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Ouch! The hangover this weekend is ever so slightly more resonant than it was this time last week. Much of the talk before the game had been about using the United victory as a building block for the season, but neither me or any of my party were particularly convinced. Correctly so it turned out.

Slightlyless glamorous visitors than last week and with most players assured a place in the side, the inevitable entrapy ensued. Villa came with a gameplan and executed it excellently, sitting with two banks of four and pressing us on the ball, in Young and Agbonlahor they had the outlets to hurt us, with Sidwell often getting forward to support. The Gunners had no answer and lacked the craft and guile to break Villa down. The first and one of the only Arsenal chances of the match arrived after around fifteen minutes, Sagna's cross was headed away by the imperious Laursen, the ball arrived at Fabregas' feet at the edge of the box, the Spaniard fired a shot straight at Friedel, who spilled the ball out, Gallas reacted but Curtis Davies cleared. The ball came back to Arsenal but Mike Riley decided to stop the game for the injured Davies. He was not badly hurt and did not even indicate that he wanted treatment. When Sagna would go down hurt in the second half, Riley would not stop the game. Officiating of this persistent appalling quality is hard to stomach, but let's not be churlish and pretend the result was unjust, but paying a lot of money to watch nine or ten of your players amble through a game as well as watching referees who, week in week out, do not understand the rules is terribly frustrating. Both Mike Riley and Arsene Wenger have serious questions to ask themselves this morning.

That was pretty much it from Arsenal as an attacking threat who decided to aimlessly lump long balls at Bendtner, when Laursen and Davies are your centre half pairing that is not going to trouble you greatly. Diaby showed flashes of skill but Villa were resolutely organised enough to prevent him creating anything. Bendtner did not have much to work with, but was poor anyway. What was despicable from our so called 'supporters' was that Bendtner was ironcially jeered and then booed as he was substituted. Walcott was equally as ineffective and nonchalant and was afforded a standing ovation. I hope these morons who think that booing a player who, though he did not play at all well, was trying his best never suffer any real injustice in their life that extends beyond an underperforming striker. What a pathetic and childish reaction, I envy these braindead idiots in a way, they must have all led very, very comfortable lives. It seems intelligence inside the Emirates is becoming a very scarse commodity, people just arrive with their preconceptions and exorcise them at the earliest available opportunity. Walcott= English, therefore he can do no wrong.

Villa had stifled Arsenal comfortably and began to cause trouble higher up the pitch. Gareth Barry swung a cross into the area, Clichy's headed clearance was not convincing, the ball fell to Ashley Young in the area, Walcott dived in from behind and bought him down for a penalty. Barry, usually Villa's ultra reliable spot kick taker, had been left prone by a bad tackle from Fabregas. Young stepped up, Almunia beat away his weak spot kick and Gallas was the picture of determination as he slid in to toe away the rebound from the onrushing Sidwell. The Gunners had escaped and it should have represented a turning point. It didn't, if anything it redoubled Villa. Sidwell made an untracked run in behind Silvestre and collected Barry's beautiful flighted ball, he chested it down unchallenged and hooked a weak shot straight at Almunia. Unchallenged. Ashley Young drifted between Clichy and Denilson and let a shot fly narrowly wide. The visitors were well in their stride now, Young drifted in behind Gallas, received the ball on Villa's left, easily beat Silvestre, who looked very old yesterday, pulled the ball back to Gareth Barry, who scuffed his close range shot straight at Almunia. Had the ball been on his left foot you've a feeling the result would have been very different.

