Man at the Match,Chary: Santi’s double flushes (Birmingham) Villa down to drop zone

A goal in each half from Cazorla gave the Arsenal the just sort of scrappy win that a team lacking in fluency needs to regain confidence. Without looking convincing the team, carried by Santi & Jack to an extent, snatched the 3 points needed to keep the top four finish in sight despite a Villa equaliser that led to a nervy final twenty five minutes.

After a two successive home defeats Arsenal returned to the League on a bitterly cold day to line up against Paul Lambert’s Villa to stop the rot and prevent 3 losses in a row, which last happened over a decade ago. Team selection wise the only surprises were Diaby preferred to Ramsey and Giroud starting over Podolski; Sagna’s injury meant Jenks came in at right back with the BFG/Vermaelen centre back pairing and Monreal completing the back line. The announcement of the subs brought a smattering of boos when Gervinho’s name was read out; slightly disappointing behaviour that.

The away section was more or less full and the stadium overall was probably 80-85% full to my eyes with the Villa fans soon settling into their “Kumbaya my lord….oh lord, shit support” chant as soon as the Gooners initial cheers for their team subsided

villa fans

Arsenal started brightly – if not as quickly as we’d like, still in a more positive fashion than lately with Jack and Santi the form players catching the eye.

Jack was driving forward with all his dribbles and surging runs and for once an early Arsenal goal was scored by him feeding Santi, who slotted home after his initial shot seemed to rebound back to him. A welcome early goal prevented the shivering Gooners from the anxiety of seeing the away side grow in confidence while the score remained nil nil.

santi 1

“One nil to the Arsenal” drowned out the Villa fans as well as their curious habit of applauding non-stop and for no apparent reason, a real puzzler.

Villa seemed to create little and a number of times passes up field went astray or long punts into touch, N’Zogbia contributed little and Agbonlahor, except for a theatrical dive, also seemed anonymous. Having said that a number of the Arsenal players were struggling with Diaby looking like he would lose possession every time he had the ball, his languid, casual (and slow) style not very convincing.

Diaby did thread through some useful passes but he and, unusually, Arteta shanked a few passes astray. After Diaby dwelt on the ball too long he seemed to be fouled, with the foul not being called and Diaby getting booked for tripping over his tackler in retribution.

Jenks was having a quiet game but in time I believe he has the potential to be a quality fullback, his attitude reminds me of Dixon when Ian Wright once spoke about a half time talk he was getting from George Graham: “Look at Dicko, he’s having a ‘mare but he still wants the ball”.

Jenks has the same attitude and I’d take that sort of guy over a more talented but lazier player every day of the week. Theo also had a relatively quiet game but he’d clearly been identified as a danger man and Villa were doubling up on him, the lad certainly tried though and did break his shackles enough times.

Aside from scoring the opener Santi was buzzing all over the pitch, chasing lost causes and generally snapping at the heels of the Villa defenders – on one occasion he was sure he’d won a goal kick but when a corner was awarded to Villa I saw him, a few yards in front of me, bawling at the lino – the man cares!

never a corner

Only Jack seemed to have the same snap all around the pitch and the same confidence that he would not lose possession.

Half time approached and Arsenal went into the break one nil up with not too many scares.

The touchline half time interview was with Paul Davis, an under rated (by those outside of Arsenal FC) player of the George Graham era, who had silky skills, and was delighted to be still working for the club he loved in some capacity.

As the second half kicked off the skies darkened and flecks of snow peppered the pitch as Arsenal continued to press forward for the second goal at the end opposite to me, the North Bank, with cross after cross from Theo failing to find an onrushing forward for a tap in and a two goal cushion.

Giroud was working hard and his aerial prowess in defence and attack is something I’m glad we have. In recent years we had no forward who could win flick ons from our goal kicks with any regularity and the fact Olivier works so well at defending corners and free kicks away is what has endeared him to the Gooner faithful. The tosh perpetuated by the English press about him having to win the fans round is just that – tosh.

