Tag Archives: Aston Villa

Let's all laugh at Emi (and other reactions to the Villa win).

I don’t know if you could have scripted a better scenario than the one we witnessed on Saturday. Twice going down a goal, twice pegging our hosts back, and then…madness. Absolute madness, courtesy of none other than Emi Martinez. By the time Simon Hooper finally booked him in the 84th minute for time-wasting, he had seemingly wasted a similar amount of time, and so it was all too fitting for us to find not one but two goals in stoppage time—both of them also attributable to Martineze’s own numbskullery. The lyrics to a certain 2 Live Crew song bubble up from the memory, but we’ll leave that alone for the moment.

Let’s quickly revisit Martinez’s words upon leaving for Aston Villa. He claimed that he “always said it was a step up” to leave Arsenal to go to Villa, adding “when I decided to come to Villa it was because I trusted the manager and the club’s ambitions”. The manager at the time, Dean Smith, would last barely a year past Martinez’s arrival. As for ambition, they’re rooted quite comfortably mid-table. So it goes.
Back to the match. Caught flat-footed for Saka’s equaliser and then beaten by a soft shot from Zinchenko, Martinez suffered the humiliation of watching Jorginho’s shot strike the crossbar and then go in off of his face in the third minute of the stoppage time he helped to create. Still not satisfied with all of the attention this onanist had drawn to himself, he decided to go rogue for a late Villa corner, charging up the pitch to see if he could score. Instead, Vieira picked up the ball and played it through to Martinelli, whose lung-busting run gave him little else to do but take a touch or two before tapping home into Martinez’s empty net. Aces. 
Emery said after the match that he was “very, very disappointed. I am embarrassed about the last goal. I have never told my keeper to go forward….today he decided it was his decision. He knows now.” Well, I don’t know about that last bit. The Argentinian has never struck me as the meditative, reflective type. I wouldn’t be surprised if Emery gives him some time on the bench to ponder.
As for us, this was the almost-perfect tonic to what’s ailed us of late. Villa, to their credit, were spirited and deserved both goals that they scored—but we showed signs of the almost-familiar fightback, the growing defiance in the face of conceding, that has been a hallmakr of this season. Although doubts had to grow as the clock wound down, neither goal came as much of a surprise, and that feeling of inevitability, while still new and not entirely reliable, is back in fashion. 
Jorginho looks to have been the steal of the January window, and not just for his game-winning goal. His all-around performance and his leadership have been stellar (it was he, for example, who told Zinchenko to take up a position outside the box on the corner, putting him in position to score his first-ever Prem goal). He may not do everything as well as Partey does, but it’s getting harder to write him off as just another pensioner picking up a paycheck at Arsenal after leaving Chelsea.
Looking farther afield, Man City stumbled to a draw at the City Ground, all but cancelling out their midweek win. We’ve restored a still-tenuous two-point lead over the holders but do still have that game in hand. Those who had written off our chances at winning the Prem just a few days ago will have to go back and delete a few tweets here and there. We’re going into a series of fixtures that, on paper, are quite winnable. Of course, as Nottingham Forest have just shown, there are no guarantees. Still, there’s a decent chance that we could arrive at the Etihad on 26 April still nursing that same two-point lead or, perhaps, sometihng more closely resembling an actual gap.
Between now and then, of course, we’ll have Partey back, and Smith-Rowe (who made the bench on Saturday) is hot on his heels. Waiting not far behind them is Gabriel Jesus. It would be too much of a fairytale to have him available for that clash at the Etihad, but who knows? It might be a heart-warming fairytale. 
We’ve suffered our first real wobble of the season, and things are now considerably tighter than they were at the end of January. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the resolve, hunger, and determination on display against Villa seems to to be drawn from ample reserves. We’ll need those qualities and more, but this day showed that the well is deep. Previous squads would have folded after going behind just three days after losing. This one stared adversity in the face and swatted it aside. This side doesn’t quit. Rocky Balboa, the king of dramatic comebacks, has nothing on us.
One last thing: I’m excited to announce “March Merch”, a little competition of sorts in which the top commenters will be entered into a raffle to win some Arsenal merchandise. If you haven’t already, set up a Disqus account (which you can do with a new Disqus account or through a Twitter, Facebook, or Google account) and start commenting. I’m eager to build an online community and am not above offering enticements to attract new members. I look forward to hearig from you!

