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Scout Report: Aston Villa

Villa Away

So we dismissed the Tiny Tots from down the road with relative ease which was nice but we lost Theo for the rest of the season which was not so nice. A real pity that Theo is out as he was having some serious impact on the games he was playing and looking like he could go on a real goal scoring run not seen by an Arsenal player since Theo`s pre-contract signing heights of last season! Anyway, the one silver lining for him is that he will likely be around for the birth of his first child in June instead of being thousands of miles away playing a competition that will really only end one way for England. I find it startling how the English press talk up very average players (Townsend anyone?) into world class stars in time for the World Cup only to be all shocked when England`s inability to hold onto the ball for more than 5 seconds at a time is exposed by the first side of technical quality that they meet. Closer to the World Cup I`ll knock together a Scout Report of the English side but be forewarned; I wouldn`t be confident that there will be many positives to come out of Brazil for England. Still at least you lot are there, over here we paid a manager £2.5m per year not to qualify!

Forget all the talk about Theo being back playing in 4 months, we should count ourselves lucky if he is back jogging by early July and ready to pull on an Arsenal shirt by around the September timeframe. We have to just hope that this injury doesn`t rob him of his pace which, while not his only asset, is probably his main one. Maybe in the time off he can study to build up his football brain which despite scoring 21 goals last season some pundits still feel he quite clearly lacks!

Next up for us is Villa away and despite robbing 3 points from us in the opening game of the season, are a team that I`ve always had a soft spot for. Indeed, we may even look back when the season ends and actually thank Villa for that defeat, while polishing the League trophy, as it served as our own almost CTJ (coming to Jesus) moment acting as a shock for both the players and the manager into what was required to win games. It was 3 points lost but it seems that for a lesson learned it was money well spent.

While that game was the low point of our season it was most certainly the high point of theirs and both teams have gone on opposite directions since. They struggled last season and at one point I thought that there were really due for the drop but Lambert stuck with his relatively young squad and toughed it out eventually pulling to safety. I`d imagine many Villa fans were really expecting to kick on from that point, especially after beating us, but injuries and loss of form to key players have meant that while there are far worse teams then them out there they are still looking over their should and the sooner they reach the 40 point mark (currently on 23) the sounder they will sleep.

Formation wise they play a 4-3-3 formation, usually with 2 of the midfield 3 sitting deep which allows their front 3 to break with real pace. They are setup as a counter attacking side and on their day are a very dangerous team which we need to be fully switched on against. Guzman in goal is a solid keeper, a very good shot stopper (he`s played well against us on more than one occasion) but prone to lapses in concentration particularly under the high ball. The two centre back, Clark and Vlar (if he has a knock then Baker) are good without being anything special. At 24 Clark is young enough to suggest that there is the makings of a good defender in him but he needs to start making the step up and for me he doesn`t yet dominate the defence the way he should, he certainly has the talent and has shown his ability in patches but he is not there yet. Vlaar alongside him is also a good

individual player and is also the club captain. He`s a regular for Holland so he`s no mug and while Villa aren`t the worst defensive team in the league they do give up a lot of chances. Lowton and Luna (on the right and left back positions) are both solid young players who would likely look a lot better in a better team. They like to get forward, Luna in particular, and will support their counter-attacks when given the chance. The Villa back 5 as individuals is quite good and should be more solid than it actually is. I don`t know if its a coaching issue or style of play but for some reason they haven`t quite clicked and can be got at. They have let in 25 goals this season, 14 at home in 10 games so we will have chances against them.

In front of the backline Villa will likely play 3 of Delph, Westwood, El Ahmadi and Bacuna. Delph and Westwood seem to be getting the nod with one of the other two. Villa tend to play 2 deep sitting or defensive midfielders (similar to when we play Art and Flamini) and I cannot see them changing this against us. I think that whoever they play will try to harry and hassle us out of our stride and then move the ball forward quickly to the front three. Its not a style of football or approach to a game that we haven`t seen before and as long as we keep intensity and focus high we have the better quality of players that should tell on the pitch.

