Bendtner goal the perfect tonic for Arsenal’s trip to Milan

Bendtner goal the perfect tonic for Arsenal’s trip to Milan

Arsenal hung onto top spot of the Premiership table after a testing 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa overnight. Arsene Wenger’s side were less than a minute away from suffering a first defeat of the season at Emirates Stadium but substitute Nicklas Bendtner’s late, late goal stole a point from a Villa side that had previously taken the lead through Philippe Senderos’ first-half own goal.

Senderos had a difficult time of it against VillaThe return of Abou Diaby to the left side of the midfield prompted a tweak in personnel by the Arsenal manager which saw Alexandr Hleb pushed over to the right and Theo Walcott moved up front to partner Emmanuel Adebayor. Apart from those changes it was an unchanged team to the one that started at Birmingham last weekend; Manuel Almunia in goals behind a back four of Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos and Gael Clichy, with the central-midfield combination of Mathieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas completing a strong side.

The first half was quite an open affair, with Adebayor creating the first chance of the match for Walcott after seven minutes, but the young Englishman’s effort was brilliantly prevented from entering the bottom left corner by an outstanding save by Scott Carson. Aston Villa also looked bright early on with both Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young using their pace to good effect against Gallas and Senderos. The best Arsenal chance of the half fell to Senderos soon after, but he could only slice wide after Carson had spilled the ball after attempting to claim Fabregas’ corner kick.

I felt Senderos should have done better with the chance and he was unfortunately made to pay moments later when he inadvertedly diverted Young’s low cross into his own net to give Aston Villa the lead. In fairness to Senderos, it was a tough ball to defend against but on the other hand he did make a bit of a meal of it and looked understandly disappointed when the ball hit the back of the net.

After the goal Villa were forced to make a couple of changes due to injury with Nigel Reo-Coker replaced by Zat Knight and Curtis Davies – who, it was later revealed, snapped his achilles’ tendon – replaced by Isaiah Osbourne. Both Villa and Arsenal then had excellent chances to score, with Shaun Maloney’s fierce drive kept out by a marvellous save by Almunia and Fabregas shooting woefully wide from eight yards out after being teed up by Adebayor.

1-0 Villa at the break and Wenger’s men were looking a little shaky. In my opinion Villa had looked the more dangerous side despite Arsenal dominating defence and the front pairing of Walcott and Adebayor were not really working well together. I had hoped for Bendtner and Adebayor to start the match together up front and was delighted when the Danish striker entered the game on the hour mark, replacing an out-of-sorts Diaby. Walcott moved the right and Hleb shuffled to the left and almost immediately the Arsenal attack seemed to improve.

Carson again made a fine stop, this time at the near post from Hleb’s well-struck shot while Adebayor wasted a couple of headers that looked easy chances on first viewing but really weren’t on a second investigation. At the other end Agbonlahor and substitute Marlon Harewood started to flourish in the extra space provided by Arsenal’s push for a goal and Almunia was subsequently forced into a number of good second-half stops.

Gallas responded well after a difficult weekA point won, not two dropped

Wenger made a couple of late changes with Denilson and Gilberto Silva coming on for Flamini and Senderos as Arsenal turned up the pressure on the away side. And that pressure paid off in the 93rd minute when Clichy’s brilliant curling cross was beautiful cushioned by Adebayor for Bendtner to tuck away from six yards out. The goal ensured that Arsenal came away from the match with the point they needed – but did not necessarily deserve – to stay atop the Premiership table, as the manager was quick to comment on after the match.

“I believe the point we gained today will have a big impact on the Premier League, and staying top helps. You know you go through a spell like that and I believe that the point gained can have vital importance.”

Anyone who saw the game will know that this was not a great performance by Wenger’s side. It was clear the boys were still struggling to get going after a difficult week and things looked incredibly disjointed at times. However, the passion and desire that each player displayed was enough to snatch a point that, as Wenger pointed out, could have a big impact on the Premiership race.

In the short term it may be worth even more. A loss would have seen the club surrender their lead at the top and left the players with a significant psychological burden to overcome in the build-up to what will surely be the biggest game of the season, the Champions League second-leg clash away to AC Milan. Bendtner’s goal means that Wenger and his side will go into their challenge at the San Siro on a high that only a last-minute equaliser or winner can provide.