Aston Villa 2-4 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I reached a point at which I wanted us to score a third not so much to beat Aston Villa or take all three points or get back to the top of the table but to humiliate Emi Martinez, and, boy, did Jorginho deliver with a cracking shot from distance in the stoppage-time Martinez created with all of his time-wasting. The fact that it hit the woodwork and then went in off of Martinez himself made it all the more delicious. What can I say? I’m a spiteful, petty man. For Martinelli to then net a fourth with Martinez having come forward to try to score from a late Villa corner added some sumptuous schadenfreude.

Click here to get to the poll. The infographic will be available tomorrow, but real-time results can be seen here.

Aston Villa Preview: could Arsenal still top Tottenham?

So it comes down to this. On one hand, we’ve secured a top-four position with one match to play. On the other, there’s still a glimmer of a chance that we could pip Tottenham to finish not third, but second. It would take a win for us and a loss for them, but stranger things have happened. Resist the urge to resurrect memories of 2013, when it was us facing Newcastle and Tottenham hoping for help. With roles reversed somewhat, do we dare to dream? Far better that we take care of our own business without worrying about results elsewhere. Much.

After all, we’ve not quite secured that third-place finish. ManCity three points back but with a superior goal-difference, visit Swansea, who have won their last two by a combined 8-2 scoreline. Then again, they lost the previous two 7-0. Much as I’d love to see Fabiański do us a solid by keeping a clean-sheet against City, I doubt we can count on him to come through.

‘Twixt the two—Tottenham and Man City—a draw would secure third for us, and a win could earn us that third-place finish, sparing us in the process another Champions League play-off. Those are no small potatoes coming on the heels of Euro 2016, in which a fair few Gooners will perform. If we’re to launch the 2016-17 season in any kind of style, we would do well to lock down that third-place finish and save ourselves the angst of having a two-leg playoff against Fenerbahçe or Beşiktaş.

Therefore, it’s paramount that we pummel Villa. In theory, that should be easy. The Villans have won but three matches all season and are conceding nearly two goals per match while scoring fewer than one per. They were relegated in mid-April with four matches to play and in the midst of an eleven-match losing streak, a streak they “broke” with a scoreless draw against Newcastle. Cakewalk.

Then again, we’ve hardly set the world alight ourselves. Aside from a gritty draw at the Etihad last weekend, we’ve limped and lingered along against squads in the bottom third of the table. Even if we suggest that a few have been fighting to stave off relegation, it’s hard to look ourselves in the mirror these days. If we can summon the grit and resilience we showed against Man City again on Sunday against Villa, it’ll be lights out for them. If, however, we play the part of polite hosts as we did against Norwich the weekend before, well, it’ll be up for grabs.

I know that he’s hardly the fashionable choice of late, but I have to think that Olivier Giroud is the one to watch in this one, and not just because he scored and assisted against Man City. He showed the grim, determined look of one focused on getting a result rather than celebrating a moment. Against Villa’s back-line of Clark, Lescott, and Becuna, I’d fancy the Frenchman to fight his way free to find the back the of the net at least once. That should be enough to earn us a draw, if not a win.

Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal (13.12.2015)
Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa (30.05.2015)
Arsenal 5-0 Aston Villa (01.02.2015)

Aston Villa have not scored against Arsenal in four matchs.
Arsenal have scored 14 goals against Villa in four matches.
The two clubs first met on 1 August 1904, a 1-0 win to Woolwich Arsenal.

Mertescaker, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Welbeck have all been ruled out. Özil faces a late fitness test but should be available.

Čech, Monreal, Chambers, Koscielny, Bellerín; Coquelin, Ramsey; Alexis, Iwobi, Walcott; Giroud.

While not quite claiming that Villa will mail it in, Arsenal should walk away with this one.

Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa.

We are top of the league, said wearetopoftheleague!

Okay, so it wasn’t quite the swash-buckling rampage we’ve come to expect against Aston Villa, scoring only two goals after scoring 12 in our previous three outings. Pity poor Villa, on whom Kevin Friend might have lavished some pity by ruling Walcott offside just before halftime. Walcott lashed home a vicious shot anyway. Regardless of the particulars, we took care of business, seeing off a Villa side that is already all but relegated. Whatever. It’s the other end of the table that matters—the one atop which Arsenal now sit…for now. If you haven’t been chanting “we. are. top. oftheleague, saidwearetopoftheleague!” while reading, you’re doing it wrong. Go back to the top of the page and reread whilst chanting and bobbing your head to the rhythm. We’ll wait.

