Arsenal (0) 1 - 1 (0) Aston Villa|
Emirates Stadium, Saturday 19th August 2006
Eboue Toure Djourou Hoyte (Flamini 80)
Hleb Gilberto Cesc Ljungberg (Walcott 72)
Henry Adebayor (van Persie 65)
As brand spanking new stadiums go, it's pretty impressive. It might take
a while before home games feel like home games, but Villa did their best
to help make it feel like one - getting everyone behind the ball and
allowing us to play our "trying to walk the ball into the net through
a congested penalty area" home style. Everyone's said it before but
we'll keep saying it till it starts happening... Arsenal need to take
a chance on a shot a bit more often. Cos if you don't capitalise on
dominance, this is what happens. Every so often the opposition
grabs the first goal against the run of play, then defend like demons.
Can't fault Martin O'Neill or his team, for their industry and in
particular their pressing in midfield they deserved a draw. Or rather,
we didn't deserve more than a draw.
It started promisingly. They kicked off and within seconds
Cesc Fabregas had robbed Gareth Barry on the right and started
an attack. Emmanuel Adebayor brought the ball down that wing,
played it infield to Thierry Henry who touched it on to Alexander Hleb
in the D, but the ball was always running away from him a bit as he tried to
take it sideways and make space for a shot, and the ball was cleared.
Up the other end and Barry won a free kick which was floated into
our box then headed (I think by
an Arsenal player) across it where it fell to Luke Moore on our left -
a decent chance which he hit low and straight at Jens Lehmann.
On 6 minutes we had a good move started by a run from Freddie Ljungberg
(showing few signs of the injury that apparently nearly kept him
out). It came infield to Henry who exchanged passes with Cesc on the
edge of the box before the ball was played wide right to Hleb. His tricky
run ended with a tackle that took the ball to Emmanuel Eboue who managed
to force Sorenson to save from a narrow angle.
Cesc took the corner
which found the head of Adebayor - he directed it down and goalwards but
it was cleared off the line by JLloyd Samuel for another corner. Barry
cleared this one for another corner, which in turn was cleared upfield.
We had a lot of corners in this match.
The next half chance came on 13 mins when Gilberto hit a terrific looping pass
forward for Henry to run onto. He took the ball down well but it just ran away
from him enough for a defender to get in and poke it through for
Sorenson to hoof clear.
A few minutes later it was Cesc's turn to
try a long ball forward for Henry, from the left back position. It
was coming over the skipper's shoulder as he spun round into the hole
and ran forward to take it,
but this time he misjudged the flight and it ended up hitting
the back of the shoulder and falling safe.
Up the other end, Angel was put clean through on Lehmann but given
offside, and he missed the easy chance anyway.
A sharp Arsenal move ended with Henry slipping the ball in on
the right for Freddie who tried to square to Adebayor but the
box was full of Villa's white away shirts and it never got through.
Halfway through the half, a great ball came looping in from our right
which Henry met with a volley over the bar, but he'd been (wrongly)
given offside anyway.
A coupel of minutes later a great passing move took the ball into the box
where we passed it around for a while with no-one wanting to shoot.
Eventually it fell to Gilberto who did have a go, but it was deflected wide.
Half an hour in, Eboue hacked someone down on the touchline as they looked like
past him, and I thought Graham Poll was going to book him till Cesc
distracted him by standing on his heel.
The free kick came forward down their left and a dangerous cross
came in, square and level with the 6 yard line. Johan Djourou
managed to stop it in the air, facing the goal and with a striker
bearing down on him, and then hook it clear. Acrobatic, a bit dangerous,
but well executed. Up the other end there was another half chance
for Henry who sliced his shot well wide under pressure. Moments
later Henry's nice turn into space created by a diagonal run
from Adebayor gave him the opportunity for a left foot
shot from just outside the box, which flew just over the top
let corner of the goal frame.
On 34, Freddie picked the ball up 10 yards
into the Villa half and hit a firm shot but straight at Sorenson's chest.
Eboue had been holding back but now he started getting forward. Twice he
got the ball on the right of the box but wasted the chance to cross,
perhaps not entirely his fault as the support wasn't great. Then he
got into the same position and shot over the bar. But he was at least helping
to make things happen - we'd been dominating but not makng chances.
