Aston Villa 2 – 4 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Arsenal needed heroes. Arshavin and Chamakh answered the call with great support from Nasri and Rosicky. I think in terms of moving the ball and creating chances, this game was amongst the best we have played so far this season. As I’d mentioned earlier, the injury to Cesc looks like a blessing in disguise.

The first half was all Arsenal. Villa had a solitary half-chance at the back post and even that might have been offside. The home side tried playing the ball out from defence and just couldn’t do it. O’Neill has left them in such a poor state that Houllier will need a great deal of time and patience to change their style. I’m not complaining because that made it easy for Arsenal to dominate the play.

Arsenal could have scored four or more in the first half. Rosicky was a little short of confidence and composure in the box and Nasri missed an open net. Thankfully, Arshavin had his shooting boots on and we got the bit of luck that we needed.

The first goal came when a clearance from the back was completely missed by Luke Young and Collins as the Villa defenders got in each other’s way. Arshavin picked the ball on the left and was able to charge at the goal. The Russian magician dropped his shoulder to create half a yard of space and smashed his shot that went in between the legs of the defender and despite a touch by the Keeper.

I wonder how people would have reacted if an Arsenal Keeper got a hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out. But that’s a thought for some other day.

The second one came from a bit of creativity on a set-piece. Yes! At long last we did see some variation on a corner even if it was a simple one. Arshavin lobbed the ball deep towards the edge of the box and Nasri got his volley on target. It went in off a deflection but the goal was well deserved.

2-0 lead at half-time, chance to go top of the league, Villa had to get a goal. They got it but only because of some sloppy play by the midfield and a howler by the linesman and the ref. Carew was offside and right in front of Fabianski when Clark shot towards goal.

Ideally, if I know the rules right, the linesman should have raised his flag. He had no way of knowing whether Carew was interfering with play or not. The ref would then have to decide based on his position. Why the flag never came I do not know.

Surprisingly, the Arsenal players were more interested in expressing their disappointment and frustration rather than being alert to the offside. Even the Keeper, who was clearly impeded, didn’t complain to the linesman. Disappointing.

I think that was down to the fact that they’ve been under pressure for far too long and it’s difficult for them to keep their focus at such a time. Should they’ve received a shout from the bench? I’m not sure because a delayed appeal is not likely to have much impact. I would love to see such a goal being given against United.

It didn’t matter much because this time Arsenal had the perfect response to the goal. Arshavin collected the ball on the flank at the halfway line. He held off his man and found Rosicky who turned his marker and split the defence for Chamakh. The Moroccan finished with an intelligent toe-poke.

After the third goal Arsenal did stop playing for a while and allowed Villa to push forward and gain some confidence. The defence was exposed as the midfielders and attacking players didn’t move well enough and that made it difficult for the backline to pass the ball forward. They were forced into hoofing it forward and it came back in no time. Villa were able to sustain a spell of possession and created some pressure.

It paid off when they scored the second. Clark was left unmarked in the box as Song and Koscielny were watching the ball. Fabianski and Clichy on the line couldn’t do much as the ball crept in off the underside of the bar.

Arsenal back five had to hold firm as the front six just couldn’t keep the ball for long. Credit to the defence for limiting the chances Villa could create.

Arshavin moved into a central position and Rosicky moved to the left to help Clichy who was being double-teamed time and again. Arsenal moved to a 4-4-1-1 kind of system in the final 15-20 minutes. It wasn’t enough but at least that’s a sign of some tactical change. I’d have preferred if we’d brought Djourou on for Arshavin after the third goal. Wilshere could have moved into an advanced role and Djourou could have played as a second DM. The Swiss defender would have provided us with some much needed physical and aerial presence.

In the final five minutes Arsenal brought on Denilson and Gibbs for Arshavin and Nasri. Rosicky moved to the right and Gibbs provided better support to Clichy. Wilshere got into an advanced position. This allowed him get in the box in injury time and get a well deserved goal, his first in the League for Arsenal.

