boo them that they will suddenly start playing well. We need to make ourselves heard in these last 10 games and really get behind the team and be that 12th man. Than includes staying to the final whistle. We can be the difference between winning and losing the title.
02/03/2008 12:29:00
Yeah the booing wasn't good, we need to get behind the team. Leaving early in midweek evening games is one thing, but leaving early on a Saturday afternoon I question. I think if we stop Kaka, and to a certain extent Pirlo, then we can get a result. We definitely need Kolo back.
02/03/2008 12:45:00
I wouldn't believe all those injury reports from Milan. Even Arsene has been guilty of those at times. let's focus on us. As for yesterday, i feel it sort of makes up for the late penalty at the brum. We didn't deserve anything out of that game. I also hear all the momentum is with MU now. On the face of it: 10 games to go, 1 point ahead. Better than at the start of the season. What we need is for one of our young 'talented' prospects (denilson, walcott, bendtner, song) to come to the fore and stake a real claim for a starting slot. Come on! At the moment the starting 11 picks itself. Ah also i forgot RvP to come back. It's been too long.
02/03/2008 14:58:00
like it or not, our performance was very, very bad. at times, i thought we were playing with 9.5 players on the pitch. one player was very poor. another player was barely involved. hope to see more players getting back to full fitness. we need more players who are fit and ready to fight for the title.
02/03/2008 15:56:00
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