Arsenal escaped with a goalless half, Nasri and Walcott swapped flanks and you had the feeling that stern words would have been said by the manager. They didn't transmit. Nasri and Walcott stayed ineffective and uninvolved, Bendtner remained isolated left to unsuccessfully contest long balls, no stern words were being said by Arsenal players on the pitch. With twenty minutes left, Sagna was injured, but not fouled, in a challenge with Sidwell, where Riley had stopped the game for Davies in the first half he demonstrated appalling inconsistency by not stopping the game on this occasion. Ashley Young jinked down the right, the position Sagna had vacated, whipped in a precise cross which Clichy headed into his own net. Seven days earlier, he had headed just wide of his post. Agbonlahor's celebration was disappointing, why he chose to taunt the Arsenal fans I have no idea. He wasn't met with any stick from the area of the ground, I used to criticise Henry staunchly for it, it lacks class and is unbecoming of a player of Gabby's talent. The Gunners flurried briefly, Clichy swung in a left wing cross which Adebayor headed against the post. It was the first time we had won a header in the area all day, I can't help but wonder about the manager's selction upfront. Laursen and Davies are huge defenders who love to head the ball, the height and physicality of Diaby and Bendtner was not going to trouble them. However, Davies and Laursen are not very quick, Luke Young was playing out of position at left back, surely Vela's pace and trickery would have been a preferable and more effective option?

With ten minutes left, it was goodnight Vienna. Vela slalomed between a baying throng of Villa bodies, Laursen fouled him but Riley waved play on. Cuellar pumped the ball downfield, Agbonlahor outpaced Gallas as Silvestre ambled pathetically in their wake, Agbonlahor motored past Gallas and drove the ball beyond his outstretched limb and under Almunia. The goalkeeper might think he should have done better. 2-0 the final score as the boos rang out and it was not at all flattering to the visitors. Sidwell and Barry played with energy and dedication right through the match, Young and Agbonlahor gave us problems whilst Laursen and Davies dealt with Arsenal's limited threat. The lack of urgency and energy in our play was disturbing and the manager nor the players can deny that we simply did not play with the dedication we showed against United. Fabregas is woefully out of form and that has a massive bearing on the fact that we are not creating chances, Villa were better in midfield, upfront and in defence. Silvestre continues to look like an old man whilst even seasoned performers such as Sagna and Clichy are struggling to coruscate with the apathy around them. Denied any kind of space, Walcott was 100% ineffective. Only two players demonstrated an acceptable amount of desire, Gallas and Denilson. The rest were limp noodles and it isn't close to good enough. Once again we looked rudderless and bereft of craft or inspiration. It simply looked as though Arsenal saw how organised Villa were in the first fifteen minutes and decided to give up. Martin O'Neill got his tactics spot on and we were very easy opponents for them yesterday. Am I the only one more excited by the Carling Cup than the Premiership these days?LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday November 16 2008

Time: 12:24PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Great headline. Yep, some of the Arsenal 'fans' are just numbskulls. I sat in a different area than I do normally and it was practically silent, all I could hear was people talking about what was going on in their life! Cesc's body language this season hasn't been right in my eyes, he just doesn't look happy. Whether that's tiredness, a naggling injury or missing Flamini and Hleb, who knows. Thierry Henry wanted to leave Arsenal because he didn't think we could really challenge for the PL or CL and the best players always want to win the big prizes, Perhaps Cesc is starting to think the same.
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16/11/2008 12:39:00

Spot on about the disparity in the treatment that Theo and Bendtner received LD. Our whole game plan was pretty one dimensional - a ball over the top to try to pick out Bendtner on one over the top to try to get Theo free - or is that two dimensional? Strange how it's possible to see somethings so differently though. I thought Silvestre had a great game. Terrific positional sense. Read the game really well most of the time and looked pretty solid generally. Intelligent and accurate distribution too. They'd be nothing to talk about if we all saw everything the same way I guess.
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16/11/2008 12:39:00

I'm curious, how did Young had the flanks to himself all day long? We are very good at shutting down Very good pacy wingers like Robinho, Ronaldo, etc. But yesterday we just gave Young free reign. Sagna did not deal with the pace of young adequately and I belive Theo was a big factor in allowing Young a free reign by not helping out Sagna in defensive duty. If Theo does not help with defence and himself useless in offence, he becomes a liability in the game. A DM was missing to sniff out their quick counterattacks. This is why Denilson will not be enough. He may have a high passing rate, but what is important for a player in his position is to negate the opponents attacks which was sorely missing yesterday.
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16/11/2008 13:06:00

