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Glam Racket - Arsenal Away Report


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Copious mugs of tea, spanish omelette and orange juice. These are just some of the things that are currently doing their best to alleviate the fuzzy headed, bleary Sunday "morning after" feeling that follows one of the Villa's best performances for a long time.

Yesterday was a long old day, starting as it did at the unholy hour of 6:30 am ( I had forgotten there even is a 6:30 am). But anyway, many hours of train travel later I'd made it down to fancy London to meet up in the pub with fellow VT'er Paulo Barnesi, Nigel from the VFC days and a now familiar cast of travelling and London based Villans. Drink was drunk, Pizza was scoffed, and we mostly agreed that Villa would probably lose to Arsenal, what with them having last week beaten Man U, and us having managed to lose the last 2 league games. Arsenal fans in the pub though were not as confident that they would win as we thought they should have been. We were to see why as the day unfolded.

A move of pubs, a march to the ground, where outside I picked up a Programme for a mate's lad and a copy of H&V for myself (there's no competition which is the better read and value - 3 quid for a catalogue of luxury flats for sale, O2 adverts and to be fair some of that indispensable information which is suddenly less indispensable once you've actually seen it - the thoughts of Arsene, or the reserve scores for example, as against the considered and considerable comment and analysis of real people). Anyway I digress.

Villa's third visit to the shrine of 21st century executive class football saw a number of changes - Luke Young at left back, Carlos at right back, Curtis and Martin Laursen in the middle. The Midfield three of Gareth, Stan Petrov and Sidders, with Milner and Ash wide and Gabby on his lonesome up front.

Straight from the kick off you could see Villa were "at it" - taking the game to Arsenal, with Ash, Barry and Gabby all prominent. When we had the ball we used it well, when we didn't they all worked like trojans to stop Arsenal's pass and move game. When Arsenal are on song, they are irresistible, both as a spectacle and as a team. The only way to stop yourself being driven dizzy is to stay calm, organised, controlled and to pose a threat yourselves. That's what Villa did, and it was a joy.

The only thing missing was a goal. There were plenty of chances, but either the keeper was well positioned, or shots went wide. No doubt though that Villa were the better side. And then a penalty. Fabregas or Nasri initially fouled Gareth in midfield, but with him down injured play was waved on. A shot, blocked, ball back out for Ash to run on to, or a defender to clear. But the defender was too slow and Ashley went down over his leg. To be honest I was not at all convinced it was a definite pen. With GB now being treated off the pitch, Ashley wanted to take it himself. He did and it was feeble. Almunia saved and Gallas hacked clear before Ash could knock in the rebound.

Their good fortune didn't really spur Arsenal on, and Ash was now like a man possessed, trying to make amends for his miss. But half time arrived with the game goal-less. Villa I felt should have been at least 2 up.

The second half started with Arsenal managing 10 minutes of control on the game and the concern was that we'd blown a real good chance to get a win. But Arsenal's threat faded, floundering on the intelligent defending, organised midfield play and good use of the ball shown by Villa. I can't stress enough how pleasing it was to see Villa "footballing" a performance against a Sky 4 team.

Things got markedly better for Villa when a break down the left by Ash left him with time to pick out a peach of a cross from Gabby to run on to and head into the net. He was closely tracked by a defender but the whole thing was fast and precise. 20 minutes left on the electric scoreboard. Noise in the away end, glumness in the rest of the ground.

Arsenal shuffled their side around, Adebayor came on, and that mexican lad up front. Their left back was carted off injured with a poorly leg, hurt when he lost the ball in the build up to the goal.

Villa just carried on with the intelligent play. There was no sense that Arsenal were building up any kind of head of steam, but they're always capable, as our last 2 visits have seen, of getting a goal back right at the end. Really only Theo Walcott looked a threat, and he was superbly mastered by Carlos, with able assistance from the rest of the side. On one occasion we saw Gabby surge back in a real speed race to stop a pass into space being picked up by his equally lightning England (if there's any justice) colleague.

While in "Gabby time" everything happens in a blur, in fan time the minutes slowed right down. 10 left, then still 10 left. 5 minutes later 9 minutes and five seconds left. Then the natural order has to re-align the 2 time zones, so a clearance is chased by Gab and Gallas. Time stops. There's no doubt who was going to win the race to the ball, but until recently there has always been some doubt as to what would happen when he gets there first. Not any more. He held off Gallas, knocked it a couple of paces forwards and then belted it past Almunia. Pandemonium in the way end, seats emptying all round the rest of the stadium.