Some of the long standing problems are still there and I don’t expect them to disappear overnight. Nonetheless, it was great to see Arshavin and Chamakh back to their best. I have no doubt the rest worked wonders for them. Now the team selection against Braga doesn’t look so bad, does it?

Individual Performances

Fabianski: third game in a row, not much to do and couldn’t do much about the goals.

Sagna: excellent all over the right flank. Put in some good crosses.

Squillaci: untroubled in the first half. Could have done a bit better in the second. Dealt with Carew’s strength really well.

Koscielny: read the game really well. Looked solid while tackling. Could have done a little better for the second goal.

Clichy: superb. Took their winger out of the game for long periods. Was often under pressure when he was double-teamed in the second half, but dealt with it really well. Made some excellent interceptions.

On the whole, I don’t have many complaints against the defenders. They were exposed when the forward players reduced their off the ball movement.

Song: Played deeper and much closer to the defence and did a good job of moving the ball in the first half. Switched off a bit in the second and seemed unsure of his role.

Wilshere: Very similar to Song. Went missing for a while in the second half when Villa created some pressure but did well for large parts. Finished his chance with class. Looked threatening whenever he got into advanced areas.

Rosicky: top class performance in the central attacking role. A goal would have been good for him but his finishing let him down. Was involved with most attacks and created the third goal with a wonderful through-ball. Good defensive contribution in the final half hour.

The midfielders played a key part in Arsenal’s domination of the first half. I was a bit disappointed in the second half as the midfield didn’t do enough. Surely either Song or Wilshere should have been close enough to the defence to block the shot by Clark.

Nasri: excellent runs, good finish, decent defensive effort, good work rate.

Chamakh: close second in my MOTM list. Exceptional work rate, good goal, top class assist, looked fresh and hungry.

Arshavin: My MOTM. Was involved with almost everything going forward. Scored the all important first goal with an individual effort. Good defensive shift, good communication with teammates.

Subs: didn’t have much time on the pitch, but Gibbs and Denilson did their part.

The attackers were excellent for large parts. There was some hesitation in their off-the-ball movement in the second half and just like the midfielders they should have done better.

I don’t think it’s a problem with individuals but more a mental issue and Wenger will have to find the answer. Hopefully, the win will be good for the confidence.

41 Responses to Aston Villa 2 – 4 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. shottagunna says:

    Most of your pre-match analysis was spot on. Right after Braga, you did a very interesting piece to calm down the blogger hysteria that the season was lost because of two defeats, by showing that in the past we have lost as much as eight games and still won the league. Noted that all true champions will have years of drought. Most of all you theorized that without Cesc we would improve because when he plays, we become stagnant as most balls have to go through him. During the game that thought was at the forefront of my mind as Rosicky, Wilshere and Nasri ran riot in the 1st half in particular. We deserved to score more than two. Unlike most pundits and bloggers I think our problem is not our defenders but the lack of ruthlessness and hustle by our midfielders when we are on top. In particular I wish to highlight Nasri’s carelessness and casualness in the 2nd half when he frequently lost the ball and generally just slowed down our passing game. Same thing happened vs the Totts. It seems Samir just switches off when he is in total dominance. Despite his brilliance in the 1st half I was happy Wenger gave him the hook late in the game. Buck-up Samir, you are no longer a kid.

    • desigunner says:

      I agree the problem is not with the defenders. I think it’s a complex issue. The players are unsure whether they should keep attacking or should stay deeper to defend. This breaks up the synchronization and unspoken understanding that they have. Ultimately it leads to mistakes and lack of options in attack which means we lose the ball easily and are put under pressure. Will cover this in another article. Have been meaning to do it but the last few days have been quite busy.

