By Karl M. Tinsley
MY 3 STARS
#1. ABOU DIABY: A fantastic bounce back game for the Frenchman after a fairly dismal effort against Liverpool 5 days ago. Diaby displayed clever touches and good, quick passing movements all match and his defence was of a much more robust and diligent nature. I felt he and Eboue were linking up well and showed a real chemistry together on the pitch. The nutmeg on the Villa defender that sprang the counter-attack where Diaby found Eboue in time and space on the flank, combined with his determined run to catch up and present a target for Eboue to pick out and finally the smooth heads up clinical finish, was high quality stuff!.
I had been hoping in the days leading up to the match to see a 4-2-3-1 formation with Abou in the middle behind Robin because I felt it played to his attacking instincts. His performance showed that this is the type of formation and role were he can excel, hopefully we see it again in the near future. Congratulations Abou…glad to see you deliver the goods today!
#2. BACARY SAGNA: I felt Sagna pumped out a top shelf performance after looking a little sluggish in the Liverpool match when he was getting beat down the flanks and allowing crosses to be turned into our box almost all match. Tonight he had the old spring in his step and he did a great job neutralizing the right flank and Villa’s bright star Ashley Young. Bacary had a couple particular moments of defensive brilliance, the first was his bicycle kick that cleared the ball off the line late in the first half and then the big shot block on Agbonlahor in the 18 yard box around 75 mins when he stole in late to stretch a toe onto the ball and send it clear into touch…world class defending!. You can tell Sagna has a major comfort level with Eboue, as evidenced with the increased number of quality runs that he delivered down the right flank and by his increased influence on our attack. Great game Bacary…the two goals against had nothing to do with you.
#3 ROBIN VAN PERSIE: Showed a tonne of heart and a real battling spirit again today. Getting outed by Gallas in the media has seemingly transformed his intensity on the pitch. The enormous offensive talents were always in place, but the hunger for the ball, the willingness to bang and fight in the air for possession and get in the opponents face and jaw…well it is just a treat to watch him and his complete game now. Granted he didn’t score but he was doing many other things well as he battled alone up top against the Villa defence. His passing, one touches and 1-2’s were of a high calibre and he was really unlucky in the second half around the 58 min mark when he crushed that kind pass from Ramsey off the post…it was a pity because at 3-0 the game would have been put to bed. Keep it going Robin…with your fingerprints all over the match…the goals will continue to flow.
DENILSON: I had him penciled in as the #2 STAR for the match (not far off #1 classification) right up until the last 2 minutes of the match. BUT…he feel asleep at the end, neglected his defensive coverage, got caught ball watching and his man was left WIDE OPEN to slot home that loose ball at the top of the 18 yard box. A real shame for Denilson…because he played like a warrior today, which was a real turn around from the Liverpool match that saw him getting physically pushed around in the challenges. While his goal was a real basic head down hammer it at the net and hope job, his fleecing of the Villa defender to set-up the chance showed real opportunistic and poaching instincts. Denilson was hustling like a mad-man all over the pitch for 92 mins of the match. His passing was much much better and he displayed a calming influence over the ball especially after Villa scored to make it 2-1 to the Arsenal and they were surging against us. I thought Denilson did a good job of staying composed on the ball in the face of the Villa pressure and was able to slow down our game and keep possession and take time off the clock. I have been one of his harshest critics this season…but today he was 2 mins from his best match since Bolton back in September. Learn from your mental lapse, keep bringing the energy and you’ll be fine.
EMMANUEL EBOUE: He wasn’t super dominant today but he turned in another good quality effort both on defense and offense. Back on RW he immediately re-connected with Sagna and their chemistry was on full display all match. He did a good job staying wide and rewarding Sagna’s over-lap runs with nicely weighted balls for Bacary to attack with pace. On defence he helped Sagna and Denilson to take away the right side of the pitch from Aston Villa. Eboue gave us a few nice attacking runs with the ball and alot of sweet passing as he worked 1-2’s with Diaby on several occasions. His pass to the on-charging Diaby was very precise in its weight and location…allowing Diaby to close on the ball and hit it with his right foot while in stride (Dennis Bergkamp would have been pleased Emmanuel). I did see a bit of folkway in the second half which i didn’t approve of, Eboue just needs to play strong and hard and good things will happen…no need for the folkway!. Good match all around Emmanuel.
#1. GALLAS: I have to call him out for the ill-advised sliding tackle on Agbonlahor that served to turn the momentum around and against the Gunners late in the second half. Even though the call against him was extremely harsh and there was basically nothing in it…a 10 year veteran like Gallas has to understand that going to ground in the box gave Agbonlahor the opportunity to “sell it” to the referees. Most referees are going to cave in and give up a soft call on that play to the home team…it has happened many times to The Gunners…Gallas should have known better…especially because if he had just stayed on Agbonlahor’s shoulder he could have harassed and harried any attempt on net and given Almunia to come out and take away any shooting angle on net. Disappointing and rash decision by Willy “G”.
#2. TOURE: While i was happy to see him back in the line-up after a long absence…i have to say i was disappointed with his performance tonight. On more than 3-4 occasions he made some very very questionable decisions…sigh…more of the same of what we’ve seen from him since his return from the ACN tournament 11 months ago!. Two decisions in particular jumped out at me in the second half…the first was when he ignored the screams of “MY BALL” from Almunia who had an easy play on it only for Toure to bungle his clearance and put our net under a direct and very real threat only to get bailed out by an offside call against Villa by the linesman. The second example late in the second half was his decision with the weak aerial ball that Villa played towards our 18 yard box. He decided to just head the ball back directly to the attacking Villa players camped outside our 18 yard box instead of controlling the ball with his chest and legs and playing a deep clearance or picking out one of his team-mates. He was under no pressure from Villa when the ball was played in to him…he had loads of time to control but panicked instead. Hopefully it is just rust from being out of game action for the last 4-5 weeks. I still believe we need him to get back to his old form if we are to win silverware this season. C’mon Kolo…get your head together…with Cesc down we need you more than ever!
It could have been such a statement win…in their park, without our big guns (Cesc, Butta’-legs) after playing 42 minutes of a shjiit first half and Villa hitting the woodwork 3 times. It could have been the kind of win that sent the teams in different directions in the League Table. Now it is going to be a long and bloody battle to rein them in and keep our noses in front…we’ve thrown them a life-line which is more than a bit disappointing. Ramsey didn’t look ready for any type of starting or large role with the First Team, our CB’s looked sketchy again and the defensive mid-fielders lose their focus at the worst times. I think it wise of Wenger to bring in some players with experience and a big motor at CDM and CB in January. I say this because with Villa in front of us…if we go down to injury in February after not adding depth and experience in January…it can make life very very difficult for us to rein Villa back in and finish Top 4. Time to make difficult decisions about players: who is added to the squad and who is loaned out and who loses their position in the First Team. It has been a very difficult season emotionally and mentally for the club, players, manager and supporters…today was just another serving of frustration on a season already full of frustrations. Thankfully we have almost 8 weeks to re-tool the mid-field and get our squad together in time for the match-up with AS Roma…a team i think we match up very well with…even with out Cesc. As always there is still much to play for…so we need to keep our chins up and focus on what lies ahead of us and not think about what might have been.
See you Sunday…when we take on Pompey. Until then…
GUNS IN GUNS OUT