By Walter Broeckx
Last week when Manchester City lost at Chelsea (much to my delight I must admit) the media talked about how important it would be for City to bounce back immediately after a defeat. Because that was the mark of a big team. The next game City won. With a little help from some friends, with some luck. But they won. And so they were praised as a big team.
Last weekend when we lost at Manchester City nobody really talked about us being a big team. I didn’t hear much talking about the mark of a big team: bouncing back after a defeat. I mentioned it a bit in my game retrospective article but that is why we are Untold I guess. But the game at Villa could be a season changing game.
And we started this game with or better said without some 11 players not available. That is a whole football team. Not saying they all would be playing but surely our normal right and left backs would be on the field. Now we had to start with a reserve-midfielder at right back. At the end of the day he did a great job in fact and his statistics on won tackles were very good. But still wouldn’t we love the face and hair cut of Sagna running up and down the right flank? Or the Brazilian flair of Santos on the left even if “he can’t defend”?
So another make shift defence to start with. But this time our back 4 made it to the end and looked to be okay unless that twat Hutton managed to hurt Vermaelen in his stupid late tackle in the last minute of extra time? But Vermaelen twittered a message after the game thanking Benayoun for bailing him out in this game. A rare mistake from Vermaelen when he headed the ball too short to Mertesacker and so Albrighton could score what would turn out to be goal 20.000 in the EPL. I’m sure Vermaelen doesn’t want to see his name in the record books under assists for this one.
But let us bounce back to the start of the game and Arsenal bouncing back was required in this game after our defeat last weekend. Sorry to admit it but I couldn’t catch the first 10 minutes. But I heard from my son that Szczesny made a great save early in the game. Imagine if we would have bought another keeper last summer or the summer before. We would have lost this talented boy who can become one of the best keepers in the world.
Villa, credit to them, smelled blood in the opening stages and was hoping that we would feel down after our defeat. And maybe we did because we didn’t start very well. But after some 15 minutes the first storm died down and we took over. Theo making a fine move to fool his defender and then he was pulled back in the penalty area. And the ref pointed to the spot. The only decision he could make. Who else but the new Thierry Henry to step up and to put us in front. With this goal Robin is now on 34 goals in a calendar year. The same that Henry got a few years ago. Ho, ho, ho merry Christmas I would say. Now get that record of Shearer Robin. Go for it. That would make the Christmas something special.
Ramsey then got a great chance to put us 2 in front. But I think his legs are gone a bit for the moment. And when your legs are gone a bit you are not fresh enough in front of goal. And his attempted shot when alone in front of goal went very wide. Ramsey was disappointed with himself as he said on twitter it was a difficult night for him. But if we look back at his first real season so far he has done a great job. He works very hard for the team, he puts a lot of pressure on the other team, he links up with the rest of midfield. The only thing a bit missing is his finishing. But at his age this is a very normal thing. It will come. We just have to make sure we don’t burn him up completely.
We also have to remember that this is his first real normal campaign so far. The campaign before that he was just a promising youngster who came in to the team around this time of the season. Only to see his leg broken a few weeks later. And then came the fight back from hell. I think it is amazing to see how he has come back and how he seemingly completely recovered from his injury. Maybe a rest now would do him good, Arsène. Not that I want to pretend to know it better than you. Just my take on Aaron for the moment. He is too important for our future to burn his wings before he can completely fly.
We controlled the rest of the first half most of the time but Villa wasn’t dead yet. Early in the second half Vermaelen handed a Christmas gift to Villa. And then we suffered a lot. Some players went missing and seemed tired. Later in the game Wenger took them off. First he took Frimpong off who still is not a Song yet. But Song in his early days wasn’t the Song of now so we must give this Gunner-Gooner the chance to improve himself. And with his fight in him I’m sure Frimpong will fight and work as hard as he can to do this. Rosicky entered the field and suddenly Arsenal was on top. Strange how such a substitution suddenly changed the game.
We didn’t create much but we pushed them back. And won corner after corner. But we couldn’t score from them at first. The best chance fell for Mertesacker but well he sure is no striker. But he will score a goal this season sometime. I just feel it. With time running out Wenger brought Arshavin and Benayoun on the pitch. Gervinho and Ramsey who looked very tired came off. More pressure from Arsenal who were totally on top in the last 20 minutes of the game. A shot from Arshavin was deflected and when Robin Van Persie delivered the ball it was Benayoun who came to the rescue and headed the ball calmly in goal.
Villa was shocked and we missed the chance to even make a third. But then Villa attempted a last kind of attack on our goal. But our defence was determined not to let bad things happen again. Koscielny with an important interception, Mertesacker with a few headers pushed the ball away from our goal.
And then we saw a mature side. Rosicky and Benyaoun playing the ball around to kill the time. And most of all Arteta who made and found space for himself. Turning away from the Villa players so we would be able to keep possession. Not only making space for himself but by doing this also making space for other players so we could keep the ball. This showed the maturity of the team. And when Hutton was so stupid enough to get him sent off in the extra time the game was well won.
So if we judge ourselves by the standard of City (bouncing back after a defeat) we can say that we are a decent team. The players battled really hard and fought for the shirt. That is what we want as supporters. That is all we can ask in fact. I think in the next weeks players like Rosicky and Benayoun will show their worth for the team and will get more playing time. They sure looked good when they came on and with some tired legs out there will be fresh to fill in the gap in this difficult time of the season.
A great win in the end. A difficult win but those are the sweetest wins in fact. Winning ugly is sometimes needed in a season and this was what you could call such a win. A very satisfying win for the players who showed great desire and you could see the joy at the end of the game. We don’t have just 11 players. No our reserves also play their part and can make a difference. But most of all it seems as if we have A TEAM. A team with great fight and team spirit in it.
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- PREVIEW: Villa versus the Arsenal, plus a little chat about Gibbs.
- RETROSPECTIVE: What we learned from the Man City game
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- CHAMPS LEAGUE: On playing Milan on Tuesday and Wednesday (not Thursday)
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