ESPNSoccernet: Captain Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to inspire the Gunners to a 3-0 win over Aston Villa which hauls them back into the Premier League title race.
Telegraph: Arsenal confirmed their status as genuine contenders for the Premier League title with an emphatic 3-0 win over Aston Villa at the Emirates this afternoon that narrows the gap to Chelsea to just four points.
Goodplaya: Arsenal season’s best, report from the ground.
The Arsenalist has 2/3 of Arsenal’s goals up already and promises more, if he can get away from his newborn.
Man of the Match
Has there ever been a man of the match go to a player who came on as a sub in the 57th minute, scored 2 goals (one one of which has to be up for goal of the season), and then was subbed off himself at the 84th minute? A 27 minute man of the match?
I can’t think of one before but that’s exactly how I’m calling it because what Cesc did was nothing less than magical. It’s been a long standing moan of Goonahs that Cesc doesn’t score, he doesn’t do well on free kicks, and Arsenal in general don’t score from direct free kicks promising positions. 2 games in a row now Arsenal have put that, if not all the way to bed then certainly tucked it in for a long nap. After two consecutive matches where Arsenal score on a direct free kick I doubt the Journo’s will be breaking out those chestnuts for a while and that is down, partially, to what Cesc did today.
But it was the second goal which was both a moment of beauty and pain. Against Tottenham Cesc showed that he’s gained power and today against Villa he showed a touch of pace as he burst through the middle, was slotted in by … and slotted home past the onrushing Friedel. There would be no celebration from the captain however, as it looked like the strain of running full speed re-injured his hamstring. Fingers crossed that the injury is minor.
Cesc now has 9 goals and 10 assists in League play and has absolutely announced himself as one of, if not the, best midfielder in the world. £40m Barcelona? You’re having a laugh, try more like £80m.
Diaby missed man of the match, his second in a row, by just a hair. Hardly putting a foot wrong all day, his thrust forward and defensive acumen in the middle of the park was absolutely critical. In the first 4 minutes it was only the rust of Eduardo which robbed him of an assist and Arsenal of a cracking good start.
After that, the Villa machine tried to grind Arsenal’s midfield down but Diaby and Song just kept plying their trade and kept Arsenal in the match until a magical moment from substitute Cesc could break the game open. But make no mistake Diaby and Song kept us in that game and if we had more on form front men in Arshavin and Eduardo those two could easily have won the game for us in the first half.
Even more critically, Arsenal claimed three points from a team which had made a habit of collecting top four scalps this season, beating Man U, Liverpool, and Chelsea and on a 7 match unbeaten run and a 4 match win streak. Honestly, I thought Villa looked very dangerous and confident of their game plan in the first half. They are a well drilled team who know that they can take their opponents on at any time and endeavor to grind a team down. On every missed opportunity they didn’t get down, rather winking at each other and showing that they were confident of breaking this Arsenal’s defense.
But it wouldn’t happen. Arsenal now haven’t conceded a home goal in any competition since Chelsea came to town. 3 consecutive home clean sheets, 270 minutes without a goal at the Emirates, and a stalwart performance by the whole back 4. Even Almunia looked ok at times!
Fingers crossed that Cesc didn’t tear his hamstring. Arsenal’s next three games are away to Pompey (the 30th), away to West Ham (the 3rd), and home to Bolton (the 6th) for our game in hand. After that there’s an Everton match on the 9th and then a week off before we travel away to Bolton on the 17th of January. I almost wonder if Cesc won’t find himself on a bit of a break for three weeks in order to get that hammy all the way rested up.
As it stands, Diaby is a hell of a stand in though after that we are looking a bit thin; Denilson was removed for a back injury, Cesc came off with the strain, and Song goes away for the ACN. That leaves Arsenal with just Diaby, the 19 year old Rambo, Nasri and the mostly unused Merida. I suppose we could see a midfield of Diaby, Rambo and Nasri but even the boss is saying that he might buy a midfielder. Which was virtually unthinkable when you consider we started the season with Cesc, Song, Diaby, Nasri, Rosicky, Denilson, Ramsey, Wilshere, Arshavin, Eboue, and Merida. Which doesn’t count the players like Walcott and Vela who have played in wing positions in the past.
Yes, a lot of people wanted Arsene to buy a holding midfielder, just for this exact happening, but a reasonable person would have to look at that cast of characters and see that Arsenal have at least three guys who can do the job after Song: Denilson, Diaby, and Ramsey. None of them are ideal, but they are reasonable backups.
Anyway, there will be plenty of time for transfer speculation over the next month and plenty of time for the “I told you so brigade” to complain that Wenger didn’t bolster the holding midfield role.
I had to watch the match on a dodgy stream and when that crapped out I turned to Arsenal TV Online’s weird live commentary combined with stills from the game. I’ll have to go down to Doyle’s here in a bit and watch the second half on tape delay since I missed a lot of the game when my feed crapped out.
Well, well, well… pretty much everyone predicted a 2-1 score and pretty much everyone was wrong. I had a feeling we’d keep a clean sheet and had I been in England (or in any country that wasn’t so hypocritical as to ban online gambling yet have an Indian casino on every corner) I’d have put a punt on the clean sheet and would even have backed that with a 0-0 score line.
I really felt like both defenses would be up for the game and for the first half they were. What I didn’t count on, and what I’ll count on from now on, was Cesc Fabregas putting this Arsenal team on his back and carrying them the final yard to secure all three points.
It’s really clear that while he’s not the most traditional captain, he doesn’t scream at his teammates or tell them where to be on the pitch, he is emerging as an inspirational leader to these boys. And why not? At 22 years old, he’s one of the most experienced warriors that this Arsenal team have. A great game, a great win, and Arsenal temporarily launch themselves into 2nd place, with a game in hand, and lead the league in goals scored having scored 47 in just 18 games.
It’ll be interesting to see how the pundits spin this, having written off Arsenal after the Chelsea loss and now with Arsenal just 5 points off the league leaders. I said all along that this was a two team race and that Arsenal would push Chelsea all the way for the title. Nearly half way thought the year, it’s looking like that prediction might just come true. And if we lift the trophy at the end of the year, it will be the sweetest I have ever had as a supporter. For it will announce this squad as no longer boys among men, no longer a project, but the finished article. On today’s performance, they are nearly there.