    • Sambo, Ilorin says:

      Thank you Lord somebody apart from me has finally hit the nail. Nasri for all his skills over elaborates and ultimately slows down our movements most of the time. I believe the team is yet to fully benefit from his tremendous reservoir of skills. Nasri has the potential to surpass Fabregas if only he puts his mind to it and would not switch off at some points in a match! I think Wenger should work on him to assume greater responsibilities. Nasri, to me, will become the real talisman of this arsenal team when Fabregas certainly leaves in the summer.

    • SomeRandomGunner says:

      I also noticed it precisely. He seems to be content with a 2 goal lead and starts wasting/killing time even if it is 40th min. He should get rid of this habit. It is ok when we have 10 mins on the clock but for 45 mins it is too much.

      • santori says:

        I don’t think it is necessarily an issue of just Nasri.

        We take far too many touches as a whole.

        What was encouraging yesterday was we scored 2 of our goals from well drilled shots around the edge of the box (Arsharvin’s and Nasri’s)…of course helped somewhat by Villa’s somewhat open defense.

        But I think we have made a habit (as a team) of slowing down play, particularly because whilst Chamakh can get past the last defenders (as in his goal) it is normally through positioning more than raw speed.

        In which case when we break, we are dependent on the attacking midfielders joining in. At times, we are able to capitalise on this but in most cases,m the opposing team will come back in numbers.

        We lack that outlet up front to hit them directly and quickly (in say a Benzema)

        Blaming Nasri solely for slowing the game down the game is thus erroneous.

      • desigunner says:


        you just wait for a chance to slip benzema into the discussion, don’t you 😛 😀

      • SomeRandomGunner says:

        I am honestly not sure how it is related to Chamakh more notably the “Benzema”. It is a comparison between Nasri before 2 goal lead and Nasri after 2 goal lead. Mine was not even a general comment about our attack itself. And i am sure the change was too obvious.

  2. Tim says:

    Although the whole of the front six played very well, Arshavin and Rosicky stood out for me in different ways.

    Arshavin looked more consistently threatening than he has done for a couple of months. His running was more purposeful, his workrate better, and he took his goal superbly.

    Rosicky knitted everything together in the middle of the park. His intelligence both on and off the ball is a real asset, and his through-ball for Chamakh was beautiful.

    Defensively we’re still not quite there, but much better than the last two matches. Downing and Young barely got a look-in all game – few teams will keep them as quiet over 90 minutes as we did today.

  3. Champion says:

    Good write up Desi, I also went for Arsharvin as MOTM – but since MoTD completely ignored his contribution to the game, I wonder if any Gunners were influenced to vote Chamakh. I don’t mind as either deserve the extra recognition. I am happy that Arsharvin turned up and showed what he can do after a long rest in such an important game.

    Also those are some interesting and reasonable points you make there Shotta.

  4. observer says:

    spot on desi,but i think you missed out on a fact Clichy backed off for the first goal they scored… imo he still panics too much and makes too many mistakes

    • desigunner says:

      I think this is one of the myths i.e. the one about Clichy.

      From what I saw he went towards the ball and then went backwards because of two reasons – 1) There was a man free on the right and Clark could have played him through if Clichy got sucked in. You can see from his body position that he is shaping to cover the ball towards the wide man who is his responsibility. 2) Clark chested the ball away from Clichy and towards the center of the goal. From then on one of the central defenders should have closed him down as they were not really marking anyone in the box.

      Even Rosicky was a couple of yards behind Clark but never tried to attack the second ball.

      The problem for Clichy is that, while has undoubtedly made some glaring mistakes, people have now started to blame him for goals that are not his fault. In many ways this is similar to the witch hunt against Almunia who is not the greatest goalkeeper but gets blamed for many goals where he couldn’t have done much.

      I’m not saying that you’re deliberately trying to malign the player but it seems to me that you’ve been influenced by his previous mistakes while judging this particular instance.

