The team was exactly as I had predicted which meant that only Lukasz Fabianski, Sebastien Squillaci, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky kept their place from the team that lost away to Braga on Tuesday night. The players to come in were Bakary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Laurent Koscielny, Alex Song, Andrey Arshavin, Samir Nasri and Maraoune Chamakh. Interestingly enough Wojceich Szczesny was on the nench, which meant that there was no place for Manuel Almunia.
Personally I thought that Johan Djourou should have played, but it would seem that he is seen as Arsenal's fourth choice centre back. I would imagine that he will get a game against Wigan tomorrow night though. It is still very obvious that Thomas Vermaelen is badly missed at the heart of the defence, but there is no word of when he will return.
The game started very well for Arsenal, as they took control from the very first minute against an Aston Villa team that looked a little inexperienced. The most notable inclusion in that Villa team was ex Arsenal player Robert Pires, as he made his debut after signing for them recently. As the first half progressed Arsenal continued to miss chance after chance, and the feeling that they might pay for it grew bigger by the minute.
Thankfully Villa managed to miss the only real chance that came their way in that first half, and Arshavin made them pay for it in the 39th minute. A long ball from Fabianski was misjudged by two Villa players, and Arshavin took control of it halfway inside their half but on the left sideline. He cut in from the sideline towards the Villa box, as the defenders backed off. Eventually they attempted to challenge him inside the box, but he cut inside again, and put the ball through the legs of a defender and into the far corner of the net off Brad Friedel's outstretched hand.
With halftime approaching Arsenal had a well deserved lead, and things got even better for them only sis minutes later. Friedel did very well to touch a Chamakh header around the post for a corner, and Arshavin took it from Arsenal's right hand side. He hit it to the back of the box, where Nasri was on hand to volley into the net. The volley took a slight deflection on it's way, but it was beautifully struck, and I think it was going in anyway. Half time arrived very soon after that, and it was looking very good for Arsenal.
However, nobody was taking anything for granted after last week's second half collapse against The Spuds. Sure enough things took a turn for the worse after only 52 minutes when Ciaran Clark got too much space on the edge of the Arsenal box and volleyed the ball home to reduce the lead. I thought that the goal should have been disallowed as Fabianski had his view of the shot blocked by John Carew, who was in an offside position as he picked himself up after taking a knock. Of course the Arsenal defenders should have closed Clark down instead of backing off him, but they never seem to do things the easy way.
The feeling of dread came over me as I thought about all the chances that had been missed in the first half, and how fragile the players' confidence must be now. Thankfully Arsenal managed to regain their two goal lead only four minutes later. Rosicky played a lovely through ball for Chamakh, and he managed to slip it past the advancing Friedel to make the score 3-1. Villa had changed things around at half time though, and they were putting Arsenal under some pressure.
That pressure paid off after 70 minutes when a corner was headed on by Richard Dunne, and Clark headed it in off the underside of the bar. The Arsenal players on the line tried their best to keep the ball out of the net, but it was to no avail. With 20 minutes to go it looked like it was going to be a case of same old Arsenal, always blowing it, as Villa pushed for an equaliser.
There was one more goal in the game, and it came in the third added minute, when Wilshere headed a Chamakh pass into an empty net after yet another flowing move from Arsenal. The final whistle went soon after that, much to the relief of the traveling Arsenal fans, and all of those watching on TV. It put Arsenal on top of the Premier League table for a couple of hours, until "Manure" demolished Blackburn later in the day.
It was a much needed win as Arsenal's confidence had been dented by the two defeats in the last week. The team played very well in attack, and could have scored as many goals as "Manure" did against Blackburn in my opinion. It means that Arsenal now have 17 points from eight away league games, and that's a very impressive record. If only the problems with the home form could be sorted out then Arsenal would have a much better chance of winning the league. The defence still looks vulnerable, and it seems like Arsenal are always in a battle to outscore their opponents. A few 1-0 victories in the style of the Arsenal teams of former years would be a welcome change at times.
On to the Fantasy football update, and thankfully my team made a little bit of progress this week. With Nani as my captain I manged to do pretty well, although if I had Berbatov as captain I would have done quite a lot better. The league I'm running in conjunction with 11Gunners is now ranked 43rd out of over 217,000 leagues, and there's a lot of competition for the prizes for the first three teams in the league.
Special praise has to go to David Price and his team "awayboyz" who got 101 points this week, thanks to his inspired choice of Berbatov as his captain. Just to show how quickly things can change in fantasy football, he was outside the top 500,000 teams after week 10, but he is now inside the top 10,000. That gives me hope for my team, and I know that all I need is a couple of inspired transfers and I will be back in with a chance of winning one of my trophies. Here's a look at the top 10 in our league.
|2||Laverick 'N' Sons||Stephen Laverick||44||852|
|3||THE UNDERDOGS||mike booton||55||850|
|4||In Arsene We Trust||Sam Griffiths||57||848|
|5||Izadie F.C||nazrul nazri||64||839|
|7||~ S E V E N ~||Anurag Prateek||55||828|
|8||Herk City||Mark von Herkomer||59||828|
Here's the highlights from Saturday's game.
That's it for today.
See You Tomorrow.