Their front 3 are all tricky players, with the speedy Agbonlahor and the very clever Weinman playing either side of either of an out of form Benteke or perhaps even Kozak. Agbonlahor seems to have been around for years but I was surprised to see he is only 27, on his day he can be a real handful and his speed is a real danger in the box, we have to be very careful putting in tackles on him because while he isn`t a serial diver he certainly goes down easily. Benteke is having a terrible season with only 4 league goals in 15 apprearences. 2 of those goals were against us, both penalties more or less and he has only scored one real goal from open play. His career has always suggested that there is a bit of an attitude problem there and to date he`s followed the Adebyeor model of one good season followed by pushing for a move and playing crap until it`s granted. He certainly has the ability but it would be a "no thank you" for me should he could available in the summer. Kozak, pretty similar scoring record, has stood in for Benteke while he was injured and he`s looked ok without setting the world on fire. I do like Weinman as a player, great work rate and only ever takes the ball one direction - towards goal. He`s only 22 and surely a move to a bigger club will be on for him soon?

Villa are sitting 11th in the table and while that`s on a par with where they finished last season they are only 6 points off the relegation zone. After us they face a tough run of games away to Liverpool and Everton and home to draw specialists West Brom so they are far from safe. One point from the next 12 is a real possibility for them and would spell serious trouble. 4 defeats from the last 7 league games in not good form for them and their home form is poor with only 2 wins all season.

With injuries our team almost picks itself, the back five is set. I`d go for Flamini in the middle with Jack and Ozil supporting a front 3 of Giroud, Santi and possibly Thomas R (the man making all us 30-somethings feel ashamed of our energy levels). Our midfield is a level or two above theirs and we owe them from that opening day. Don`t be surprised by Benteke upping his game against a team to whom he would fancy a move but also don`t be surprised with a rather comfortable Gunners win either.

Arsenal to win, 2-0.

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

The Journalist

Writer: Galway Gooner Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Saturday January 11 2014

Time: 3:06PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Good report GG as always. On a side note do you look in depth at other teams throughout the season or just coming up to the game. I'm just wondering because hats off to you, like me I'd pigeon hole myself with that of many other football fans who only focusing on what is happening at their own team. 90% of the games I probably watch are Arsenal games and despite labelling myself a 'football fan' I don't really other teams play unless it is one of our immediate rivals playing each other or otherwise whats on in the pub! Because of that I find your reports quite handy for someone who like myself, can catch up on our opponents seasons and therefore blag my way in making others believe that I know more than I actually do! But then again I presume that most people I talk about football with do the same, and the pundits! Oh the pundits! I think it's a good thing to discuss because like pundits or otherwise people who support other teams talking about your team they may not always agree with you, mainly because they haven't seen as many of your teams games as you have and vice versa. I find that talking about another team other than Arsenal is really down to opinion so when someone says we're playing Aston Villa this weekend whilst I can name a few of there players (Benteke, Agbonlahor) I couldn't name there full team. And so I automatically go 'because of where they are in the league we will beat them' but that is mainly a educated guess. I suppose what i'm trying to get at here, and I hope i'm not rambling on but do you genuinely research and take note of each team throughout the season? Not that i'm going to judge you if you don't!
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11/01/2014 17:07:00

But yeah, 2nil to the Arsenal aha!
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11/01/2014 17:09:00

With our close rivals very likely going to win their games (Chelsea and Everton already won), the game takes on more significance and adds to the pressure to the players and fans. The fact they handed us that 1st defeat at home this season gives them something to play for and they would be up for it. We can't take this easy and need to retain the focus to ensure the win.
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11/01/2014 17:37:00

I'd say a reverse 3-1 to arsenal.
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11/01/2014 17:37:00

Hey Nwan kwo do answer your question is a combination of both watching in advance and a bit of research before the game. Glad you find them of use!
Galway Gooner
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11/01/2014 19:18:00

An enjoyable and accurate assessment of the Villa team. Our home form is diabolical, Benteke can't score for love nor money...but I've learnt over the years that when you expect a certain result from Villa, they pretty much always do the opposite. 2-1 Villa, Benteke brace it is then!
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11/01/2014 22:25:00

Be careful not to sound too cocky as, ordinarily, this could end up a cricket score, the mood in which we are.
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12/01/2014 00:07:00