      And I have seen similar instances of others doing the same. Over time a myth builds up that Clichy is making too many mistakes but that is not really the case. Also I’ve not seen too many people mention that on the right we normally have Song, Nasri and Sagna who are all defensively quite good but on the left we have Clichy with Denilson/Wilshere and Arshavin, which means he has to do a lot more so will obviously make more mistakes.

      • Maximilien de R says:

        Clichy had good reason not to commit to Clark (i.e. Young) but he did, and the guy is already chesting the ball down, he is the closest and fastest, he made wrong call, not in your play station but in the real game .
        Sagna is just one of the best available defensive right backs out there, first choice for France hands down.
        Clichy is 3rd behind Abidal and Evra( when on regular form), and rightly so. defesively suspect and offensively totally killing our left side

      • desi_rohan says:

        spot on desi…

      • Mugisha says:

        I believe also that the fact he is a left back, most right footed opponents tend to come through his line. If you add this to the fact that Song and Nasri help out Sagna, then we should not blame him much.

  5. John says:

    I have just watched the 2nd half again.

    Koscielny and clichy apart from his mistake were superb in the last 20mins.

    Koscielny had a fantastic game. He made so many crucial blocks, interceptions, winning balls in the air.

    Him and djorou could be quality partnership.

    Squillaci looks shaky hes solid lacks compsure for me

    • desigunner says:

      You are right. After the second viewing I’m even more impressed with Koscielny. I’d certainly prefer Djourou but Arsene likes Squillaci better. It could be because of his experience and the way he organizes the defence.

      • Maximilien de R says:

        Squill is needed for organization, he is just good enough, not much more and certainly though not great, he s not at the level of Galas, but it is his experience that is decisive, Kos will make a very good defender one day, he can lood impressive sometimes , but makes mistakes and he plays solo. that is the problem right now

      • jits says:

        The sensible option would be to pair Djourou with either Koscielny or Squillaci. It gives our team a balance with a man marking rugged CB(ie, Kos/Sq)and a calm n composed big CB who can fend off the last attacker n even use his pace to make the last ditch tackles on occasions, not to mention the aerial prowess now Djourou has.

        On the other hand Koscielny and Squillaci is a disaster waiting to happen. They can get tested by most of the better counter attacking and physical teams. Obviously Villa had their chances yesterday. With all due respect to the player, Pires was the one slowing them down on the rare occasions they could counter. And thats the reason why they played the second half well.

      • santori says:

        We need Vermaelen back.

        The good thing about Koscielny is his speed. He isn’t poor with his heading but I think he acts better as a sweeper.

        Djourou and Squillaci have less pace about them which means they have to have their positioning spot on. I think Djourou’s been doing well for us and adds height against set pieces.

        It’s a difficult one to get right because all partnerships with Vermaelen would have some deficiency and pluses at the moment.

        One thing I’d say about Kos is that he seems to have the making of a good covering DM about him. He reads the game well and has pace.

        I would think it would do no harm for Wenger to try Kos in the role of DM to cover the eventuality of Song getting an extended stay on the sidelines due to injury or suspension.

      • santori says:

        Sorry preferred CBack Partnership : Vermaelen/Koscielny

  6. Fan of wenger says:

    Yeah as John said i would specially appreciate Koscielny’s efforts in the last half an hour because he cleared all the balls in the air which were aimed into our box. Aston villa could have scored the equalizer with those efforts but our defence was rock solid.

  7. critic says:

    i don’t know if pat rice had some problems with eyes or not but he looked fabulous in his shades.
    PAT BOND with his young guns robbing villa.

  8. Karthik says:

    I’ve been saying all season that Rosicky should be playing in the advanced role, and I hope he continues playing like this! Cesc in a deeper role would be our best option!

