Our title hopes were today nailed to the mast, raised high and are proudly flying as you read this. An emphatic three nil win puts us well and truly back in the title race while at the same time puting Villa firmly back in their place. This was a big win but yesterday’s strong Arsenal performance will be remembered, above all, for the twenty eight minute master class given by our Captain in the second half.
Arsenal took to the field and played, in the first five minutes, some of the best Wengerball I have seen in ages with two seemingly gilt edged chances falling firstly to Vermaelen and Eduardo but; alas, we were still unable to change that lead weight of a statistic, hanging around our necks, that we haven’t scored in the first fifteen minutes all season. These squandered chances seemed to give Villa hope and it wasn’t long before it was our turn to soak up pressure and let out deep worried sighs as they missed good chances of their own.
Diaby was skipping through the midfield with the new found zest of a player having been reprieved from the ignominious fate of being sold to the lower divisions; both he and Song, the stars of the first half, were running the show. There was nothing wrong with how the rest of the team were playing except for the out of sorts Arshavin who seemed to lack the belief that an incisive pass was ever going to find its way to him, the result being that he stopped making the runs.
This all changed in the second half when Fabregas came on; the lift this gave the rest of the team was tangible; suddenly Arshavin believed that the ball would find him and started fighting to get into positions to receive it. Nasri started buzzing around with renewed determination while Eduardo started trying just that little bit harder; the only player who seemed to withdraw slightly was Diaby who, rather than bound forward with the confidence that was on display in the first half, timidly rolled two yard passes to the dominant Cesc.
We were starting to pile the pressure on but it still needed the class of our Catalan Captain to break the deadlock — and it came in the form of one of the best free kicks you will ever see; have a look at Nasri in the wall: Villa players jump on either side of him, the Frenchman stays rooted to the ground and by doing so he creates a two foot shaft that Fabregas somehow manages to thread the ball through at speed before it dips past the helpless Friedel.
The goal forced Villa to come onto us and by doing so created the all important commodity that Walcott thrives on – space, and he revelled in it. The second wasn’t long in coming — notice the thirty five yard pass from Traore that landed just perfectly ahead of Theo enabling him to run onto it before playing precision pass to the on rushing Fabregas to slot it home and make it two nil. The worry, of course, is just how much damage he has done but if we see him playing again within three weeks I will be amazed.
Fabregas hobbled off and Diaby as if by magic came back to life. The tall Frenchman slide straight back into the position he feels the most comfortably with and went on to wrap the whole day up by scoring what is rapidly becoming his own trade mark goal: the bound forward, before releasing the powerful side foot drive into the corner. Great stuff.
Almunia: from bizarre punching, to good catching, from down right poor kicking to a clearance that almost put Arshavin through with a one on one with the keeper; still, two clean sheets in two games are two clean sheets in two games. 7
Sagna: had one of his solid on frills afternoons, kept Ashley Young in his pocket. I like how this alternating thing is working with Eboue: when we need to defend its Sagna and when we need to attack its Eboue. 7.5
Gallas: Every game the image of flicking a coin in the air comes to mind: will he be fit or will he be injured at the end. We have had such a good run with his fitness it scares me to think what would happen if the coin landed on the wrong side. 8
Vermaelen: And Villa think they did well in buying Dunne. Lol. 8
Traore: Well done young man. Today he had his first test in defending (rather than bomb forward) and he came through with flying colours. Someone suggested that TV must have been helping him, good call. 7.5
Denilson: a far more confident player, his goals have helped no end, with Song away we should get a better idea of what he is really about. Or so I thought, rumour has it that his back injury has reoccurred; last time this happened he was out for two months, damn shame if it is true. 7
Song: another fine display, going from strength to strength, just imagine how good he is going to be when he is twenty six, in the mean time I wish he would cut out the few silly passes, I mean, you don’t see Vermaelen make them so why should Song, still he has improved so much I feel justified in nit picking. 8.5
Diaby: I wrote many a comment suggesting that he had until Christmas to prove himself or he would go…..I reckon he has just scrapped in. Played his best game for Arsenal to date, ran the midfield in the first half and scored another goal of some class. 9
Nasri: well, it’s not that he didn’t play well it’s just that the gulf of talent comes into full focus when Fabregas comes on. Still, we have scored six goals in the last two games that he has played; this is no time for moaning. 7
Arshavin: struggled to get into the game for the first half, it was as if he knew there was no one capable of threading a pass through to him so he stayed in his shell. This all changed when Fabregas came on, it was like putting batteries in one of those Duracell Bunnies. 7.5
Eduardo: there used to be three certainties in life: Death, taxes and Eduardo scoring in a one on one situation, sadly we are down to two: death and taxes. The Crozilian is still not cutting it, if we do buy another striker I fear he will be the one who has to make way. 6.5
Fabregas: there are simply not enough superlatives purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. 10
Walcott: it is obviously becoming quite fashionable to redeem yourself in the eyes of the more cynical supporters, almost did everything right, now there is something I didn’t expect to write about Theo so soon. 7.5
Ramsey: not on long enough to really say too much but with the injuries and absences he should be getting a lot more action in the very near future.
Wenger: completely out thought Martin O’Neil. 9
All in all, a great day to be an Arsenal supporter.