As for individual performances, there were two standouts for me against Aston Villa. The first was by Manuel Almunia, who made two brilliant saves and two more important ones that kept his side in the game and paved the way for Bendtner’s equaliser. He has well and truly claimed his place as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper this season and deserves to start again against Milan in a few days time.

The second was by William Gallas, who was a rock at the back on a day when his partner was a little off-colour. The captain was under a lot of pressure to bounce back after criticism of his behaviour after the draw with Birmingham and it was great to see him put an assured performance under difficult circumstances. Another one against Milan will go along way to ensuring a safe passage through to the next round.

What do you think?

Have your say on Arsenal’s draw with Villa by leaving a comment.

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24 Responses to “Bendtner goal the perfect tonic for Arsenal’s trip to Milan”

  1. angel_CHN
    March 2, 2008 at 10:29 pm #

    though they did not good ; we’re still at the top of the league.Good Job by Bendtner and Almunia;one point is better than nothing ;isn’t it

  2. Darragh
    March 2, 2008 at 11:15 pm #

    Hey Sf, agree with most of what you say. I just felt that Arsenals finishing in the attacking area of the park was not very good. Also, their usual fluent passing game was slightly off with many passes going astray.

  3. nzekwe, joburg, south africa
    March 2, 2008 at 11:31 pm #

    Arsenal should not despair much, man u and chelsea will still drop points. it is good we dropped ours now, with rvp coming back, most of the set pieces that fabregas doesnt play well will be taken care of. I still believe that we will win the league, all they need is to be strong mentally.

  4. knightman
    March 2, 2008 at 11:59 pm #

    our game must change if we want to win this cup.typically, we hold th ball in th mid field while we try to work out a way to weave th ball to th goal line b4 taking a shot to score..with tht, we play th most beautiful soccer in England BUT with a price.. lack of goals! :(am not a soccer guru but it’s quite obvious tht holding th ball in midfield gives our opponents time to settle back in th box n defend like hell minimizing our chances to score.
    i say we change our game a times n run riot in th pitch with extreme counter attacks. tht way we’ll get to score

  5. TayGoon
    March 3, 2008 at 2:02 am #

    Big Phil needed a hug. Very unfortunate for us in the past few weeks, but I doubt if it is going to continue any longer. Which is good news as if we finaly have gotten it out the way, and still on top, nothing but good times awaits. How much do we miss RVP. Team can foul us out of box and have relative confidence they might get away with it. Not so much so with Van-Persie taking the free kick. We have to beat chelsea, liverpool and Man U(desicively). I think we might do chelsea a favor to allow them to finish 2nd when we beat united and if they can hold their own @ the bridge.

  6. TayGoon
    March 3, 2008 at 2:08 am #

    I wish I had the heading skills of Jaaskelainen…

  7. Le Gunner
    March 3, 2008 at 7:17 am #

    The players will take heart from that late equaliser and push on for the title.
    I’ve been banging on about set pieces many times . I can’t remember us scoring one goal from dead ball situation. Free kicks can get us match winners and get us out of jail if we play badly we only have RVP who can do that for us hopefully when he is back he will add to the goal tally as it might come down to goal difference at the end of the season. As we can see M.utd do that against the lower sides to get as many goals as possible.

  8. Spanish Fry
    March 3, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    Haha, just saw the Jaaskelainen own goal; absolutely classic. I’ve never seen anything quite like that before.

    Darragh, good to hear from you. Hope your trip to South America is going alright mate.

    Just on the lack of goals lately, I think that has come down to the loss of Eduardo in a couple of respects. First, directly, in that he was performing well and he and Adebayor had a nice partnership going that Walcott and Bendtner now have to try and replicate before van Persie returns. Secondly, the team were still clearly a little off-colour after dealing with all the troubles that came with the horror injury. Although the performance wasn’t great I think it took great heart to get that late goal and the boys should be commended for it. We’re still top of the league after all, and a great chance to win a trophy that nobody thought was possible at the start of the season.

    Come on Arsenal!

  9. RvP Fan
    March 3, 2008 at 10:46 am #

    Heh, im pretty pumped ATM. I just read on the Official Arsenal Website that RvP is gonna be in the Squad for the San Siro game. He Wont be starting 🙁 but he will be in the lineup. Hopefully they can put this “Week Of Tradgedies” behind them and crush AC Milan.
    I also found it interesting that Wenger has come out and said that his team will not be drying to go out and harm Kaka. I was shocked at the thought! Any idea where this rumor came from?

