Season | 2009-10 |
Matchday | #31 |
League Game | #22 |
Premier League Match-week | #21 |
Manager Game | #169 |
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Premier League | Home | Arsenal | Villa Park | 39,601 |
Manager | Martin O’Neill
KO | 19.45 |
Referee | Lee Probert |
HT Score | 0-0 |
FT Score | 0-0 |
FT Result | Drew |
Last 5 Games | WDWWD |
League Position | 7th | - |
Line Up |
GK Brad Friedel |
CB Carlos Cuéllar |
CB James Collins |
CB Richard Dunne | BOOKED | 90' |
RB Luke Young |
M Stiliyan Petrov |
W Ashley Young |
W Stewart Downing |
W James Milner |
F Gabby Agbonlahor |
CF Emile Heskey | BOOKED | 55' | SUB OFF | 78' |
M Fabian Delph for CF Emile Heskey | 78’ |
Unused Substitutes |
GK Brad Guzan
RB Habib Beye
CB Curtis Davies
LB Nicky Shorey
M Steve Sidwell
F Nathan Delfouneso
Yellow | Emile Heskey | 55’ |
Yellow | Richard Dunne | 90’ |
Team Stats |
Starting XI Average Age | 28.61 |
Oldest Player | GK Brad Friedel | 38.72 |
Youngest Player | F Gabby Agbonlahor | 23.31 |
M Nigel Reo-Coker |
CF John Carew |
LB Stephen Warnock |
Match Stats |
Possession F | 50
Possession A | 50
Shots F | 8
Shots A | 12
Shots on Target F | 2
Shots on Target A | 8
Corners F | 7
Corners A | 7
Fouls F | 16
Fouls A | 15
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
*Arsenal twice hit the woodwork as they were held to a draw by Aston Villa and missed the chance to return to the top of the Premier League.*
In a first half desperately lacking in entertainment, Gabriel Agbonlahor had an early effort well saved and Cesc Fabregas fired against a post.
After the break Stewart Downing headed wide and Tomas Rosicky saw a close-range strike rebound off the crossbar.
Both sides pushed for a winner but lacked a cutting edge in attack.
In the end a point apiece was a fair result, yet neither manager is likely to be happy with their team’s failure to emerge victorious.
Villa remain in seventh place and have now not won - or scored - in their last four league matches, while Arsenal stay third, a point behind Manchester United and two behind Chelsea.
With United, Chelsea and Liverpool the Gunners’ next three opponents, boss Arsene Wenger was understandably keen to take all three points, but defeat would have been harsh on a resilient and adventurous Villa side.
The hosts arrived fresh from securing a place in the Carling Cup final and edging towards another Wembley appearance by reaching the FA Cup fifth round.
And, despite a terribly flat atmosphere at Villa Park, Martin O’Neill’s men made a promising start against a side they had beaten only once in their previous 22 meetings.
They lined up in 4-4-2 formation but rather than spending sustained periods in Arsenal territory they instead opted to play on the counter-attack.
Working the ball out to wingers Ashley Young and Downing at every opportunity, Villa continually looked to feed quick ball to strikers Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey.
One such example saw Agbonlahor, whose pace badly troubled Arsenal at home and away last season, sent scurrying into box but his low shot across goal was expertly tipped to safety by Manuel Almunia.
The visitors responded with a first-time effort from Denilson that was well-saved by Brad Friedel but Villa were controlling the tempo and dominating possession.
Ashley Young curled a free-kick narrowly wide and then broke clear on the right after a slip Gael Clichy, only for his cross to be sent high into the stands by an on-rushing Downing.
Wenger had reverted to his strongest available line-up following Sunday’s FA Cup defeat at Stoke, yet his team were ponderous in possession and wasteful with their passing.
Arsenal were not helped by the 35th-minute withdrawal of Thomas Vermaelen, whose leg injury gave Sol Campbell his first league outing since 7 May 2006, although they almost went ahead just before half-time.
Fabregas shimmied past Stilian Petrov, stepped outside James Collins and then drilled a low shot across the area, only to see it rebound off Friedel’s right-hand post.
Fortunately for all concerned, there was a far more open feel about the second period.
Fabregas almost capitalised on a Friedel’s failure to clear a Clichy cross while Downing inexplicably headed wide from Ashley Young’s deflected cross when it seemed harder to miss than score.
Both sides continued to press for an opener and Ashley Young’s header across goal was plucked out of the air by Almunia before a fine run by Andrey Arshavin ended with Rosicky rattling the woodwork.
As the evening wore on, Arsenal began to counter-attack in ominous fashion but lacked precision in front of goal.
