Sunday, January 29, 2012

Arsenal 3 - Aston Villa 2

January has been a dismal month for the Arsenal, having won not a single game in the Premier League. Fortunately, today they narrowly avoided going winless for the entire month by beating Aston Villa in a thrilling FA Cup tie. The Villans led 2-0 at the half, on goals by Richard Dunne and Darren Bent, despite the fact that the Gunners were not playing at all badly. In the second half, the worm turned quickly. Just as in the first half, Arsenal turned up the heat early in the first half, and this time, Aston Villa succombed to the pressure, giving up two penalties (on fouls by the two first-half goal-scorers) - both dispatched by van Persie - with a rare Walcott goal sandwiched in between. Walcott, who played better today, shouldn't be given too much credit for the goal, although it was his fine run into the box that forced the action. He was just lucky to have an attempted defense clearance ricochet off him into the net, while he was looking the other way.

For once, I thought no one played badly for the Gunners today. It was a solid team effort. In the first half, the Gunner's goalie, Lukasz Fabianski, subbing for his countryman Wojciech Szczesny, made a meal of a few outlet passes, but fortunately he didn't have to pay a price, and he quickly learned to get rid of the ball with greater dispatch. In the second half, I thought Mertesacker played his best half of football so far as a Gunner. Not only did he dominate the air in his own box, but he nearly scored on a solid header at the other end of the pitch. Villa were fortunate to have a player stationed at the far post to keep it out of the net. Oxlade-Chamberlain was terrific again throughout the match, and no one was upset when, in the final minutes, he was substituted by Theirry Henry. It was particularly good to see Arsenal's two other substitutes get a run in the game. Mikel Arteta and Bacary Sagna are both coming off of injuries, and their return to the side can only improve the squad.

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