Arsenal - Villians Steal A Point
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Arsenal 1 - Aston Villa 1

Ashburton Grove

Saturday 19th August

Attendance: 60,023

Villians Steal A Point

While many people will tell you that Arsenal nicked a late point in the opening day of the new Premiership season yesterday that couldn`t be further from the truth. The Gunners dominated in what was the first competitive at the Emirates stadium, only lacking that killer touch.

That`s not to take anything away from a resurgent Villa side, who were well represented by both players and fans. The boys from the Midlands battled hard and were well worth their point, team unity and solidarity were there for all to see, and under the guidance of Martin O`Neil (and the signing of a striker) should be more than capable of making a top eight finish this season.

However, a more deadly Arsenal would have won the game by a clear margin, with 67% possession and 18 shots on goal the Gunners should & could have buried the tie, but nevertheless there were more positives from the game than negatives, the only gripe I would have would be that nasty habit that seems to have followed us from last season of being scared to shoot.

The Highbury, er sorry, Ashburton faithful could be heard on many occasions screaming "SHOOT" only for the player to lay the ball off to another red & white shirted player who would inevitably lose possession. That said it was the first game of the season and the rustiness will soon fade away as games come thick and fast.

Emmanuel Eboue terrorized Villa from start to finish and was by far and away our biggest threat on the day and was magnificent in tear arseing down the flanks, almost scoring on several occasions. However it was Emmanuel Adebayor who almost broke the deadlock when his towering header was turned of the line following a Cesc Fabregas corner.

Arsenal did indeed find the net 3 minutes into first half stoppage when Toure powered home a header from a freekick only to have it ruled out for offside. Not having had the benefit of seeing a replay I couldn`t say whether or not it was the correct decision.

Against the run of play Aston Villa took the lead after Jens Lehmann flapped at a corner and Olaf Mellberg nodded into an empty net. The Villa fans went crazy and it was something that you could not begrudge them after the torrid times they`ve faced over the past few years.

Arsenal battled on, shot after shot as the Gunners set camp around the Villa penalty area, but when Eboue had a shot parried back to him and his header crashed against the bar, you just got the feeling that it wasn`t going to be our day. But then, Wenger played a master stroke, and after months and months of wait young Theo Walcott was introduced to a standing ovation and the England under 21`s international didn`t let us down.

His impact was almost immediate, he ran riot down the left flank seemingly suffering no nerves as he played in front of a 60,000 strong crowd. His mazy runs and unbelievable pace was what we Gooners have waited so long to see, and it was he who engineered the equalizer.

Walcott picked up the ball wide on the left, and after nicely skinning the Vila defender on the edge of the box; he floated a beautiful cross to the back stick where Van Persie challenged Samuel for the header, the ball grazed the pair of rising heads and ball dropped beautifully to Bert who rifled an absolute unsaveable snorter into the roof of the net. Chaos erupted inside Ashburton Grove.

Arsenal then hit Villa with everything they had, and Henry came oh so close to giving the Gunners a win that would have been harsh on Villa, but would not have been undeserved.

All in all, a very one sided draw but both teams worked extremely hard for their point. For me, there were far more positives in the game than negatives.

Next up; Dinamo Zagreb.

Star Player

Manu Eboue - Defended well but it was his adverntures down the flank that impressed me most. Expoliting Villa's lone striker took the opporunity to venture forward when ever he could.

Player Ratings


Pretty solid but was at fault for the goal - 6


Cracking performance. Terrorized the Villa defence from start to finish - 9


Looks far from the player that left on loan to Sunderland. Proggesing nicely - 7


Solid as ever, unlucky not to get on the score sheet - 7


Looked very strong, but suffered positionally at times. However he has the power and pace to recover - 6


Looks like he was born to have a ball at his feet, but I just wish he would bloody shoot - 7


Full of running but just lack match sharpness - 6


Is every bit of a world class player. Played a lovely passing game even though he was marked through out the match - 7


The invisible wall played another great game and topped his performance of with a ripper of a goal - 8


Strong in the air and on the floor. Was a perfect link up player. I look forward to seeing more of him this season - 8


Was quiet in his first Arsenal game since the Champions League final but still found time to get in a few rasping shots - 6

van Persie

Had little time to make any impact - 6


Even less time to make any impact.......but performed like a seasoned professional. Gave the Villa defence a host of problems and made the goal - 7


Did the job he went on to do - 6

The Journalist

Writer: Rocky7 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday August 20 2006

