We are all aware of the result by now, so I feel safe enough to wax lyrical about our performance against Aston Villa. For anyone who isn’t aware and has successfully severed themselves from society in order to avoid knowing the result – we won 5-0.
My day began early but with an enticing carrot dangled in front of me I made short work of the rail and tube. By 10:30 I was at my temple – Piebury Corner.
I went for my personal favourite – the Thierry Henry which is venison in red wine – with a side order of a scotch egg. It didn’t simply sate my hunger – it smote it. By this time my Goonersphere Pod compadre @GreeneBantern who baulked at the speed of which I ate my hearty meal.
We left as the crowds began to eye our seats. We made our way to The Tollington and imbibed a couple of drinks not only for luck and to adhere to social convention – but because the temperature was more akin to a Polar Bear’s nether regions. The whisky helped in this respect.
We soon left and made the short walk to The Emirates. It doesn’t matter how many pilgrimages I make to our beautiful stadium, I still marvel at how the goosebumps reveal themselves without fail as soon as I enter its vicinity.
Michael ( @GreeneBantern ) was sat in the North Bank and I was located in the Clock End. We parted ways and attended the game. And what a game we witnessed.
The news that Mesut Ozil was starting on the left would have no doubt been met with sighs of derision. Never mind that he has made that role his own with Die Mannschaft. It matters not that our forward four constantly interchange and never occupy a static slot. I think his performance silenced a few doubters.
From kick-off, it was pretty evident that our movement was pretty sharp. Villa were intent on playing a tight game with their sole outlet being the direct ball to Benteke. With Per reading the game so well, the towering Belgian didn’t muster a threat. Paul Lambert had rocked up to our home with the singular intent to frustrate. Our passing combinations soon rendered that plan moot.
The first goal was scored by Olivier Giroud, but the assist perfectly summed up the man who provided it. A waist height ball was hit towards the Umlauted One. He had his back to goal and was stood in the centre of the pitch. With one movement he backheeled the ball straight into an onrushing and extremely grateful Giroud’s path. It was fluid, it was instinctive but it exhibited the almost ethereal vision our freaky-eyed German possesses. It should be replayed on loop to aspiring players.
With the rest of the first half, we kept up our level, passing and moving without letting our foot off of Villa’s throat. We should have had another two goals but profligate finishing and Brad Guzan put paid to those hopes. Santi was buzzing around, Ramsey, despite a couple of needless flicks was industrious. Theo and Ozil were constantly switching and floating, eager to take charge of the ball. Theo showed his rustiness in front of goal but the fact he got in those positions showed promise. the half time whistle blew and there was a feeling of satisfaction that we had played so well but caution was also in the air as none of us are strangers to a shock comeback.
For the first two minutes of the second half, Villa looked to shrug off the shackles that our defenders and their own attacking limitations placed on them. A period of possession, followed by a Benteke 12yd shot that went wide was not the herald of the winds of change. It just woke us up.
Ozil made it two to the good after Giroud returning the favour. The finish was pure Mesut – a precise low finish into the bottom corner. Pure silk.
Soon after, Theo got in on the act. It was so rewarding seeing faith repaid. Walcott started off the move, passed to Santi who gave it back to Theo who was running toward the box. He took it in his stride before curling an effort past Guzan. A great goal and good to see Theo exhibiting that his touch is returning after gathering up a potentially troubling ball before dispatching it with interest.
For the last half an hour, the game was reminiscent of a sadistic cat toying with a trapped and helpless mouse. The “Ole’s” started and Villa were out of ideas and steam. By this time, Chuba Akpom had come on in place of an effective Olivier Giroud. It was Chuba who made the fourth with a run into the box before being chopped down by an onrushing Guzan. The penalty was taken by Santi and it was poor. He put it centrally and within easy reach of the American but he proceeded to flap it into the net. Cue the ensuing howls of laughter from Gooners. It was delicious to watch.
By this time, fans of both sides had started to leave in a vain attempt to avoid the human traffic. The golden rule of attending matches though, unless you have a trek home on your hands, is never leave before the final whistle. The ones who did missed Hector Bellerin provide arguably the best of the finishes. A 25 yard sidefoot into the corner was as much of a shock as it was a beautiful finish. It was also his first goal for Arsenal after some assured displays of late. That was the 90th minute and after navigating the last few minutes, the whistle blew to signal the end of a game that would struggle to improve as a spectacle.
We exhibited all the strengths we are synonymous with. Rapidity of thinking, quickfire passing exchanges and fluidity of movement. It was a joy to behold but it wasn’t all rapier attacking. Any time Villa reared its head to mount a meaningful attack – either Coquelin with his masterful interceptions or Mertesacker with his expert positioning – nulled the danger. They were on form and the solid foundation our attacking architects needed to wreak the damage we witnessed.
It was easy to get carried away on the positivity of our excellent result versus Manchester City as it was an excellent riposte to the tide of doubt that was awash over even the most positive of fan. Couple that game versus this result and it points toward a corner turned. More resolute and mature defending. More playing to our strengths. Consider me carried away. We have enough to fret over as Gooners and who knows when the next hiccup will occur so let’s enjoy this near-perfect victory and our near full-strength squad. What a day it was.