Apart from a header against the outside of the post, and a couple of hits dealt with ably by Brad, the storm never came, Villa ran the ball into corners and eased themselves to a truly merited win.

A race back to the station, through the under-tube network, exchanged smiles and handshakes with fellow claret and blue travellers. Then a couple of swift pints at the station. Thanks from a Spurs fan, a good chat with some Arsenal fans - I've never met one who isn't thoroughly decent. They grumbled about the ref, Riley, they wondered whether "Arsene's lost it", but agreed that Villa were much the better side on the day.

The train journey back was a long and happy one. It seemed rude not to tuck in to some swillo, under the circs.

Home at midnight. 18 hours spent to see 90 minutes of football. Well worth it.

Some marks for the team - 110. The famous Ron Saunders 110% was given and 10 marks each were earned by the players

Brad - did let one shot bounce back out into play, but otherwise he was calm and controlled.

Carlos. Won his battle

Curtis - Won his battles and aided in the covering of Theo.

Martin Laursen. Had Bendtnar in his pocket.

Luke Young - utterly solid.

Jimmy Milner - massive effort put in, just never stops running. Didn't always manage to beat his man, in fact didn't often do so, but with that level of effort, their left back just could not, for a moment, rest easy.

Stevie Sidwell. Very good. I was sceptical about how he would fit in at Villa, but yesterday shows there are no concerns at all. Paulo raved about his performance, and rightly so.

Stan Petrov - we didn't half miss him when he was out. Superb.

GB - excellent performance from Gareth. Some people have questioned him recently. Anyone who saw him yesterday would surely recognise his importance and his quality.

Ash - livewire is the word they use to describe performances like his yesterday. Rubbish pen, mind.

Gabby. 2 goals. The thing about Gab is how you can see the improvement almost with each game. His hold up play and his use of the ball is something I wouldn't have believed possible. Just fantastic.

MoTM - Martin O'Neill. The team was set up right, the tactics were right, the attitude was right, the work-rate, the team ethic, the style were all splendid. Looking back over the past seasons, we were stuffed in the last game at highbury, O'Leary went. Then in the first game at the emirates we scored through Olly, and just defended, a draw "against the odds". Then last season we had a bit of a go, got a goal from a rare-ish attack and Arsenal piled on the pressure and scored right at the end. It might have felt like a defeat, but the performance showed promise. And this season we ran the game and deserved to win. Patience is thin in football, but perseverance is important. When you've got a good manager, keep him.

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Excellent report as always Mr B

i was just saying to my lad (12) that he should really savour games like this one and the win over Ajax last month. You jjust never know - I was 15 when Dennis lifted the European Cup and I just assumed it would always be like that and sort of took it for granted a little, and of course it wont, not even for the mega teams.

So, to witness Villa strolling to a win at Arsenal a month after comfortably seeing off Ajax and a week before ending the United hoodoo, well kiddo, enjoy it, appreciate its significance and savour each and every little bit, cos I certainly am this time around :-).

Who knows,maybe its the start of something more? We will see, but for today I'm just enjoying being a Villa fan and really,really looking forward to the next game

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Great read Blandy. I thoroughly enjoyed the game from row 21 and agree with your MOTM. I must say I do enjoy going to the Emirates. Terrific stadium. Glad that Villa supplied the atmosphere…!

Felt a bit sorry for my young lad who is Arsenal first and Villa second but bearing in mind I remembered his smug little grin when they beat us 5-drubbing at that last match at Highbury, I soon got over it! Going into the Arsenal club shop in my Villa shirt for a little consolation prize for the lad had me thinking I would possibly get lynched but there was no way I was taking it off! I was surprised but pleased that Arsenal fans were nodding and saying 'well done Villa'. Good sportsmanship from fans in this day and age is something to be appreciated. I applaud them for this.

Great day all round. Now, about ManU…

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I woke up at 6am to get the coach at 8am down to london ended up staying the night in london and sleeping in the coach station and getting the first coach home at 6am, eventually getting home at 11am. One of the best days of my life. A game which I will always remember.

Excellent performance all round and we showed what we can really do on our day. UTV

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