Denilson played o.k, I thought he did his job. I think I've come to realise that Denilson is not the problem, he has had a good season. The trouble is no bugger helps him. Fabregas is suspended for the City game now, so it'll be interesting to see what the manager goes with. I think Diaby should play in the centre and give City a different problem to deal with, one they won't be prepared for.
Little Dutch
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16/11/2008 13:10:00

They didn't really threaten us greatly down the flanks - not for most of the game anyway. It's wrong to claim that Young had free reign. Might explain why Diaby spent more time on the right in this game than against ManU though. That was the big problem Bendtner had with no one close to him. Given no space to deal with hopeful balls forward and Diaby playing further back and predominantly restricted to the right to a greater extent than against ManU. When Diaby went off Villa had more space - and used it. It might seem as though Adebayor had more impact but he didn't have to play the game that Bendtner did. Ade had either Bendtner or Vela alongside him while he was on the pitch - it makes a big difference to the space he had compared to Bendtner.
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16/11/2008 13:14:00

I defended Bendtner last week because i thought he played very well against Man U. But this week he was terrible, as way pretty much the home team. One thing you missed was Denilson's sublime ball to Walcott, and if he had have had a better first touch might have scored. And I don't think we should get on Denilson's back,nevidimka. He is playing out of his preferred position and is outplaying Fabregas week in week out. I also though our defence was reasonable tight although i thought Gallas was a tad weak in pressuring agbonlahor, but thats being picky - Agbonlahor did very well. One thing that does annoy me is the standard of refereeing. Now Villa deserved to win that game, not just because of their endeavour but they created better than we did as well. However both of their goals came from questionable decision. Why was the ball not kicked out when Sagna went down, especially given they scored of a cross on his wing. And how did Vela not get a free-kick. Laursen got nowhere near the ball, so either the ref calls it a foul or a dive on Vela. Unfortunately we will probably beat City and once again believe that our season has kick started.
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16/11/2008 13:56:00

Fabregas is suspended for the City game- i guess he will play Diaby and Denilson in the middle, and hopefully we can get some competition going in the middle of the park. Fabregas has not deserved to start for the past 4 matches. He needs a good kick up the arse, and the only way that will happen is by losing his place in the team (or going to Barca lol)
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16/11/2008 15:14:00

Fabregas is not playing well, but the effort is still there, it porbably speaks volumes of the standards we have come to expect that as soon as he does play badly, it's because of a perceived lack of effort or because he wants to leave or he misses his mates Hleb and Flamini. The truth is, he's just off form, simple as that. It happens to even great players like Cesc, but you can bet your bottom dollar he'll get his form back before too long. With devastating results.
Little Dutch
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16/11/2008 16:06:00

So, that was the fourth defeat of the season. Last year we only lost three times and that was not good enough. Maybe we should really put our minds to cup competitions, because consistency what the premier league is all about, and we really don't have it, nor seam to be getting it in the near future.
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16/11/2008 18:39:00

Its not as simple as Cesc being out of form. He's way too casual with some of his passing. I think we might look like a better side without Cesc in it. Good report, LD. I read this report and I think - thats a balanced view of things. I earlier read arseblog, and its all ultra negative. As usual, he picks out Gallas when things arent going well for us, and its bloody irritating now. Well played Villa, they came with a good plan and executed it well.
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16/11/2008 19:03:00

you come to us in two weeks - should be a rivetting affair!
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16/11/2008 19:46:00

