Very rarely in football do you see a game where you feel that your team were both unlucky not to win and lucky not to lose, but that is exactly what happened for Arsenal in the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.
Our boys were were dominated all over the park in the opening 40 minutes of this game but somehow went into the break with the lead. Villa hit the frame of the goal three times in the opening half and also had a shot spectacularly cleared off the line by Bacary Sagna before Denilson pounced to open the scoring.
Then, astonishingly, we extended our lead shortly after the break. Abou Diaby broke clear with some lovely skill before combining with Emmanuel Eboue and lifting the ball over the Villa keeper. 2-0 and you wouldn’t have believed it. Arsene Wenger’s men could have even extended their lead when Robin van Persie hit the post but Aston Villa came fighting back with great intensity.
Villa then pulled one back from the penalty spot through Gareth Barry after William Gallas clumsily brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor. It was a poor challenge given the wide angle that Agbonlahor had and the fact that Kolo Toure and Mikael Silvestre were both providing cover in the centre. Gallas looked distraught after the decision but he only had himself to blame.
The final half-hour of the game was thrilling. We had a couple of half-chances but in the end Villa’s pressure paid off and they managed an equaliser in stoppage time. They whipped a cross into the area which was flicked on and Zat Knight smashed an unstoppable shot to Manuel Almunia’s left.
So 2-2 it ended and another frustrating result for Arsenal. On one hand they could easily have lost but the inability of Wenger’s boys to shut the game out at 2-0 was almost infuriating. That the critical mistake came from our most experienced player just added insult to injury.
Positives to take out of this game is that we still remain just three points off Villa as opposed to the six we would have trailed by had we lost the match. I thought Sagna was superb today while Aaron Ramsey showed what he can add to the side in the middle. He displayed real bite in the challenge after coming on for Song and his game was best characterised by an 80-metre track-back he made after losing the ball late on. Great signs for the future for him.
Negatives were two more injuries (Johan Djourou and Alex Song) and team’s inability to fail to hold onto a lead yet again. This is the third game running that we’ve taken the lead and failed to take maximum points and it suggests that the notion that our young side play with more confidence when they’re up may be incorrect. Wenger has some work to do in this area.
In summary though this was just another example of the frustrating side that Arsenal are at the moment. I’m not going to concede the title at this stage but I stand firm in the belief that changes must be made in January or there will continue to be more performances like this one.
What do you think?
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