  10. Spanish Fry
    March 3, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    Where did you read that van Persie would be in the squad? I can’t seem to find any info on the official site…

  11. RvP Fan
    March 3, 2008 at 10:56 am #

    Bugger… maybe I read it the wrong way… ill have a look, ill try find it…

  12. RvP Fan
    March 3, 2008 at 11:00 am #

    Hahaha… ok, maybe i was just dreaming. I had a quick look at all the recent news, and cant find it. Lol Sorry!!

  13. Spanish Fry
    March 3, 2008 at 11:17 am #

    Hahah, no worries. Fingers crossed it works out though.

  14. tom
    March 3, 2008 at 12:16 pm #

    ade had a pretty poor game on sat, at least he set up bendtner in the end.

    looking forward to the ac game, should be a cracker. wont be shown on the sbs though!

    it says on the arsenal site that rvp has been training since friday. so they may include him in the squad and give him 50/10 minutes at the end if we’re in a good position.

  15. amiaq_ferguson
    March 3, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/europe/7272514.stm

  16. Scope Knight
    March 3, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    Yes I can confirm that Wenger says RVP will not start the match but will come in as a substitute. I watched the villa match twice and I think we would have come away with 3 points. Yes Villa deserved a point but we wasted too many chances. Fabregas, Helb, Theo and Ade would have buried the game in the second half.The second half was a one way traffic apart from the bursts from Gabby and the wonderful saves from Aluminia.From my perspective Sanderos needs to be glorified irrespective of his own goal cos he has being soo consistent at goal. Remember he has put in two goals for us so we should kindly not owe him any grudge. I thought Gallas wuould have hugged him to boost his confidence cos he felt hard done by the own goal.
    My annoyance is how the press and fellow premiership followers hate Arsenal.Why? Why. I read on soccernet how we are expected to lose in Milan, how we might not win the league, how Arsene is a sour looser.Why? I feel really bad. We are obviously suffering a deep in form but we have just lost once in the league. Meanwhile we need to be our best tommorow cos if we beat milan and our tourists(RVP and Rosiscy) get back we will have depth.Some of our players are tired, Flamini, Fabregas and Helb. They need a rest but what they actually need is a win in milan to increase their confidence.
    I am happy we got a point but I will be behind this team forever.

  17. RvP Fan
    March 3, 2008 at 6:31 pm #

    Lol, thanks Amiaq and Scope Knight! I thought i had read it somewhere..
    I know what you mean about the media. Everything we seem to do is put in a negative light. How much do you think Man Utd are paying them?

  18. cem
    March 3, 2008 at 8:04 pm #

    they doubted us before a ball was kicked and they still doubt us when we are leading by a point and ONLY lost one game all season in the league.
    I say keep underestimating us. We have proved we are a very good team albeit with low confidence right now but its nothing a win could change. I genuinely believe we will eliminate Milan, and then we will march on again.
    And finally to the villa fans at the Emirates. I used to like you but NEVER EVER anymore.

  19. Mimi Wenu
    March 3, 2008 at 9:31 pm #

    The Villa game was a tough one I must admit.We created very few chances compared to our average per game.If we were to end the season trophyless, then it will be down to the usual culprit: lack of depth.The case is not true of our top contenders this season.They have able replacements almost in all positions.If we loose one or more key players then it will be very difficult to even finish second given Chelsea’s current form.I have never understood why it is so hard to spend and buy a few more players whenever we have the opportunity.Ribery,Babel and several other good players were dying to come to us last season but it wasn’t to be.If Man U can afford the luxury of resting its best players and still manage 3 NIL against Fulham why cant we? Or are there other upcoming projects that require funds that we are not aware of?
    You can tell our boys are tiring with each passing game.Burn out.

  20. Nick
    March 4, 2008 at 2:34 am #

    Totally agree with you Mimi. I’ve said it many times, our reluctance to buy will prove our undoing.Yes, players are tired and the ones in the wings are not good enough.We need real competition in all positions and we don’t have that at the moment.Cesc is either tired or just too comfortable knowing there is no threat to his position.
    I admire the optimism from some of you guys but the reality is different, occassionally you have to buy real quality at a cost but we’re not prepared to do that. If we win nothing this year it will be 3 years trophyless.For a club of our stature that isn’t good enough, it’s all well and good talking about the potential we have and our style of football but ultimately it’s about winning trophies.