Bendtner was the worst player on the pitch for the second week running. He deserves all the abuse from the fans who pay good money and are entitled to make their views known to a lazy, arrogant, useless carthorse who is Nicholas Bendtner. We should ship him out to Birmingham in January for £3 million if they're willing to pay silly money for him!
Bergkamp was a Myth
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16/11/2008 19:56:00

very funny,isnt it.We have blamed everybody:Bendtner mostlly,Walcott,Fabregas but Arsene should take da blame. He should know all these things,shldnt he? He shld know Walcott shld come in from the bench(the hattrick for England made him an automatic starter,prematurely in my opinion),He shld know Fabregas is not in form and shld not be or at least not playing 90mins,He shld know he needs to shake up the defense,Djourou?Gibbs?anyone. We have been bleeding experienced plaers for the past 4yrs and it has finally caught up with us.Encouraging results last season misled all of us,AW included. 4th place or bust!!!!
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16/11/2008 22:04:00

I agree with BWAM (except the ludicrous name). I'm trying to think of a worse Arsenal striker than Bendtner. And to play a lone striker at home against Villa is a travesty. Yeah, so it worked a week earlier against a team who attacked us, although no thanks to him really. It is strange to say Bendtner was so bad because Diaby was too far away. He is incapable of making the right runs, of getting into threatening positions or of doing anything with the ball save having it bang off his clumsy pegs straight to the other team. Should we boo him - of course not. He does not pick himself to lead the line for Arsenal, someone else is making that mistake. It is not fair to attack him for his failings. I do not see someone not trying, just someone not capable. Meanwhile, Bergkamp wasn't a myth, but there are plenty surrounding the club. One is that Wenger chooses the right time to sell. Henry, Vieira would both walk into our team right now. Vieria was supposedly a fading force, yet he has won more since leaving than we have. I'd have Gilberto back in a heartbeat. Heck, I'm even remembering Gilles Grimandi with a measure of fondness.
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16/11/2008 23:48:00

If you can't remember a striker worse than Bendtner you can't have been a Gooner for very long, because I remember Kiwomya and Hartson and Dickov and Danelivicius........
Little Dutch
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17/11/2008 06:25:00

What? Standing ovation for Theo?!? Were they blind?!
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17/11/2008 06:42:00

Tomas Danelvecius... !? I'd say Hartson was a better player than Nick, jeffers is probably the worst i've seen under Arsene. Bendtner was just awful on Sat, shocking, i won't get on his back though, as has been pointed out, it's not his fault - if RvP hadn't been such a berk at Stoke he would've been playing. Thought Theo was appalling as well, there was no excuse for that tackle at all, Nasri was completely anonymous. Denilson's been 'ok' not 'good' he is trying to make all the passes, dropping deep to pick the ball off the back 4 and then slot it through to the front, something that Flamini enabled Cesc to do last year.
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17/11/2008 09:12:00

Can't remember a striker worse than Bendtner then indeed you haven't been a gooner for too long - The four LD gave above plus Jeffers, Wreh, Kaba Diawara - and there are many more much worse than Bendtner. At least Song and Eboue will be pleased that the team has a new whipping boy.
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17/11/2008 09:24:00

My frusration with Bendtner is he does not seem to do anything well. He does not win flick ons, hold up the ball, complete passes, take people on, make a nuisance of himself, utilize his physical side. But perhaps the most annoying is when we hit the wings, he drifts out too when he is our lone stiker and our main threat in the box. Even when playing badly he did not run himself ragged until the fans started chanting Adebayors name.
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17/11/2008 10:17:00

Although i would like to add, i dont agree on ever booing a player. And have never done so either.
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 10:20:00

The only way for a supporter to let his feelings known to a player is to give him an earful from the terraces/seats. That's a basic right for a paying supporter which has happened for at least the 36 years I've been watching, especially for a non trier. I don't mind if a player is not good enough, then the blame lies firmly with the manger. Its when a player doesn't put the effort in. In Bendtner's case he just gives the impression he doesn't even care. Van Persie frustrates me a lot but at least I see desire there. I have to say Amos that Wreh did a job for us for that one season, Bendtner shows be nothing.
Bergkamp was a Myth
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17/11/2008 19:36:00

Can't believe you young uns think Dickov and Hartson were worse than Bendtner. Jeffers - you got me there!
Report Abuse
18/11/2008 04:01:00

And I also came up with Aliadere. Though it's a close run thing.
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18/11/2008 04:02:00


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