Arsenal (3) – (0) Aston Villa
Fabregas (65′, 81′), Diaby (92′)
The Emirates Stadium, London
Cesc Fabregas is fucking genius.
In a game Arsenal needed to win, he played a 21 minute cameo and what happened?
He completely changed the game, scoring two goals. The first was an exquisite freekick, and the second was a fantastic finish after busting a gut over a good 60 yards before latching onto a nice Theo Walcott pass.
This boy is special, and on a completely different level to anyone else at Arsenal. You just can’t describe how good he was today, and the difference he made.
With the results Chelsea and Manchester United have been having recently, it was vital that Arsenal took all 3 points today to send out a message and keep in the Premier League title race. Chelsea and United are having a slight wobble at the moment, so you need to take advantage of these situations when they happen.
And before the game, all I was hoping for was 3 points. I didn’t care how they came, the fact was a victory would be massive for our season.
In a strange series of events, ever since Chelsea beat Arsenal at The Emirates in November we have beaten Stoke, Liverpool, Hull and Aston Villa, and drawn against Burnley. But Chelsea on the other hand, have lost against Manchester City and drawn against Everton, West Ham and Birmingham. Maybe we just played them at the wrong time.
But back to today and before the game Aston Villa had a formidable record against the Top Four. They had already beaten Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea this season so Arsenal would have a real test on their hands.
As it turned out, we started brightly and Eduardo had a guilt-edged chance after only 3 minutes to put Arsenal ahead but rolled his shot straight at Friedel. After that, Arsenal struggled to break down Villa and they looked dangerous in the first 20 minutes and our defending was a bit shaky. Fortunately though, they didn’t really test Almunia and we managed to deny Villa of any real clear chances.
We had a lot of possession on the first half but no real purpose. Too many times moves would break down in the final third, with Arshavin and Eduardo particularly guilty of losing the ball. Arshavin just wasn’t in the game today, and Eduardo was just poor. I don’t know whether it’s confidence or match fitness, but Eduardo just isn’t on top form right now and nothing he tries is coming off. He had a few half chances but never looked like scoring, and 1 goal in 11 suggests he’s just lacking in confidence.
The second half was a little better, but Arsenal still looked lethargic and were missing that leadership to push them on and give them the motivation to go on and win the game.
So on 56 minutes, Arsene Wenger brought on Fabregas.
Almost instantly, the whole complexion of the game changed. Suddenly Arsenal had the impetus to drive forward and make things happen. The effect the introduction of Fabregas had was simply amazing, and excited the crowd and the players. We were making chances and putting Aston Villa under pressure time and time again.
And after 10 minutes of being on, he weaved his way passed a couple of Villa players but was hacked down by Richard Dunne. From the resulting freekick, he stepped up, and coolly curled the freekick into the top corner.
What a little genius!
At this point whatever superlatives you had for our captain were just not good enough, his impact on the game was outstanding. Arsenal looked like a completely different team.
And once Arsenal had that first goal, it was only a matter of time before they got their second and Fabregas bagged another goal after a sweeping Arsenal break. Armand Traore won the ball deep in the Arsenal half, and released Theo Walcott with a diagonal ball. Theo played in Fabregas and the little magician smashed the ball into the back of the net.
Game, set and match.
Unfortunately though, it appeared that Cesc picked up a little niggle in scoring the second goal and he was soon replaced by Aaron Ramsey on 83 minutes.
But the damage had been done, and mercurial Fabregas had stamped his authority on the game, and on the title race.
Arsenal were then in cruise control in the final 10 minutes, and Abou Diaby scored a well-taken third for Arsenal which on his performance was richly deserved.
3 goals, 3 points and 4 points behind the league leaders with a game in hand. And that’s against Bolton on the 6th January.
Manuel Almunia: 8/10
Pretty solid today, and won most of the corners and crosses with ease. Seemed a lot more confident than in recent weeks, and make a couple of smart saves from the in-from Agbonlahor.
Bacary Sagna: 8/10
Made some excellent tackles and as usual, always right up the pitch supporting the right side. Full of running, and kept Ashley Young very quiet.
William Gallas: 8/10
Did well alongside Vermaelen and minimised the impact of Emile Heskey.
Thomas Vermaelen: 8/10
Like Gallas, defended well and kept the threat of Villa relatively quiet. Almunia didn’t really have a big save to make throughout the entire game, which is credit to the two centre backs.
Armand Traore: 8/10
Excellent today. Coped well with Agbonlahor and also did well to support the attack. Great vision to pick out Walcott to setup the second goal.
Alex Song: 8/10
Impressive today, and will be a big miss once he leaves for the ACN. Really does add some steel to the defence and it will be hard to see how Arsene will replace him on January.
Kept the game flowing but struggled to make things happen in the final third.
Abou Diaby: 8/10
Always willing to take on players and involved in some good attacking play throughout the match. Much improved recently and deserved his goal in injury time.
Samir Nasri: 7/10
Not his best game and couldn’t really create much.
Andrei Arshavin: 6/10
Probably as poor as I’ve seen the little Russian play in an Arsenal shirt. Maybe we expect too much from him, but his touch today was extremely bad. We’re talking Adebayor bad.
Didn’t click with the rest of the team and missed a sitter in the opening minutes. Had a few other half chances but couldn’t get his game going and was replaced on the hour.
Cesc Fabregas: 10/10 (Replaced Denilson 56′)
Despite only playing less than a quarter of the game, he was the Man of the Match for me. Totally changed a lethargic Arsenal side by simply being on the pitch. Scored a wonderful freekick to break the deadlock and showed immense desire and determination to score the second. His influence today on so many levels was absolutely huge.
Theo Walcott: 6/10 (Replaced Eduardo 64′)
Showed a poor touch when he came on but did play in Fabregas for his goal.
Aaron Ramsey: 6/10 (Replaced Cesc Fabregas 84′)
Not enough time to really make an impact.