An unlikely hero proved to be the match-winner on the day with Yossi Benayoun coming off the bench to uncharacteristically score a header in the 87th minute. It proved to be a tough match for the gunners as Villa posed problems and had chances of there own throughout the match, but fortunately Arsenal seemed to have luck on their side this fixture unlike they did against Manchester City on Sunday.
Today one thing we have definitely learned is the importance of our original holding midfielder Alex Song. While it was Frimpong’s first start in the Premier League for fair while, the Cameroon’s absence was painfully notable with Frimpong even being shouted at by the dug-out for being out of position. But in saying this he is inexperienced and young and has much to learn. Hopefully he does gain some valuable experience and lessons from this performance.
Another notable problem is the current injury crisis that has hit at the full-back position. Today we saw Coquelin at right-back and Vermaelen at left-back and while they are definitely great players in their preferred positions, playing in these unfamiliar roles they definitely looked uncomfortable. Things could’ve panned out a little differently if we had been playing a quality team, particularly on Coquelin’s side of the pitch and one feels Wenger will have to enter the January market to acquire some adequate cover.
On a brighter note, today we witnessed an unfamiliar win by the gunners where it was a victory of the ugly kind and one that needed to be ground out. It is games like these that you feel are vitally important to the campaign and is a side of Arsenal that has definitely been lacking in recent seasons and could prove to be very significant. We finally look forward now to a home game against Wolves after two difficult away fixtures. Hopefully Van Persie continues his scoring run after equalling Henry today and looking to catch Shearer by the New Year.
on the result…
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Villa were dangerous but first I must say two things. We had two difficult away games where we had to give absolutely everything just over Christmas, physically. In the first half we controlled the game quite well and in the second half when they came back to 1-1 we had quite a difficult period. Then we stabilised the game and in the last 15 minutes you could feel we were on top again.
I can only congratulate Villa – they played well, gave everything and again it was a very intense game. In the end we got three very late points that are vital for us. We were a bit unlucky on Sunday and today maybe a bit lucky. Overall it was important to re-start with a win tonight. But if Villa continue to play like that then they will go up in the table, they had an outstanding game.
on the team spirit…
Our spirit is exceptional and that’s why we came from a bad start to the season to such a strong run. You could see that some legs were a bit jaded from Sunday, and some minds in the speed of the decision making. But we still kept going and there is an exceptional attitude and spirit in the side.
Tonight, very unusually for us we scored from two set-pieces, that is basically historical!
on Robin van Persie…
He keeps going. Of course you always have that question when he plays against Manchester City and then again with that intensity, do I rest him? At the moment he feels alright so I just take a gamble. Now we have a little breather to prepare for our home game and let’s hope we can win then.
We have to give credit to Villa tonight, we know they always give us a good reception here. They always make it very difficult for us.
on approaching Alan Shearer’s record…
Now I will start to rest him!
Coquelin Mertesacker Koscielny Vermaelen
Walcott Van Persie (c) Gervinho
Wojciech Szczesny | 7.5: Another assured performance from Arsenal’s young keeper. Great save from Agbonlahor and made a number of saves from low crosses
Francis Coquelin | 4.5: Was exposed on a number of occasions and was very noticeable he was uncomfortable being played of position. Perhaps should have gone with Miquel at full-back.
Per Mertesacker | 5.5: Wasn’t very convincing when players ran at him and perhaps could have been more committed when he went in for Vermaelen’s bad back-pass
Laurent Koscielny | 7.0: The Frenchman was the best defender for Arsenal today and was assured and urgent throughout the match.
Thomas Vermaelen | 6.0: Had a solid first-half but cannot escape his role in the Villa goal where he headed a short back-pass to Mertesacker that eventually lead to the ball bulging the back of our own net.
Emmanuel Frimpong | 5.0: It wasn’t the type of enthusiastic performance we are used to from the Ghanaian footballer. Was also caught out of position on a few occasions and was replaced early in the second half by Rosicky.
Mikel Arteta | 7.0: The Spaniard did his primary job of keeping the game ticking over. Held play up well and also distributed accurately.
Aaron Ramsey | 6.0: A great tackle on Agbonlahor, but seems to be giving away too much ball lately and also was a little sloppy with an easy through ball to Gervinho as well as slashing a great opportunity wide.
Theo Walcott | 7.0: Exceptional turn that lead to the penalty and should have equalised moments later after a great through ball by Arteta but was stopped by Guzan
Robin van Persie | 7.5: A perfectly dispatched penalty and an assist to boot for the winner. Unbelievably booked for ‘simulation’, but looked more like a penalty then anything else.
Gervinho| 5.5: Started well, but faded badly as the match wore on. Was rightly substituted with ten minutes to go.
- Notable Substitutions
Tomas Rosicky | 6.0: After he came on it seemed to have a good effect with the gunners beginning to settle and noticeably improved out passing game.
Yossi Benayoun | 7.0: What an unlikely hero, especially scoring a header from a corner. Great for the Israeli to get a goal though after having faultless work ethic in this and every other game he has played for the gunners.