    Lets hope we win tomorrow to give the players a lift because if we don’t I can’t see us winning the PL.

  21. TayGoon
    March 4, 2008 at 3:59 am #

    Mimi and Nick: You are forgetting that we have “rested” our best player for almost half a season(RVP) and are still on top. Add that to our other best player, Rosicky, and we are going to “rest” DUDU for the remainder of the season. Our Carling Cup squad can beat Fulham 3-0 in their current form. Don’t read too much in the Man U hype created by the media.

    Scope Knight: Nobody likes to be wrong, especially when they consider themselves to be “experts”. It makes matters worse when they were arrogant enough to give their “expert” predictions. Their jobs realy depends on them knowing more that the average joe, so if they are proved that they don’t know what they are supposed to know, why are they getting paid? and who is going to listen to them? The media is just hopping that they don’t end up looking like ignorant buffoons and are praying we slip up so that they can say “I said so”. That and maybe the fact that to them Arsenal is not “English enough”. Enjoy their sufferings while our boys “stick it to them”. I know I do.

  22. TayGoon
    March 4, 2008 at 4:13 am #

    Buying players may not solve or help anything. You have to balance the team, or build a team around a player. We had a team around Henry, as Man U has around Ronaldo. I wouldn’t want us to go back that route again. Even Ronaldo and Kaka were not instant hits. Sheva, Ballack anyone? Why pay millions extra if you have to wait a season or two to see impact while in the same time frame you can get a lesser known and get them up with the big boys?????. Babel, Torres went to Liverpool and they are not exactly world beeters now, are they?. Last season they were playing for 3rd and this season they are in a danger of missing out on the top 5.

  23. Nick
    March 4, 2008 at 11:13 pm #

    Taygoon,most of our so called kids with the exception of Theo have been with the club for close to 3 years now.My point is, how long do we keep faith with some of these youngsters e.g. Diaby,Dennilson,Senderos,Eboue etc.Are we really saying that these guys are some of the best young talent in the footballing world? These guys are in their 20s now,how long do we give them?I just feel a club like ours should always be looking to improve the team, fair play to AW for keeping faith with these guys but I don’t believe these players will develop into world class players and Arsenal need world class footballers.They are good players but not exceptional.I also beg to differ that Torres is not a world class player, I believe he’s in the top 5 forwards in world football and he’s still relatively young.Is Bendtner better than Karim Benzema?

    I am not saying we need wholesale changes or that we should stop our youth policy and start doing what chelsea are doing, buying players past their best like sheva and ballack,but sometimes in football you need to spend 15-20 million to buy exceptional talent.

    Taygoon, I hope you’re right and I’m wrong, even if we win one trophy this year I will conceed that I got it wrong.

    Lets hope we do away with AC tonight and go on to have a fantastic season.

  24. TayGoon
    March 5, 2008 at 1:19 am #

    Nick: On world beaters I didn’t mean individual players. I meant Liverpool, as a team, even with Torres, Babel & CO in it are still struggling. Which means Benzema & Co will not guarantee us success. Sheva was not past his peak when he went to Chelsea. It seems so now because he couldn’t adapt well to the prem. Neither is Ballack. We had Henry just last season. Torres, Benzema etc ARE NOT in the same class as Henry and we didn’t win any trophy for a couple of seasons. It is VERY possible Bendtner could be better than Benzema. We may not know because they have not been given the same chances. Can Benzema cut it in the prem? How about Bendtner in France. We have atleast 3 strickers that are better than Benzema(Adebayor, RVP and Eduardo). Where are you going to put Benzema, considering he may not cut it in the prem? In a different league, and given more chances, Bendtner will be running riot.

    Diaby, Dennilson,Senderos, Eboue, All are very good players that can walk in any prem team and play. Like Flamini in seasons past, they have never been given a run in their natural positions to show how good they are.

    Looking at a bigger picture, it is team play. It is not a coincidence that Wenger plays people out of their natural positions. That is what is giving us the mobility unmatched by any team in the world. Ronaldo really started to shine last season, at 22, Kaka is in mid 20’s. I guess we can beat everyone and still people won’t have faith in our own world-beaters.

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