If anyone is going to break into the top four I'd expect it to be Villa, but they didn't help themselves by turning up in something resembling a Tottenham kit. To do so against the Arsenal often has dire consequences. It was definitely hip flask weather at Arsenal today, not that you're allowed to use them of course, neither can you obtain a nip from the seriously crap caterers in the lower tier. I'd don't need cold naff larger this weather thanks I need a winter warmer, how difficult is that to figure out?
No Fabregas, Robin, Rosicky, Gael, Gibbs or Nick. At least not to start with, although Cesc was just about fit enough to be up for a spot of bench warming. Villa's attacking line up was encouraging even though you knew they'd be playing just the one up front in the form of Agbonlahor who's beginning to look a bit porky. Fast but fat is how I'd assess him, also a touch on the belligerent side. Also on the chunky side for Villa were Heskey, Dunne and Petrov. But any team that fancies attacking us give our boys a decent chance. Especially given the fact that you have to rate our passing ability above most others in the Premiership, including Villa. And any team that has Luke Young and Stephen Warnock as full backs look to tempting fate.
Height wise you could see why they fancied long throws and balls pumped into our box but both Gallas and Vermaelen had massive games today to counter this all too predictable ploy. Sagna and Traore also played worthy parts in the early afternoon proceedings. Villa's best spell followed some decent early play by Arsenal which lacked both bite and penetration but suggested we could cope sufficiently well in midfield if to kill off any threat from Villa. Eduardo continued his spasmodic form and Arshavin was fairly anonymous in the first half although both showed a few encouraging touches. We won some corners and not a lot else as Villa closed us fast and worked hard.
Ed and Andrey had a limp shot each before Ashley Young had a shot deflected for a corner with Almunia well beaten. Then Cuellar shot wide with our goal gaping in a spell of Villa pressure. Downing shot wide from a half clearance. Dunne battered Almunia and the ball into our net but Phil Dowd was in minimal cautions mode, so there was no card. Gallas nearly got there from an Eduardo corner as did Diaby who headed over from one sent across by Nasri. Denislon set up Song who saw his shot deflected. Denilson was then fouled twice before getting the free kick on the edge of their area but his shot and the follow up were both blocked. We started and ended the goal less half ok but in-between times Villa had the best of it.
The most encouraging factor after the break was the sight of Carlos, Theo and Cesc all warming up. Worse yet Bill had his one dodgy moment when he gave the ball away whilst stranded upfield. Milner appeared to be receiving favourable treatment from Dowd, but it was noticeable that Villa required more fouls to keep us at bay. Ashley Young picked up a yellow card for diving and there could have been another yellow when Diaby was taken out off the ball. Eight minutes into the half Denilson disappeared down the tunnel to be replaced by Cesc and it was like throwing a switch as Arsenal saw the light and Cesc conducted proceedings. A foul by Petrov on Eduardo was well worthy of a yellow. Cesc blitzed the free kick low over Friedel's bar.
The AA man had a shot saved as we piled on the pressure. Downing lucky to win a free kick conceded by Arshavin and Agbonlahor even luckier when the big tart went down all too easily. Dunne kicked Cesc up in the air but again there was no card, just a handily placed free kick outside the box and left of centre. Cesc did what Denilson did against Hull and hammered it home just inside the post. 1-0 to the Arsenal and it was now one way traffic. Usually the first to score in big games wins it but with this being Arsenal and with twenty-five minutes left to play nothing was certain. Song booked for a dive. Carew, on for Heskey (a huge lump being replaced by a mega-lump) fouled Vermaelen in their half, such was our pressure. Gallas offside as Theo has a dig, see how we defend a one-nil lead - with Bill up front. Dunne fouled Theo and quite clearly threw the ball away, but like I said Dowd was attempting to work in a card free zone. Almunia out fast to stop an attack. Cesc haled down by Cuellar. A great break and a great cross by Theo but no one was on the end of it, that said he might have chanced his arm with a shot.
Traore broke up an attack down their right and started a seriously fast break by Theo down the right with Cesc charging down the middle. Theo's ball to his captain was perfect and Cesc met it as a ball should be met by any self-respecting genius. 2-0 Arsenal but Cesc pulled up lame as a result of his efforts. What an amazing cameo by the captain though, and what a massive heartfelt ovation as he left the field to be replaced by Ramsey.
Gallas was required to head clear. Carew had a weak headed effort. Ashley Young showed he had no left foot and Almunia saved at the feet of Agbonlahor by his near post. Play continued in piss-take mode most of the time and this included a Arshavin nutmeg. In the four minutes of added time, for god knows what, Diaby decided to stroll through the depressed Villa midfield and stroke home a shot from outside the box as if he was playing in a training match. 3-0 to the Arsenal in a second half slaughter of the Villa that will have seriously dented their aspirations of a top four place. Time still to laugh at a back pass by Dunne across his own goal that went for a corner and for Dowd to book their substitute Delph for a foul on Ramsey. This was a big, big win and will boost our confidence no end.
Two dropped points in five matches in any other season wouldn't be what's required but this season that's top four form at very least. Four points behind the Chavs with a game in hand, who'd have thought that six league games ago?