I've come over from vital villa, just interested to see what the Gooners think of us. Your analysis of our team is rather positive, with Weimann and Benteke both wildly off form there is nothing to worry about from your perspective, and Kozak has broken his leg which the author didn't seem to know about. As for our midfield, a severe and clear lack of ability is our biggest problem. Karim Al Ahmadi and Westwood add no creativity whilst being mediocre at best defensively. Delph on his day can look a decent player, maybe even an outside chance for the England squad (except hodgeson doesn't pick players outside the top 6), unfortunately Delph alone is not going to cause you problems. Due to our midfield we have struggled with basic passing (we have the 2nd lowest passing accuracy in the league) and keeping and winning possession (2nd lowest for average possession) it is not a shock any more to see us have less than 30% possession. A lack of confidence and ability has meant we resort to long ball football, probably because our midfield can't put 3 passes together anyway. Mark Benteke and make sure you don't commit too many players to the attack and you'll have stopped us dead. Defensively we are a lot tighter than last year, Vlaar is a solid defender while Clark or Baker aren't brilliant and a prone to mistakes we can actually keep clean sheets this season. Luna at left back, despite scoring on his debut against you guys, has been a disappointment and many teams have started to exploit our weakness on our left. I expect an easy win for Arsenal.
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12/01/2014 00:52:00

I am finding it hard to see the connection between Villa's win at Emirates and the epiphany implied for manager and players on "what was required to win games." Outside of the acceptable unpredictability of any premier league game and indeed any sporting contest in general the incidence of unusual events during that game were enough to justify putting the blame elsewhere.
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12/01/2014 03:08:00

Good report, it's amazing how a fan can be so knowledgable about an opposition fan and for that sir, I commend you. I, too, would go for a 2-0, possibly 3-0 to Arsenal, as I think I can safely say our current midfield is more than just 1 or 2 levels below yours, and most in the Premiership to be fair. However, we've shown that we have got the ability to still get the ball to the strikers now and again, and if form swings around and they start playing like they should, Gabby and co could give Arsenal a run for their money.
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12/01/2014 03:48:00

*opposition team
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12/01/2014 03:49:00

I'd have to agree that there're worse teams than Villa out there. There're worse managers than Lambert too and I have the impression that he is still struggling with the consequences of having to repair the profligacy of previous managers. I expected them to be doing a little better this season and there's a latent quality to some of their performances which the results sometimes belie. That makes them trickier opponents than theirleague position suggests. We should win this but only if we don't underestimate them.
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12/01/2014 09:40:00

NYArse I'd say that the villa defeat had a huge impact on the club, do you think we would have spent big on Ozil if we had hammered villa five nil? I don't and I think that if was the final straw that forced the camel, Wenger in this case, to really go out and spend on a player that not only improved performances but also lifted the entire club.
Galway Gooner
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12/01/2014 12:31:00

David avfc - I actually really like Weinmwn as a player, think he's pretty good player. Maybe he's suffering a bit from the sort of second season syndrome? Bent eke is just a good player with a bad attitude, I'd sell him and I think it will be better for the team overall. Didnt know Kos had broken his leg, when did this happen?
Galway Gooner
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12/01/2014 12:34:00

Of all the negative theories about Arsenal the idea that the Ozil purchase was just a knee jerk reaction to the opening day defeat is one of the more fanciful. We know that before that defeat the club were prepared to bid a similar amount to buy Suarez so on what basis can anyone claim that we weren't prepared to spend big money to recruit players until the opening day? Perez and Wenger have a pretty close personal relationship. Even going back before the last occasion Wenger renewed his Arsenal contract when Perez spent a lot of time trying to recruit him. He would have known that if Real signed Bale Perez would have needed to sell at least one of Benzema, Di Maria or Ozil but would have been prepared to spend to sign anyone of them - and probably spend more to get two if one of them was Benzema. Who was available ultimately depended on the Bale deal first and Ancelotti's preferences second. The timing was dependent on those factors not the result of a single game.
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12/01/2014 13:17:00

Amos I'm not not saying that ozil was bought purely because of the villa defeat, business s don't spend 40 million on a single defeat but i do believe that it was a contributing factor and a big victory Might have convinced some at the club that maybe they didn't need to spend.
Galway Gooner
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12/01/2014 13:39:00