Time: 11:28AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
I think you're right, we lacked sharpness in the final third. Our approach play was good, TH certainly seemed short of fitness (cheers France). Two years ago we started on fire, sweeping all before us but were out of juice come november, so all in all I'm not worried. Well done Villa, O'Neill seems to have put some spirit in his players.
Little Dutch
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20/08/2006 11:58:00

Lets not pretend here, aston villa are an awful side at present & we couldnt beat them. Martin O'neill would have made a slight impact by making them a touch tougher to beat but they have no new faces & have lost one of their star performers from last season in James Milner who's loan spell had ended. They have a smaller squad than us & some of those players like baros & cahill were out injured. Saying we are not yet up to peak fitness etc is just making excuses because neither were villa. We are already two points down on last season as we hammered them last time. This is going to be a very long season & in my opinion wenger has stuffed it up big time as he had the opportunity to sign players & didnt bother, you cannot just rely on youth team players. Lets see how chelski & man usa get on today, no doubt both will win & again from the start we will be playing catch up.
Ashburton Gooner
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20/08/2006 12:23:00

I think Villa deserved a point yesterday, they defended very well and we have only ourselves to blame for not winning, if our finishing had been better it wouldn't have even been close.
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20/08/2006 12:45:00

how many goals we had conceeded last season from set pieces? i would say at least 60% of all goals? we have this glaring weakness that opponents have been exploiting season after season & we are still not improving.
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20/08/2006 14:09:00

Tighten up the back four and play CYGAN!
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20/08/2006 14:56:00

AG, judging an entire season on one game is not advisable. We drew 0-0 at home to Brum in our unbeaten season, did that game make it a bad season? There are 37 left and our performance was good, its just we made some bad decisions in the final third, that will be eradicated as the players get games. You don't have to be at peak fitness to put eleven men behind the ball and camp on your eighteen yard line. However, Villa fought well, they got some luck, but performed valiantly.
Little Dutch
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20/08/2006 14:59:00

Although I don't like to see us conceding goals by any method, I would rather it be by a set piece. If teams rely on that to score against us it proves that we are hard to break down when the ball is on the deck !! If this "weakness" can be eradicated, which I believe it will , the opposition are going to find it quite tough to score!! I have no cause for concern, on another day the chances would have gone in and we would have buried them.Villa have a new gaffa and they came down ready to impress him and if that meant parking their bus in front of the goal then so be it. I would more be concerned if we didn't break them down and Jens had to make 10 world-class saves to get us a pioint. A lot of hot air is being talked at the moment about dropping points already and Chelski will be loving this etc etc. Titles are not handed out in August or september. Having watched the game I am sooo confident that we will prevail. Alan Hansen says we have "NO CHANCE" of catching Chelsski and how many times has he been wrong ??....exactly...Sh**loads...
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20/08/2006 15:12:00

The only point stolen was by the phantom contact and subsequent kick. Take a draw like men you gooners.
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20/08/2006 15:16:00

good game cleared up a few dounts i had. everyone seemed solid except for one defensive lapse (these days thats all it takes) and e few hiccups from hoyte otherwise overall i liked what i saw
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20/08/2006 15:44:00

im a villa fan the problem you have is you always want to make football look good by passing it in the net just have a strike from range!! your build up play was exellent but we shut you out. we fully deserved the point we dug deeper than you all over the pitch.
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20/08/2006 15:45:00

USA what on earth are you on about? Did you actually read the comments (though asking A chelski fan to read is quite a stretch). Balanced views from gooners here, who are prepared to give villa credit. I don't agree with AG, but he just wants the best from Arsenal (as we all do) and these are intelligent views well expressed. But then again, I suppose that looks pretty alien for you as a Chelski fan.
Little Dutch
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20/08/2006 15:52:00

i agree that sometimes we need a midfielder to strike it hard from outside the box. either gilberto or fabregas would have to do it. i mean manc have scholes, chelsea have lampard & liv have gerard. when a team park a bus in front of the goal, that's the best way to deal with it
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20/08/2006 15:56:00

