Saturday, December 1, 2007

Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal

I won't lie: for a lot of the second half I was nervous that Arsenal was only a goal up. Not only for the obvious reason--that Villa was dominating and creating dangerous chances--but because with 2 there was still a possibility that Pat's prediction of the game going to Villa 3-2 would come true.

Villa, in fairness, might have deserved another goal. Carew hit the crossbar (though replays showed Almunia had it covered) and Arsenal just couldn't keep the ball. Plus, it started pouring rain and Villa Park was loudly behind their team.

Mostly, though, it just had that feeling (THAT feeling). You could just tell Villa would break through. But that's the thing. Through all those kind of games this year, when THAT feeling has made itself quite at home, Arsenal has managed to come through.

But still, watching this game I just thought that all those other games were different. Surely we'd blow this one. With Villa's quick youngsters always threatening, I couldn't shake THAT feeling. I could just imagine a moment of brilliance, a lucky bounce, anything that would take the points from Arsenal.

But nothing happened. The score stayed 2-1. Arsenal took all the points.


It was a story of two halves. The first half Arsenal had by the balls. There's no other way to say it. It could have been 8-1 after 45. They were in total control, with only intermittent threats in the form of counter attacks or free kicks.

And then, after half time, Villa did a terrible thing.

Not all of Villa, to be fair. It was just Carew. He missed a wide open chance, with a wide open goal and then as Arsenal streaked downfield, he chased the ball down and tackled Hleb FROM BEHIND, with the ball NOWHERE IN SIGHT. Somehow, he escaped a red card. Hleb, on the other hand, WAS DONE FOR THE GAME.

It was a malicious tackle and completely changed the game.

You see, without Cesc to begin with it was obvious from the beginning that Arsenal was going to need some other players to step up as playmakers. Sure enough, throughout the first half Eboue just killed his defender Bouma time and again; Rosicky kept up the good play that he's brought through the whole season thus far; and Hleb basically filled in for Cesc, distributing and taking the team forward.

Then, with Carew's tackle, all that changed. With Hleb out Arsenal had no link between the defense and lonely Adebayor. They lost the poise and possession that Hleb's confident technique always brings and thus panicked with the ball in back numerous times, giving Villa more chances and more confidence.

It was truly interesting to see, how Arsenal went from total control to being, as they say, in sixes and sevens.

They went from the driver's seat to holding the bumper for dear life. But you know what? They held on.