Nicklas Bendtner returned from three months out to replace the injured Eduardo on 62 minutes and Samir Nasri was also introduced, but Villa rebuffed all that was thrown at them.
Equally, the home side looked capable of winning it on any one of their forays forward late on - Campbell was not penalised when he appeared to block Richard Dunne’s passage to goal - but Arsenal held out.
*Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill:*
“I thought we played splendidly. We haven’t had have points on board we probably deserve from our last four games.
“We should have won tonight. We played strongly, kept going and should have won. Arsenal are very fine side but we were terrific.
“We haven’t won or scored in four matches but we’ve had umpteen chances and I’m not concerned. Not just our effort but our play was terrific.
“We’ve had a tough run of games and have another tough run of games ahead of us now. We’re sticking at it and out players have down football club proud in last couple of weeks. We’re going to hang in there in the league.”
*Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:*
“We wanted three points, we got one. Maybe we dropped two. But it was a difficult game, Villa made it difficult.
“They stopped us from playing when we had the ball, they played a long-ball game and closed us down. Our passing was not as fluent as usual but we had very good chances. We don’t usually miss the chances we missed tonight.
“We know when we come here what we get and we were not disappointed. They play a very efficient English game with long balls and it is very physical. They are a good side at counter attacking.
“The result keeps our unbeaten run going and we have a good opportunity to beat Manchester United on Sunday. We still have the momentum, so let’s go into the United game with a desire to win it.”
*Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill on Wenger’s comments:*
“He has made a few ridiculous statements in his time here (in England) and that is as good as any. That is an appalling insult.
“I thought we played splendidly in the game. Their ‘keeper made a great save from Gabby (Agbonlahor) early on and Ashley Young produced some incredible balls into the box that just needed a touch on them.
“Arsenal caused us problems and we had a bit of luck when they hit the post and crossbar but we did not deserve to lose in this game.
“I thought we played splendidly and should have won. We haven’t won or scored in four matches but we’ve had umpteen chances and I’m not concerned.”
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
The fractious relationship between Martin O’Neill and Arsène Wenger deteriorated a little further after this goalless draw in a dispute over Aston Villa’s style of play, but a greater concern for the Arsenal manager may prove to be a serious looking injury to centre-back Thomas Vermaelen.
For two teams engaged in races — Arsenal have the title race, Villa the race for fourth — this was 90 minutes of pure opportunity. That it went completely unused was perhaps in tune with the way that no team seems able to seize this season by the scruff of the neck.
The managers, meanwhile, weakened their already fragile relationship thanks to a surreal post-match disagreement.
Arsenal twice hit the woodwork and so, for Wenger, this was understandably a case of mixed feelings. There was a case to say that this was two points lost (as he did), but his analysis of his opponents as “an efficient English game with long balls and very physical”, was hardly charitable. Perhaps the Arsenal manager was thinking of Stoke, who utilised those tactics against his side to such good effect at the weekend; perhaps he was distracted by the fact that he has come away from this match considerably weakened, a hamstring strain doing for Eduardo, and a damaged fibula — which X-rays might confirm as a break today — seeing off Vermaelen.
Either way, O’Neill was not impressed. “If that is what he saw tonight, that is as ridiculous statement as I have heard,” he countered. “He has made a few ridiculous statements in his time here, and that is as good as any of them. Ashley Young didn’t have time to play long balls — he was taking that left-back to the cleaners. It is an appalling insult.”
To accuse Villa of resorting to long balls was unjustified. They had pinned Arsenal into their own area in the opening minutes, not via the aerial route but by cute passing. Thus it was that the ball arrived at Gabby Agbonlahor in the fourth minute, Emile Heskey the conduit. With Vermaelen caught completely by surprise Agbonlahor spun and chopped left footed across goal, his effort tipped away by Manuel Almunia.
Seeing that move come to nothing, Heskey next tried to go it alone, bearing down on goal with an off-the-pace Vermaelen snapping at his heels. The Arsenal defender launched himself into a ill-judged tackle, deservingly picking up an early caution and conceding a free-kick which Ashley Young sent inches wide of the top left corner.
As O’Neill pointed out, Young was enjoying himself on the right wing against Gael Clichy. The Frenchman was left face down on the deck on the half-hour mark, Young’s swivel having been too much for him. His adversary went haring for the box, his cross drifting to Stewart Downing at the far post. The winger caught the ball on the half-volley, but steered it over the bar.
Failing to take such chances against opposition such as Arsenal is fraught with peril, although in truth, beyond a Denilson volley, the away side had come up with little. Even Cesc Fabregas, who had such an impact as a substitute against Villa at the Emirates earlier in the season with a free-kick, could not recreate the magic.