Sadly a recurring feature of Arsenal’s play came back to allow Villa an equaliser – namely over committing ourselves at corners and being caught on the counter – a clearance from an Arsenal corner was met by a misdirected header from Jenks, which fell into the path of the wee man Weimann, who scurried between our centre backs to score. Looking at the replay on the big screen Chesney didn’t seem to have covered himself with glory as quite a few around me suggested he should have stopped the equaliser. The 2 or 3 good saves he made in the first half from rare Villas forward forays were forgotten and I sense much will be made of Chesney’s clanger.

Having heard about the fractious atmosphere at the Blackburn game I feared the home supporters would be getting jumpy, however while there was exasperation at the chances spurned, on the whole the crowd were there with a “Come on Arsenal!” to keep the sustained pressure up for the last 25 minutes of the game.

Ramsey replaced Diaby then Podolski for Jenks, a sign that Wenger wanted the 3 points so that Ramsey then slotted into right back as the surge for the winner started.

It has to be said that the referee today didn’t have a bad game and reasonable consistency was shown in what constituted a foul/push and what was a dive.

As time ticked on Lambert and his assistant were jumping up and down in, and sometimes outside, their technical area like cats on a hot tin roof. Mindful of the fact that an Arsenal winner seemed imminent. Monreal, who had a decent game (except for one occasion where his positioning allowed him to be bypassed and a Villa shot on goal resulted) latched onto a through ball, I think from Podolski (who had entered the fray with a shot almost on his first touch), with an overlapping run that ended in a cross which Santi, with a deft flick of his left foot, planted into the bottom right hand corner.

2nd goal

Joy unconfined!

The stadium let out a shout of relief and a sea of clenched fists raised to the heavens was to be seen. Reward for the attacking play in the last quarter of the game was there in the form of the winning goal. Even the clapping had stopped in the Villa section as their fans realised they were in the relegation zone now and no amount of Kumbayas would change that fact.

Injury seemed to last an age but there did not seem to be a sense of panic amongst the crowd about conceding a late goal, and the final whistle meant three scrappily fought for points were ours.

final whistle

Not the most convincing of performances but how many times have we seen the so called experts laud a ManUre performance where they won a game in a similarly scrappy manner? Three points are vital for the return of confidence for our team and while it was a less than convincing performance all points are needed at this stage of the season.
Onwards and upwards, UTA!

Charybdis1966 (on twitter and Youtube)

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About ChärybdÏß1966

As a product of 1970’s Essex I was only ever going to be Arsenal or West Ham – luckily the playground bullies in my junior school were Gooners so given the “choice” it had to be Arsenal. First Arsenal memories are of the Alan Sunderland 1979 FA Cup final when my dislike of ManUre started, which was then turned into an abhorrence by the battle of Old Trafford in the 90-91 season (“You can stick your 2 points up your Arse!”) and it to this day burns brightly as a hatred of all things Red Manc. Match day reporter for 7am where I hope to bring some of the atmosphere of the game and crowd to my reports – I will call the match as I see it at the time – but always from a Gooner’s point of view. Hate reporting on losses but luckily that doesn’t happen often. UTA! On Youtube and twitter as @charybdis1966.

21 thoughts on “Man at the Match,Chary: Santi’s double flushes (Birmingham) Villa down to drop zone

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    Thank U Chary! A scrap win is what was needed. Not too much to talk about, next match please.
    Wasnt it JW who passed it to Nacho for Santi’s 2nd goal? Great match by him btw.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1charybdis1966

      You’re welcome Yan and you are probably right it was Jack who got the pre assist – I was still roaring skyward when they replayed the goal on the big screens.It was the Santi and Jack show

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    Great job, great article. thanks man. these on-site reports make for such gratifying reading for us foreign gooners who have not yet had the opportunity to attend a match at the Emirates! thank you very much again.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1jop

    Didn’t watch the last 20 minutes. Good to hear the crowd didn’t get on their backs, could have aided a meltdown!

