The way I see it - Aston Villa v Arsenal

Last updated : 01 December 2007 By Jason Hogan
We all know football is full of clichés and we all probably know most of
them like the backs of our hands. There are also other sayings that are as
old as the game itself but they are not necessarily clichés - they are
actually golden rules. One of those golden rules is that you never give a
sucker an even chance.

In my last piece before the Wigan game, I talked about that very thing and
although we managed to avoid doing that against the Latics on Saturday, we
didn't over in Seville on Tuesday.

Never giving a sucker an even chance is not about allowing yourself to be
beaten by a crap side. It's about seeing things though when you are in
charge of a contest and not recklessly giving away the initiative you have
gained to your opponent.

Well, over in Seville, we were a goal up and well in control after 20
minutes against a talented but temperamental Sevilla team that went into
this game without a win in their last four matches and suffering three
defeats. And although Sevilla were not quite down and out mentally against
us on the night, I swear that I saw their heads were beginning to drop
halfway through the first half.

Then, out of nowhere good old Phillipe Senderos goes and makes the sort
hideous unforced error that was the hallmark of Pascal Cygan not so long
ago and suddenly we had a problem. Senderos' error was further compounded
by a further mistake by Gilberto and ultimately Sevilla were level pretty
much of nothing.
The Arsenal lost their shape and their discipline (both on and off the
pitch) from that point onwards. And, save for a half decent spell from us
early on in the second half, the rest of the game belonged to Sevilla.
They got so much joy particularly down their right flank with Alves and
Jesus Navas taking advantage of both Eduardo's reluctance to track back
and Traore's inexperience and, in fairness to the Spaniards, they were
worthy winners.

You know, I remember sitting alongside my buddy Gazza in the North Bank at
Highbury about three years ago and saying to him that I believed that
young Senderos was going to make it big at Arsenal. It saddens me to say
this but I have now run out of patience with young Swiss.
He is genuinely big hearted chap but that only takes you so far. And when
it comes right down to it, he is not mobile enough, dominant enough or
aggressive enough. And, as was the case with Cygan before him, Arsenal
will never win a league title this season or any other season if he is in
the side on a regular basis.

The boy is an accident that is constantly waiting to happen these days and
to my mind if Arsene really wants to have a tilt at the league title he
has to act in January and get a new centre half in.

For all that, Senderos was far from alone in having a bad night on
Tuesday. Gilberto looked a man who wasn't at all focussed on the job in
front of him all night as he gave the ball away and made mistakes with
equal gay abandon. Young Traore may be a heck of a talent for the future
but he got a harsh lesson in what top flight European football can be
like, He was also guilty of giving the ball away recklessly and at times
he looked every inch the 18 year old rookie that he is.

And then we come to Eboue. I have grown as tired of his pathetic antics as
the next Arsenal fan. He just doesn't get it, does he? If he actually
spent more time concentrating on actually playing the game instead of
being surly, petulant and getting embroiled in every little petty scuffle
and squabble going, he might actually become a genuine asset to this
Arsenal side. But I'm not holding my breath waiting for the penny to drop
for this lad.

The one major plus for us on the night was young Bendtner. He was
outstanding on the night. Now I know some Arsenal fans won't like this but
in many ways he reminded of Teddy Sheringham in the way he played in
parts. He does have this ability to drop off and link the play with astute
passes and to be fair to him he is no worse than Adebayor in the air

In the face of what was generally a bad night for Arsenal, it was highly
encouraging to see this boy go some way to living up to his own self
publicity. Keep it up, lad. You might just make it as a quality Arsenal
player yet.

It will be interesting to see what sort of side Arsene picks for the final
group game against Steaua. We have already done what we needed to do and
booked a place in the last 16 and I really don't think we need to win the
group. It's not all that it's necessarily cracked up to be.

I think that a game against a big team in the last 16 might be better for
us because when we met PSV in the last 16 last year, we were the
favourites to win the tie and we allowed ourselves to be dragged down to
their level. I think a tie against an Inter Milan or a Real Madrid would
not be so bad. Remember, we have turned them over before and I for one
wouldn't rule out the possibility of seeing us doing it again. Bring it
on, I say.

Now it's time to look forward to Saturday's trip to Birmingham where we
will face Aston Villa.

After seeing the lads beat Bolton at The Grove a few weeks back, I met up
with Gazza in the Arsenal Tavern for a beverage or several after the game.
Funnily enough, it was the first time I had gone for a drink there for 20
years. It was also the night when Villa played ManUre at home.

Having watched the game, I thought Villa were pretty good in the opening
20-25 minutes or so and they took the lead through Agbonlahor who scored
with a flicked header with less than 15 minutes gone.

But with ten minutes of the first half left, Villa conceded a really soft
equaliser and from that point on Villa seemed to forget the things that
got them in front in the first place and they went on to concede another
goal on the stroke of half time.

The game was up for them after that. They never recovered their poise.
Scott Carson and Nigel Reo-Coker got themselves sent off and in the end,
ManUre gave them a bit of a doing.

Despite that defeat and the red cards that came with it, there were
actually some positives that came out of that game for Villa and they have
since gone on an unbeaten league run of five games, winning the last four.

The last of those wins came against Blackburn on Wednesday night at Ewood
Park. It was a thumping 4-0 at that and although Blackburn has Ryan Nelsen
sent off, Villa were one up at the time anyway. It was victory that was
impressive in anyone's language and they couldn't go into this Saturday's
game in better heart.

When looking at their star turn at the moment I suppose you can't look too
far beyond Agbonlahor. The kid has pace to burn and a definite eye for
goal. As we all know he has been linked with us in recent times. But, if
the bidding really starts at £15 million for this kid I would (much as I
like him as a player) want a little more bang for my buck if you catch my

Gareth Barry seems to have come on a bundle in the last year or so at
Villa Park. He was the man making Villa tick the other night at Ewood and,
after spells playing as a left back and left sided midfielder, he has
definitely seems to have got to grips with being a central midfielder.

But, you know what is probably most ominous for me about Villa as an
Arsenal fan, right now? John Carew has struck some form. He is exactly the
sort of player that gives our defenders problems. He has a big lad with a
bit of pace and power and on his day he is no mug.

What's more, anyone that can destroy the likes of Nelsen and Samba in the
air like he did at Ewood on Wednesday must command respect. And of course
it's worth remembering that Carew also has previous against us from his
Valencia days when he put us out of the Champions League twice in the
space of three seasons.

So, in layman's terms, this cannot be viewed as anything less than tricky
game for Arsenal. Having seen is getting turned over in the week, the
Anti-Arsenal brigade in the press, the media and beyond will be creaming
themselves just at the prospect of seeing Villa turning this week into
what they will see as a demoralising double whammy.

However, since the summer I have said that this is a season where every
game carries an incentive for us in that it gives us a chance to prove
people wrong and dispel all the criticisms that people have about Arsenal.
After Tuesday night, this game should hold more incentive than ever. It's
a chance for us to put the record straight quickly. If we want to be
genuine title contenders, this is a chance we need to take.