  9. Maximilien de R says:

    Couple of observation.
    Arshavin best game since a while, maybe resting him for a game helped BUt more important it is the direct result from him taking a roaming role in the center; not just in the 2nd half but look again in the first, how much good comes from him being involved in the buildup from a roaming center role ; at least 3 or 4 created chances that I remember. first, after loosing the ball on a pass from the left to center he roams and reads the game perfectly, intercepts in the danger area and sets up the early chance for Chamakh 1-on-1 that he unfortunately could not chip over Friedel. the absolutely world class defence splitting pass to Nasri’s missed 1-on-1. another great pass for a Sagna to cross from within(!) the box to Chamakh almost- scored header. and more. No doubt Arshavin vision is world class but his ability is somewhat wasted on the wing. yes he can score from that midle left channel with his signature move , he always has,but he can do much more than that, for Russia he plays in the left of a narrow midfield.
    Arshavin contrary to popular opinion is a player who does not complain a lot, not when he is roughed up nor when he is underplayed, but it effects his game. Wenger has his not used his world class capability in optimal way. just a thought.

    An encouraging sign with Chamakh I think he was a little bit less inhibitted to use his shot at least one instinctive, albeit not very good, shot from just outside the box.never seen that before

    The defence. no doubt you are right, systemic flaw in defensive drills shape formations. Kosc has quality but how one cannot see he was at partial fault for both goals? he lost the header to Dunne, in fact he did not cover him properly when the corner was kicked. second, he was the LCB that was just standing there enthralled covering nothing and nobody for the 1st goal. it was a comical miscommunication with Clichy and Squil. but you could see Squil going nuts after the goal because he immediately perceived the novice breakdown in coverage assignements. There is no good communication between these 2 CB you could see this in numerous occasions e.g the almost goal of Clark minutes earlier, when both CBs stuck in each others way leaving Clark free to hit the outside post shot. and more. for the 2nd goal: having 2 men petrified to the posts is that a good idea always? how many teams do this sort of thing?. Arse defend with 9,10 +keeper in the box against 5 Villans and come short. Fabianski is wrestling with Delfouns-, Song and Squil undecided if to protect keeper or cover Clark , do neither = 4 men on the line covering very little, Kos hesitates which man he is to pick and steps back towards Dunne too late, therefore timing his jump too early, etc etc.. absolute shambles of team defending.
    Clichy’s problem is positioning, on numerous occasions, his reading ofthe game and danger is below average on this level, he suffers perhaps from the same malaise as Theo , his incredible speed, and ability to recover made him under develope some essential ingredients of his game. offensively, on occasion and more often for france ( as well as for that great cross to Song in West Ham) he makes his runs on the inside left channel, as well as deeper diagonal crosses. he is very good at that, much better than those useless laterals he is usually in the habit of executing .
    Fabianski took about 20 hoofs today at least 16 hoofs across the field directly to the opposition or directly to Friedel,only a couple found their target( yes, one fell well and good for Arsh run), that is a lot of possession and good midfield positions conceded Why?

    • dennis says:

      I noticed in the last few games how often Fabianski kicks the ball straight to the opposing GK

    • santori says:

      I thought Clichy did particularly well reading play yesterday. Otherwise, you could say the same of Sagna who lost Young at the back post early on.

    • desigunner says:

      Arshavin always has a roaming role but he doesn’t have the work rate to play as a midfielder in the present formation.

      I’ve seen Chamakh shoot from outside the box in earlier games. Bolton was one where he won a corner, that led to the second goal, from a shot from outside the box. I think he also had a shot against Blackburn that went for a corner. But he should do this more often, no doubt.

      I think it’s easy to find faults with the defenders. For the first goal it was offside plain and simple. If Fabianski had seen the strike he would have saved it and all other discussion would be moot. For the second goal I thought Koscielny did well to keep some distance with Dunne so that he could get a running jump. It wasn’t enough but can’t really blame him.

      Arsenal have a problem of defending setpieces and the solution of putting so many men in the box is not good but it’s not an easy problem to solve.