Wenger is far more rational and pragmatic than to have been persuaded by a big defeat or a big victory. In the two previous seasons since Kroenke took control the club had spent a good bit more on player transfers than in the previous 5 seasons combined. Depending on whether we spend anything in the January window we've so far spent less this season than in the previous two seasons but still more than in any other season in the club's history. It's time to stop peddling this Wenger/Board parsimony/ reluctant spending myth. They'll still do things sensibly (and so they should and must) but we can put that stick away and find something else to beat them with if we feel the need to do so.
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12/01/2014 14:25:00

You sound as if you know what you are talking about re Aston Villa, GG. You're wrong about Ozil though. An account of how the deal was pulled off was given by John Cross, citing a source at the Emirates, a couple of days after the deal went through. Ivan and Arsene had been working on this transfer since May. Ivan has a contact in the RM hierarchy and Arsene has good relations with Ancelotti. They found out from RM that they would be prepared to sell Ozil if/when Bale came in. We had to wait until RM were sure of Bale before they could finalise everything but all through the summer, Ivan hammered out the deal with the club, Dick Law talked to Ozil's people and Wenger had several conversations with Ozil himself. Secrecy was paramount, for obvious reasons. On the day, they briefed various journalists "confidentially" that they were going for Draxler (known to be an Arsenal target), in order to send the press hordes chasing in the wrong direction.
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12/01/2014 15:02:00

"citing a source at the club," I mean, not at the Emirates.
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12/01/2014 15:04:00

Fair enough FanGunner, I'll stick to doing Scout Reports! ;-)
Galway Gooner
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12/01/2014 17:02:00

I wish somebody on the Villa coaching staff would read this report, they might learn something! Good luck for the season - other than tomorrow (when you probably won't need any).
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12/01/2014 18:37:00

@GG Good man! (chuckle)
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12/01/2014 18:45:00

Most times, confidentiality is critical in putting these deals together and Wenger is well known for keeping things under wrap until fully executed. No big player wants their affairs out in the open and so, I would imagine, it was in the case of Ozil; and even Per Mertesacker. While the popular view was that his signing, alongside 3 others just before the window shut for the 2011/2012 season, was a knee jerk reaction to the drubbing at OT, it turned out he had been targeted by the manager since the winter window in 2011. Monreal's deal was already done but only moved forward after Gibbs got injured and Santos showed we couldn't rely on him. In any case, the point of GG's report is to 'prepare' us for the Villa challenge. All we need is to win!
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12/01/2014 20:37:00

Galaway, Kozak suffered a broken leg in training (thanks to Cairan Clark) a few days before the FA cup 3rd round weekend. Weimann has been an odd one, he looked a very good player when he broke into the side first, and for all of last season but this time around he's done little at all. He plays out on the wing which isn't his best position. He linked up well with Benteke last season, who has been injured and since coming back he has lost all his confidence and form, and as a result Weimann's form has dropped too. I think Lambert has a higher emphasis on defence nowadays which has affected our attacking fluency greatly.
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12/01/2014 20:56:00

When the opposition commends your scout report, it shows just how thorough and brilliant your write up is. Kudos bro, keep it coming.
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13/01/2014 06:45:00

David - I didn't hear that about Kozak, normally I do a quick check on injuries and suspensions of the opposition before writing up the report but missed that news. its a blow to you lot to have no option up front as Benteke has been so poor when he's been fit this season. For what it's worth I'd say he'll have a good game against us and with a world cup in June his performances are likely to improve in the second half of the season!
Galway Gooner
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13/01/2014 08:19:00

Cheers Nna ;-)
Galway Gooner
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13/01/2014 08:19:00

Scout Report: Turn up with 11 men, 25% confidence. And you're guaranteed to win @VillaPark.
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13/01/2014 10:04:00

Your pretty much on the money Galway, Benteke has a pretty good temperement his agent however is something else lol Since he sufffered a bad injury early in the season has not been the same player,Weimann has been out of sorts all season and at the moment we are trying to find two fit centre halfs to put out. Unless Gabby can do it alone you should be on for an easy win while only having to be average yourselfs.
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13/01/2014 11:43:00

I just hope our players won't be reading the comments of Villa fans on here. We don't want them to be lulled into any false sense of complacency and belief that they only have to show up to win. I fully expect Villa to raise their game against us but am confident our quality would show through and give us the 3 points.
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13/01/2014 13:25:00

That is exactly what I was thinking, Naijagunner. Oi, Villa fans, don't be do down on your own team. Although obviously I hope you are right. :)
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13/01/2014 13:44:00


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