Hoyte's hooked attempt at a clearance from our box hit himself in the face and nearly
fell to Angel, but Kolo Toure dealt with it.
On 41 Cesc hit a shot from 25 yards which flashed less than a yard over the bar.
A minute later Davis slipped the ball trhough for Angel but he didn't
take the shot when he had the chance, allowing Djourou to make a
terrific sliding tackle.
A nice cross from Hoyte (at last also
getting forward) nearly got through to Henry, it popped up in the air
and Adebayor was penalised (it looked harsh from the other end of the
ground) for jumping with Sorenson.
As the hald drew to a close, Moore
was put through on Lehmann in a very threatening position but given
offside - a very late call from the linesman.
In injury time a Cesc free kick was headed home by Toure but correctly
disallowed for offside.
The second half started with a good Arsenal break, Henry bringing the ball
through the middle before passing wide left to Freddie whose low cross
to the near post was turned out for a corner before it could reach Adebayor.
The corner was put out for another corner, which was fumbled by Sorenson
but he caught it again before it could fall on the goal-line.
Freddie played a nice ball into the middle for Cesc who tried and failed to
find Adebayor when he could have tried a shot.
Henry and Adebayor passes the ball back and forward between the 2 of them
a few times, in the box, neither prepared to have a go at a shot. Then,
7 minutes after the restart, Villa won a corner and Mellberg was allowed a free header
from about 7 yards out which gave Lehmann no chance - but only because he didn't
come for it. Mellberg was left unmarked too, so the blame was spread around a
bit. Very soft goal.
Hleb got the ball in space on the right of the Villa box but there
was little support and after a few moments of trying to spot a worthwhile
ball into the crowded box he tried instead to pass it back and
central to Gilberto in the D but his shot was blocked before he
could even get to it.
On 58 minutes, a cross from Hoyte came to Adebayor off of 2 defenders'
deflections. He was close to the right hand post with
the keeper blocking his way, and although the Togalese striker did
well to get round Sorenson, a defender did well to get back and clear off
the line when Adebayor poked it goalwards.
Eboue got into that position deep to the right of the goal again and
forced another near post save, then 20 minutes into the second half Adebayor was brought off
to be replaced by Robin van Persie. Freddie won a free kick which
Henry curled over the wall but it didn't come down quick enough to
trouble Sorenson.Toure got booked for a late challenge on Angel, probably
a correct card but Angel should have got one for his ridiculous
antics - rolling around on the ground, to and fro and with such energy that he
appeared to bounce up and down. Why you'd do that if you were inured is anyone's
guess - his tumbling was probably more likely to cause injury than
Then with 18 minutes to go Theo Walcott finally made his first team debut
(coming on for Freddie) and just 3 minutes later he was involved in our
best move so far. He broke down the left and exchanged passes with Henry
before the ball made it way via van Persie to Eboue again deep on the right.
His shot was blocked by Sorenson but came back to Eboue whose second
effort crashed down off the crossbar only to be cleared from the 6 yard
box with no Arsenal player following in.
Henry danced along the edge of the box then hit a shot from the left which
would have curled inside the top corner (it was coming right at me)
if it weren't for a block after a couple of yards which took it out
for a corner.
Cesc hit a good diagonal cross from the left wing which van Persie
managed to jump and get a head to, but it went a foot over the bar.
Then with 10 minutes left Wenger made his thrid and final substitution,
bringing on Mathieu Flamini for Hoyte (who hadn't had a bad game overall,
but hadn't got involved enough going forward). Hleb hit a low shot
which was blocked by Angel on the 6 yard line, and the keeper had it covered anyway.
We got another free kick in Henry territory, but he left it for van Persie
who hit a very disappointing low shot straight into the wall.
Finally with 7 minutes to go the
deserved equaliser arrived. Walcott was involved again, having been fed by Hleb after
the Belarussian had carried the bal forward well. He chipped the ball
towards the far post, via glancing header from van Persie, where it
found Gilberto in the position that Eboue had found himself in so many
times, unmarked on the right of the box. The Brazilian showed Eboue
the way, with a fierce drive from a narrow angle which gave the
keeper no chance.
If we're going to get this much ball, we still need to practice shooting
a bit more readily, and if we're going to get this many corners then
we need to practice taking them a bit more effectively. Same old, same old.
But to be fair to Villa, they put up a lot more fight than I'd