      Clichy IMO is a fantastic left back and is often blamed for goals where he is not at fault. right now he is the one holding our left side. I don’t think Evra would be able to do it if he played behind Arshavin and Denilson or Wilshere on the left. Arsenal need to find a way of getting him more support, he was up against two players for large parts of the second half.

      Clichy must improve his attacking contribution and should not dwell on the ball in dangerous areas. Those are definite weaknesses.

  10. Arsenal4 says:

    Excellent summay. Well, November officially end. (the slump that is)

    Good attacking performance. Arshavin being Arshavin, agree that he put a MOTM performance, he’s hot and on fire which good news, hope he kept it in Dec, we need it for MU & Blue London match. We can definitely expect much more from Nasri, he’s just mesmerizing, unfortunately didn’t get the open goal opportunity. More and more, I swayed to the thinking of keeping Chamakh up front ac central rather despite RVP who can play on as second striker. Rosicky was fantastic too, hope he gets bak his shootig booth as soonest.

    Devensively, not too convincing again. I got worried most of the time ehne counter attack happen. One mistake while attcking, suddenly the opponent have the chance to cut Arsenal defense like butter. I wouldn’t complain too much though, just soaking into the sweet taste of victory that has been missin for a week now!

  11. boozy says:

    wenger almost cost us the game.

  12. dennis says:

    Desi.I must read almost everything written by bloggers and journalists alike,and your articles (and to be fair ACLF)stand out like beacons.You point on Clichy becoming something of a scapegoat is excellent.

  13. LondonGunner says:

    Hi Desi great article, Am happy for ARshavin, and Chamakh; Aston Villa defense could not handle them. Chamakh goal was awesome against two good defenders he won almost every header, and Arshavin was unstoppable.

  14. Miranda says:

    A question about links to players on twitter: if you’re including some of these, why not all of them or at least a few more? Szczesny’s, for instance, isn’t there and he’s quite often interesting. I can understand being against players babbling on twitter per se – and some clubs actually forbid it – but I don’t think it’s a bad thing and I find them an interesting clue to the mood in the squad. I can also see the logic of not having links to players who tweet mainly in languages other than English (Squilacci, Djourou, Wellington) but you do include Denilson who mainly uses Portugese (and isn’t that interesting anyway!) For those of us who like these links, it’s handy having a place they’re all listed conveniently together and might therefore encourage more visits to the site?

  15. a good win but it’s still a worry of how many goals Arsenal keep conceeding!

    read Arsenals defensive disaster should Wenger now start Havard Nordtveit?

  16. santori says:

    This was a great Birthday present (Well half of one at least, I was rather hoping United would slip up…alas)

    We did well but I also thought we got away with it a bit because Villa were quite generous in midfield and defense.

    Again, I felt we failed to respond quickly to their change in formation after the half and our performance slipped a notch.

    The defenders stood back a bit and we were punished with the first goal (regardless of the off side)

    For the second, I thougt Fabianski got his positioning wrong. He should have either been aggressive and commited himself to attacking the ball or stayed near the line where he would have had a chance to tip the ball over.

    Positives, Wenger’s set up was spot on this time. Nasri did well in the hole with Rosicky out right. I thought we had a good balance about us.

  17. eirik says:

    I think this is the right offensive combination.

    With the 3 creative players switching places. A system like that creates a lot of chances with Nasri and Arsha bringing the cutting edge


    Nasri – Chamakh- Arshavin

    I think this could be the best lineup


    Walcott – Van Persie – Arshavin

    The creativity of Van persie and Cesc will put Arsha and Walcott thru alot 1 on 1 with the keeper like in the BlackB game. Nasri or Walcott on the right, but i noticed Nasri doesnt flurish as much around Van Persie and Cesc.

  18. […] Aston Villa 2 – 4 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis Arsenal needed heroes. Arshavin and Chamakh answered the call with great support from Nasri and Rosicky. I think in […] […]

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