Three goals in seven second half minutes gave Arsenal fans the comeback they were all craving for and the team a trip to the north east to look forward to for the 5th round of the FA Cup.
It was the kind of schizo self-sabotaging performance we are not strangers to from the Arsenal but thankfully that summary only applies to the first half as the team came out assured with an enterprising second half show.
Other than Fabianski in goal it was as strong a fit starting 11 as we could have fielded and from the off we kept hold of possession well. Yet we never really looked like threatening and the first 30 minutes were pretty subdued aside from a stinging Vermaelen free kick and a shanked Walcott effort from inside the box.
In the meantime Villa looked disinterested with attacking and were quite happy to watch us knocking the ball around them in safe areas while they waited for their chance. Their opportunity came twice and they ruthlessly took both, one from a simple short corner headed home by Dunn, the other a good finish by Bent from an acute angle as he latched onto a through ball on the 45th minute. We may have seen most of the ball but we went in for half time reeling from two sucker punches.
I don’t know what was said/eaten/thrown at the team during the interval but it worked. We started with much the same emphasis on possession but this time we were turning it into some dangerous chances and Mertersacke’s header was cleared off the line from an early corner. Oxlade-Chamberlain was jabbing his way down the wing showing the kind of directness we’ve lacked at times while the movement off the ball from most of the forward players increased, and eventually brought around the seven minute turnaround. In a nutty nutshell, it went like this: two confidently dispatched Van Persie penalties came either side of a Walcott goal courtesy of a rebounded clearance that went in off his shoulder after he wriggled his way into the six yard box from the byline. It wasn’t pretty but who cares. If we’d lost by two penalties and a shoulder spectacular there’d be no sympathy for us from the critics, so I don’t see why there should be any grumbles when we win by such means.
Liverpool got a similar goal when they beat us at home this season so it was nice to see the comedy goal karma come back round in our favour for once.
After we took the lead we looked comfortable in possession which was a good sign considering our tendency toward meltdown in the latter stages of critical games. Arteta made his injury comeback and excellently recycled the ball time after time, even slipping Henry through shortly after he came on, but his touch was poor so there was to be no Thierry magic in this round of the FA Cup.
In other good news it was great to see Henry on the bench talking to the younger players. At the Leeds game the camera showed him regaling Walcott, hopefully inspiring with tales of Champions League finals and league titles. Today he was smiling and chatting with Szczesny. Lord knows what advice he was giving the young Polekeeper–perhaps Irish fans will think it’s something to do with his handling–but I always like to see happy players and any words of wisdom he can impart to the team than all the better. I hate it when the camera pans to the bench and we are greeted by a silent row of emotionless faces while Wenger assassinates his latest Evian bottle.
All in all, a good day to be a Gooner, and as frustrating as it was to concede two sloppy goals at least we saw some resilience from the team, a spirit summed up best by kel’s comment in the previous post’s thread: “So at last we show some BALLS!!!!!!”
And finally, a big welcome back to Bacary Sagna, man we’ve missed him.
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