Villa 0 – 0 Arsenal: Arsenal’s lack of ammunition exposed

Aston Villa 0 – 0 Arsenal
Match Report | Highlights (?) | Arsene’s reaction 

This was a deadly dull game…
I’m always loathe to call Arsenal games boring.  It sounds a bit spoilt, like I’m some sort of prawn sandwich-scoffing ponce who demands to be entertained.  However, this was truly tedious.  Goalscoring chances were few and far between, and midfield play was turgid and tentative.

A point is a poor result…
No away game is easy, but a side in the top four has to be looking to win pretty much every game they play.  Villa played well, but to put things in perspective, they ended the weekend in the relegation zone, behind the likes of Norwich, Wigan and Southampton.  These are games a club of our supposed ambition should be taking three points from.

Substituting Olivier Giroud for Francis Coquelin infuriated me…
…and I wasn’t alone.   The away fans openly booed and chanted “you don’t know what you’re doing” at Arsene.  The only precedent I can think of is the removal of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Manchester United.  On that occasion, I did my best to back the manager.  This time, I’m not sure I can.  Lukas Podolski had been withdrawn, as has become customary, at the 70 minute mark.  With the German off the field, Giroud was our only credible goal threat.  I appreciate he was tired, but the game was almost over.  An extra five minutes would not have killed him.  Taking him off, for a defensive midfielder of all things, was a tacit admission that we were content with a draw.  Against a tiring Villa side, this show of reduced ambition pained me.  A top side – Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, for example – would have thrown on a forward and gone for the win.

A crucial difference, of course, is that United would have a forward to throw on…
The need for a striker is pressing.  Gervinho is not a striker.  Theo Walcott is not (yet) a striker.  Lukas Podolski is a striker, but is required to play on the left wing, because we have no-one else realistically capable of filling that position.  Marouane Chamakh is a striker, but is so far out of favour that he didn’t even make the bench yesterday.  Giroud is the only realistic option to play centre-forward at the club.  It’s a situation that can needs resolving sooner rather than later – and not with a temporary fix like the return of Thierry Henry.  Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Fernando Llorente are both just six months away from the end of their contracts with Schalke and Bilbao.  Theo Walcott might not be worth £100k p/week to us, but either of these two might be.

Why bother taking Jack Wilshere with the squad?
The young midfielder spent the entire game sat on the bench.  Arsene admitted after the game he didn’t want to use him unless absolutely necessary.  I’m sorry, but for me, toiling to a 0-0 draw against a side as poor as Villa necessitates the introduction of a creative talent like Wilshere.  If he’s not fit to play, leave him at home.

Andrey Arshavin ought to be given more of a chance…
Speaking of creative talents, I have to say I’ve generally been impressed with the little I’ve seen of Andrey Arshavin this season.  I certainly think he’s a more worthwhile substitute than Gervinho, whose first two touches of the ball yesterday were both hideous pieces of miscontrol.  It seems likely that Arshavin will be allowed to leave in January, but between now and then I’d back him to make a telling contribution or two.

It’s telling where Arsene chose to rotate…
He changed both his full-backs, which is arguably where he has the most strength in depth.  Gibbs, Santos and Vermaelen are three credible options at left-back, whilst Jenkinson, Sagna and even Coquelin give him options on the right.  He also left out Wilshere for Aaron Ramsey, in a box-to-box midfield role that has been also been filled by Diaby and Coquelin in the course of this season.  There are, however, several players in the side that Arsene simply cannot afford to leave out: Arteta, Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud.  Unsurprisingly, it is these players who are beginning to look jaded.  The transfer window is only a month or so away.  If we’re to make the Champions League, Arsene will have to recruit some trustworthy alternatives to prevent these key players being run in to the ground.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.