The Arsenal captain had his chances, though. The pick of them came after James Collins had left Ramsey in a heap outside the Villa box, but Fabregas tried his luck by going under the wall, to no avail.
His second opening came on the stroke of half-time. The midfielder found himself granted free passage but his shot hit the post. Tomas Rosicky, who could have benefited from the rebound, found his path blocked by Ramsey.
Neither side were much better at converting after the break. Friedel fumbled with Eduardo lurking but Richard Dunne scrambled the ball clear. Downing spurned an open goal. His header at the far post from an Ashley Young cross couldn’t have been simpler. The Holte End even roared their congratulation as he made contact, joy fast turning to bewildered fury as the ball joined them in the stands.
Downing held his head in embarrassment, but he was not alone. Arshavin twisted his way past Carlos Cuéllar and tried to chip Friedel, the ball flicking off the American to Rosicky. With the goal at his mercy, Rosicky drove it into the underside of the bar. The ball thundered down, hit the line, but did not cross it. If only the players were as apt at converting their opportunities as the managers.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Aston Villa throw a spanner in Arsenal’s drive for the top
Arsenal extended their unbeaten Premier League run to 10 matches at the start of a run of fixtures that promises to define their season but this was hardly a result to vindicate Arsène Wenger’s decision to sacrifice the FA Cup on Sunday. There was little evidence of a side overflowing with energy on a night when Arsenal missed out on the chance to leapfrog Manchester United ahead of their meeting on Sunday and lost both Thomas Vermaelen and Eduardo da Silva to injury.
The Arsenal manager’s frustration with the outcome and the events that unfolded could be gauged by his derogatory comments about Aston Villa’s style of play afterwards. Arsenal had been unable to settle into their rhythm and dominate midfield with their intricate passing game as Villa worked assiduously to close them down while at the same time peppering the visitors’ penalty area with crosses. For that Martin O’Neill’s side deserve credit rather than criticism.
Cesc Fábregas hit the post and Tomas Rosicky thundered a shot against the crossbar that bounced down on to the goalline in the 61st minute with Brad Friedel beaten but Villa also carried a threat. Excellent chances were squandered and Stewart Downing will wake up this morning wondering how he failed to score in the second half when he met the impressive Ashley Young’s right-wing cross but inexplicably headed wide with the goal yawning in front of him.
It was the second gilt-edged opportunity that Downing had spurned. In the first half another deep delivery from Ashley Young, who tormented Gaël Clichy, picked out Downing at the far post and the winger seemed to be caught in two minds whether to control the ball or meet it on the full. In the end he did neither and his left-footed half-volley from no more than 10 yards blazed over Manuel Almunia’s crossbar.
Arsenal’s threat was sporadic, although Wenger was entitled to rue their failure to score not only when the woodwork was struck but also in the immediate aftermath. Fábregas’s meandering run in the first half culminated in the Arsenal captain’s right-footed shot coming back off the far upright and falling invitingly for Rosicky only for Aaron Ramsey to get in his team-mate’s way. Rosicky, forced to take a touch, subsequently shot over.
As the game opened up in the second half it was the cue for Andrey Arshavin to come to life and the Russian shimmered with menace on the left flank when he ghosted past Carlos Cuéllar with embarrassing ease before beating James Collins. Friedel came off his line to narrow the angle and although the Villa keeper saved smartly, the ball fell to Fábregas who teed up Rosicky. With Friedel exposed, Rosicky only had to keep his shot down but instead he rattled the crossbar.
Earlier in the match Villa had taken the game to Arsenal and although William Gallas’s forehead seemed to have magnetic powers whenever the ball was delivered into the visitors’ area, Gabriel Agbonlahor’s pace caused the Frenchman more problems than he would have liked. The England forward escaped as early as the fourth minute, when he raced on to Emile Heskey’s reverse pass, but Almunia, at full stretch, tipped his angled shot around the far post.
It was that sort of night for Villa, who have now gone four league games without a win and failed to score in any of them, their worst run in front of goal since 2001. O’Neill, however, was keen to accentuate the positives. “We got a little bit of luck when they hit the post and on the other occasion when it came back off the crossbar but I would have been really disappointed to get beaten in the game. The team were more than excellent. They were an absolute credit to the club.”
For Arsenal it is now a case of regrouping ahead of United’s visit, which is followed by a trip to Chelsea and a home game against Liverpool. Whether Sol Campbell, who replaced Vermaelen after the Belgian limped off with a suspected fractured tibia, is up to that kind of schedule remains to be seen but Wenger knows that this result has cranked up the pressure. “Any game you have to win at the moment,” said the Arsenal manager.