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    It was a good win. I felt the team was poor for the most part – only Santi, Monreal, Jenks to some degree and Jack (who was below his recent standards) impressed today, of the starting XI. I thought our centerbacks were somewhat poor, the midfield sluggish (Diaby is NOT the fabled creature we imagine him to be when he’s injured), and Theo and Giroud a bit wasteful. But nonetheless, a win is a win, 3 points and 3 points, are Spuds will finish 5th.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1charybdis1966

      Agreed Zed, the team played with the memory of the 2 previous defeats fresh in their minds, but Santi was the star with Jack still looking like the go to man.

      At this point 3 points will do however they are gained.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1dy

    I’m not going to pick on any player and say they didn’t try. No sir, I see this a much improved performance from Arsenal, Villa ‘allowed’ us an open play, not parking the bus, and we really did enjoy a lot more space to run into. A few chances were wasted but that’s expected and defence wasn’t tight, again as expected. Contrary to some fans, I think the mid field did offer more fight and try winning the ball back when lost possession. Much less sideway and back kind of pass. It’s all about momentum. Arsenal is pretty much in control of it at today’s match.
    2-1 doesn’t mean a lot in winning margin, but as Tim said, just win it.

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1charybdis1966

    One other point I meant to mention was something that happened after the game on the north bridge.

    Some mouthy Villa fans we’re singing “Robin Van Persie…he left ‘cos you’re shit” etc…so I started up the “Going down, going down..” back which the other gooners joined in to drown them out. With another guy shouting “You’re just a shit team from Wolves”. They soon shut up. :)

    I’ll be dammed if I’m going to let relegation fodder take the piss out of my team on our turf !

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1grumpyoldgit

    Thank you for beating They Who Cannot Be Mentioned. By the way, League Cup Final Day. Remember 2 years ago? I do. And so do very many Bluenoses,
    Do you recall what embarrasment is? See the blushes.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

      Meh. I’d rather be playing the Premier League than win a competition nicknamed ‘The Comedy Cup’ and get relegated in the same season. McLeish said as much as well.

      But cheers for reminding us that some time ago B’ham City used to be a (completely shit) team in the Premier League. Most of the time, it’s like you don’t even exist! My word you were terrible.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1jop

    Tim looking at your by the numbers piece it seems offensively we were good and relatively efficient. Defence not so much.

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1Prince-Purrfect-Poldi

    “bawling at the lino- the man cares”

    These are the sort of things i miss when watching on TV. Great match report Chary, really enjoyed the read

  10. Vote -1 Vote +1RockyLives

    Nice report Chary

    I always loved watching Paul Davis play – a really elegant midfielder with strength and great technical skill. If he had been born 10 years later and had been a young player at Arsenal when AW arrived I think he would have had an amazing career.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +11NiltotheArsenal

    Good summary as usual. Felt like I was there myself, thanks for enduring the cold to get us your take on the game.

    This is good perspective for us who were a tad harsh on the club post-victory. I include myself as I said watching the match was akin to chewing glass. 3 points and very close to a top 4 place isn’t bad at all given the past few days.

    Now we all need to be on the Hammers bandwagon on Monday to setup the derby come next weekend.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1charybdis1966

      Cheers 1NTTA, it was a cold one but strangely I didn’t feel we played that badly, maybe Villa were dragging us down to their level ? Still, come on you Irons !

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Thanks for the report, Chary. I’m happy with the 3 points, and also glad the performance wasn’t quite so insipid seen in the flesh as it was on television.

    One thing I want to say about Diaby (who, I understand it, capped a distinctly average performance with a trademark injury):

    At this point, I’d just let him go. We can’t sell him, of course, because no other club in their right mind would invest a penny into him, but I’d be quite happy for him to pick up his wages while he stayed home, or traveled to Vietnam, or dined at The French Laundry, or took his nephews to Cirque de Soleil, or whatever else he wants to do with his time and money, so long as it’s not wasting his time and ours being an Arsenal ‘player’. At the moment, he’s taking up a place in the squad that could be filled by a quality midfielder also able to contribute meaningfully on the pitch.

    I continue to be baffled by Wenger’s claim that Diaby is integral to the squad. In what sense integral? He spends most of his time off the pitch, and does very little when on it.

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