Most teams stick 11 behind the ball against us especially at our ground so we should know how to break it down by now, yet we dont. Other teams have worked out how to do it so why cant we. In that unbeaten season the 0-0 draw against birmingham came after we had won the title which is a lot different to the start of the season when points are vital. As for these comments about titles not being handed out in august, well thats quite correct, however titles can be lost in august/sept etc if you cannot win games. If we are going to give man utd & chelski a head start then our title bid is over before it begins & we must accept now that we are fighting for a champions league slot with the spuds & bolton etc. We played an injured ljungberg yesterday because we have no-one else, & when your manger is doing that having had the whole pre season to add players you know your in trouble.
Ashburton Gooner
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20/08/2006 15:58:00

I agree, with Little Dutch, we did lack sharpness and willingness to shoot infront of goal. Apart from the lack of fitness, we also seemed to lack the confidence to shoot, something that two seasons ago we were full of. However, if we have one good, flowing game (without so many injured players), where we score 2,3 or even 4 goals, we will have more confidence for the rest of the season.
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20/08/2006 16:00:00

it was a hard earned draw for villa, we should have had the game dead and burried by the end of the first half, but it is jus pre season rustiness and that ill have shaken off by the time we face chelski
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20/08/2006 16:06:00

It's strange you say Arsenal can't break teams down at home when you look at our record at home over the years, not too many 0-0 draws. We had two wingers injured and we were able to bring in Ljungberg, and still have Walcott to come on, so the wings are the last place we need to add. AW said in hs programme notes that Reyes and Cole need to be sold before we buy, so that's the situation. Everybody draws games, even home games, in a season. Because it's the first game people want to think that is a microcosm of our whole season because it's all theyhave to go on. Rustiness was the prime reason for us nt getting the result, anyone at the game will say the same thing.
Little Dutch
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20/08/2006 17:39:00

every arsenal fan should be annoyed at drawing the game against villa, it is only natural!!! but to judge a season on it is rediculous, i for one am looking forward as there were alot of positives in the game, for example, Walcott, dominated possesion, link up play was good and the best positive was the stadium
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20/08/2006 18:11:00

When I said arsenal struggle to break teams down I am talking about teams that come with 11 men behind the ball. Thats not to say arsenal wont win those games just that in the last season teams that are well drilled arsenal have problems with. We seem to rely on penalties or the like to get us going otherwise we dont win. I was at the game as I am every home game but I still dont go with your rustiness theory. You cannot say one team is rusty the other isnt. Aston Villa had 1 corner & scored from it, arsenal had 18+ & got nowhere near, thats not rustiness its just very poor play. As for our wingers you mentioned, walcott is as yet unproven, ljungberg is injured & was quite clearly playing through it yesterday, hleb has never produced in the premiership, rosicky is not a winger & both he & hleb will tell you the same thing that they both hate playing there, so in my opinion we do need real wingers. If arsenal honestly need to sell before we can buy then all I can say is that the club must be very poorly run. In the past couple of years hundreds of millions have come into the club with prize money, tv money & several very big sponsorship deals. None of that money has gone towards players & yet we are still 260 million in debt so something is seriously wrong if we cannot afford a few players.
Ashburton Gooner
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20/08/2006 19:36:00

Sorry can't agree that we can't break teams down at home. Last season in the Prem we scored 48 at home and the season before was 54, both incidently were the highest in the Prem. Also last season we only failed to score against Man USA and Chelski at home in the prem that means we scored 48 against the other 17 clubs.True some teams will always come and put a wall up and will be hard to break down but thats always been the case. We have to deal with it. My main hope is that our away form will improve dramatically on last season because 22 out of 57 points (W6 D4 L9) was appalling. We lost against WBA !!!??? how bad was that ??
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20/08/2006 21:07:00

Well I'd say our tranfser budget being handicapped migh, just might, be down to that 390m stadium we were sittning in on saturday. (About what Chelski spent on players between 2003-2005- a sobering thought). I agree about the corners (I for one, think they should be banned, we never score from them, but we concede from them plenty). I don't agree with your point about Hleb, I think his performances last year, January apart (when he was getting back to fitness) were promising. The point about rustiness is valid, because not only was it plainly obvious, but we had 16 players at the WC, Villa had one, so they've had a full pre season we haven't. This is not an excuse, it's a fact. (Though it doesn't remove the disappiontment at the result). Arsenal have never played with "chalk booted" wingers, because that gives a team too much fixity. Wingers generally get found out after one good season because its such a small area of the pitch, what made Pires and Overmars so great was that they wandered inside and influenced play, like Hleb does excellently, making him hard to defend against. Walcott was so positive because he wanted to take the ball inside and annoy Villa.
Little Dutch
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21/08/2006 10:20:00


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