Done? Sorted. Welcome back. As alluded to above, we weren’t necessarily at our best except for stretches in the first half when we took the lead; in fact, Villa even had us on the back foot for a long-ish stretch at the beginning of the second. Walcott earned us a penalty by burning past Hutton, who dragged him down in the box. Giroud sent Guzan the wrong way to earn his 50th Arsenal goal. Ramsey made a tackle just outside our area and went on a lung-busting 80-yard run to square home Özil’s pass. Čech kept his 169th clean sheet. In other words, a good day at the office.

How good? Good enough to send us to the top of the table. Man City needed a flukey stoppage-time deflection to win…at home…against Swansea, who are hardly scaring anyone (except maybe Chelsea, who might have celebrated Touré’s goal more than any actual Blues fan—um, wait. Is there such a thing as an actual Blues fan? Mind blown.). Man U did their level best to prove that there’s a difference between looking like los Blancos and playing like them, losing to Bournemouth despite wearing an all-white kit for the first time since the 1970’s. Speaking of losing, Tottenham went from 1-0 up to 1-2 down at White Hart Lane, losing in spectacular fashion to Toon, who crawled out of the relegation zone and above Chelsea in the process.

The upshot of all of this is that we’re top of the league just a few weeks after our own bitterness and infighting seemed to symbolize an impending implosion. Koscielny injured, Alexis injured, an away-loss to West Brom and a draw at home against Tottenham. The thrashing from Bayern and the disappointment at Sheffield Wednesday (with Ox and Walcott injured). Interview almost any Gooner in late November, and he or she would tell you that our campaign was all but over—no League Cup, Champions League, or Prem title to fight for with the silver lining of maybe, just maybe fighting for that third consecutive FA Cup.

Well, we’re back in the thick of things. For as depressed as any of us might have gotten, though, let’s not get too elated at the current state of things. There are still 22 Prem matches to play, and I might add that we’ve added two Champions League fixtures, as opposed to Europa League fixtures, to the mix. We’ll learn who we’ll face on Monday. The larger point to consider is that, for as dispiriting as it might have been to suffer a slump in November, we shouldn’t make too much of a rebound in December.

More important than when we are on the table is the form we’ve seen in the last three outings: eight goals scored, two clean sheets kept. A fantastic must-win in Greece sandwiched by two should-wins in England. If we can keep playing with the same determination, focus, and purpose that we’ve shown in these last three, we’ll pencil ourselves in as favourites to win the Prem. That’s a big “if”, by the way, so don’t get carried away. We have a barn-burner awaiting us next week, when we host Man City, with a result that could echo down through the rest of the season. Without jinxing anything, it’s worth mentioning that Man City might be without Kompany, Agüero, or Zabaleta. Even if they’re available, they may not be match-fit. Just sayin’.

In the meantime, we get to relish a very-real question: who should win on Monday, Leicester or Chelsea? The question would have been unthinkable at the start of the season, yet here we are. A Leicester win would send them top of the table and heap misery on Mourinho (and Chelsea). However, a Chelsea win would give us a week atop the table but resurrect notions of a Chelsea rise. What’s a Gooner to do?

As suggested above, table-position matters far less than form. Leicester’s Vardy and Mahrez are in the form of their lives. Let’s hope they batter Chelsea, ignoring for now what that means for the table. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all.

Enough of enemies and friends. We, may I remind you, are top of the league. We are top of the league. Just don’t go shouting that from the rooftops.


Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

Olivier Giroud scored his 50th Arsenal goal (third-fastest in club history behind Henry and Wrighty), and Aaron Ramsey
made an 80-yard run after making a tackle to finish Özil’s selfless pass to make it 0-2. In the second half, Villa showed a bit more spark but not nearly enough to pierce our defense. Petr Čech got his 169th clean sheet, equalling David James’s record. Arsenal rise to the top of the Prem. however briefly. All in all, not a bad day to be a Gooner. Let’s get down to the poll to rate our lads!