The early end to end stuff didn't last long as Villa played most of the match with five across the middle and just Angel up front to back in to Kolo for the entire match. I spotted just one minor error from Kolo who did well against Angel without any assistance from referee who even booked Kolo for what he claimed to be his third foul when in fact it wasn't even a foul but if it had been it would have been his first. Kolo is about to become a cult hero. Wenger says we won't know until October or November if the experiment with Toure at the back works. Trust me Arsene, I saw Terry Neill, David O'Leary and Tony Adams who were all young centre backs given a chance and they took it, for my money Kolo is doing the same. Early days granted but he looks more comfortable playing with the whole game in front of him and his speedy covering has been top drawer.
Sorensen saved well from Thierry on a break. Pires went close. Long range shots were all Villa could manage and Jens took them with ease. A great run from Pat, a fine break from Freddie put the pressure on and a great ball from Toure to Henry saw his chip go just inches wide with the keeper beaten. Shortly after Freddie hit the bar with another great chip that had their keeper beaten. Hendrie hung onto Pat for a yellow card. Arsenal's pressure was relentless. A Pires cross a flicked header and another save by Sorensen. A brilliant tackle by Pat but Dean awarded Villa a free kick. We had almost total control but Angel went very close with a low right foot shot from the left that went just past the far post. The men in yellow and black did try to play football and on occasions managed to but we were always in charge.
Plenty of movement up front but resolute defending from Villa was almost the total story of the first half. Ten men back was the norm whenever we attacked. Pires had a shot blocked. Henry was fouled four times before finally getting the free kick. Angel chopped Sol as he broke forward for a booking. Kolo was up for a one two with Freddie. Kolo was carded for an Angel stumble, total bollocks! Six back for Villa as Henry set up Rob who slipped. Pires was shoved over by Freddie's best pal Mellberg. Rob had words and was clearly miffed. Half time, and it was basically one way traffic, but it was still nil-nil.
Villa were out early for the second half but it took nine passes from Arsenal before they could touch the ball, and that was the way of it for most of the second half. Ten men back again to stop more good moves from Arsenal, a stalemate seemed a possibility but we worked well throughout and the players never got panicked into anything other than neat moves from here there and everywhere. Angel backing into Kolo, Henry eased Mellberg into the advertising boards, it was competitive but rarely dirty despite all the yellow cards. The Arsenal subs warmed up after only ten minutes gone, a clear message from Le Boss that we needed to work even harder - so we did. Eleven Villa men back for a corner and one of them, Samuel I think, went for an own goal, which appeared to be headed off the line onto the bar and away, but only as far as Sol who powered home a header whilst impersonating a flying wardrobe. 1-0 to the Arsenal. 'Sol's a Gooner' 'One nil to the Arsenal'
Barry went over the top on Ash as the game got a tad steamier. Vassell on for Kinsella who'd done little other than defend whilst Vassell did very little other than get caught offside. A cross from Pat was hit from a narrow angle on the volley by Sylvain, but it was well over. Dennis on for Wiltord with twenty-four minutes to play. A great Henry run ended with a weak shot. Great hold up play by Rob to put Ashley in for a cross, which Thierry missed completely. A bad foul by Whittingham on Gilberto was 'played on' but a yellow was flashed when play finally stopped. Hendrie was hanging on to Pat and seriously annoying him, they had words, and then they had a head to head discussion before Rob separated them. The Clock End responded with the chant of the night; 'Get your mascot, get your mascot, get your mascot off the pitch'.
Ray to Henry to Rob for a header wide when he might have done better. Still Arsenal pressed, still Arsenal worked, and still Arsenal played quality football. Lehmann made a high catch, Parlour was hauled over but nothing was given. Barry dived in a clear attempt to get Pat booked the little toe rag, that's him out of my fantasy team the cheating jerk! Hadji shoved Dennis over then kicked the ball away but no card was shown. Ray and Thierry combined well, it hadn't been a game where our full backs were allowed any space but we still worked the angles and made the runs. A rare four on four break on the counter attack for Arsenal ended tamely. Three minutes added time. Dennis won a great 50-50 ball, the ball squirted up and forward so Henry went on the chase and was too fast for the speed cameras and everyone else. Sorensen was caught in no-mans land and with 2 minutes 53 seconds of added time gone we made it 2-0 as Henry slipped it into an empty net.
That puts us top of the League on goal difference. Wonderful stuff, great perseverance, a great team effort and 93 minutes of hard work justly rewarded. Not every game will be won in cruise control, we ground this one out and that's what you need to do if you want to be Champions at the end of the season.