Archive for December 28th, 2009

Arsenal 3 – 0 Villa: Fabregas cameo wins the day – but at what cost?

Add comment December 28th, 2009

Fabregas celebrates his stunning first

Arsenal 3 – 0 Aston Villa (Fabregas 65, 81, Diaby 90)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

It was a very deliberate move by Arsene Wenger.  By naming Cesc Fabregas on the bench, he gave himself an option few managers are afforded.  If Arsenal were struggling to break a sturdy Aston Villa down, he could turn to a combative, creative, goalscoring (if not entirely fit) leader to try and make the difference.  Yesterday, when just that scenario occurred, the number four trotted out on to the pitch with the hopes of 60,000 fans on his shoulders.  When he limped off just tenty-five minutes the later, the game was won.  It’s fair to say he delivered.

Up until that point, Arsenal had been solid but not spectacular.  Villa clearly came to to try and claim a valuable away point, and their centre-back pairing were doing a good job of stunting the efforts of the trio of Eduardo, Arshavin and Nasri.  Our best chance fell to the Croatian, who sidestepped his marker brilliantly but produced a tame finish straight at Brad Friedel.  Thomas Vermaelen flashed a close-range volley wide (he’s having something of a goalscoring drought, eh?) but other than that there wasn’t much doing.

And then Cesc arrived, and the spectacular with him.  With his talented mate alongside him, Arshavin sprung in to life.  Theo Walcott was soon introduced to add yet more spark to a now fizzing attack.  And the festive sparkle was provided by Fabregas, who just five minutes after coming on curled a stunning free-kick in to the top corner to break the deadlock.

A few weeks ago I saw a remarkable stat saying we hadn’t scored a Premier League goal direct from a set-piece in something like two years.  With Denilson and Fabregas in the past fortnight, we’ve now netted two in two games.

Villa were forced to try and respond with some attacking threat of their own, but that only made us more dangerous on the break.  And so it proved with ten minutes remaining – a sumptuous Armand Traore long-ball reaching Walcott, who slid in Cesc.  Having stormed the length of the field to keep up with play, the Catalan then had the composure to finish well for his twelfth goal of the season.

It was little surprise when Cesc’s celebration amounted to little more than some hops and stretches.  His heroic efforts had tweaked the hamstring that had kept him on the bench in the first place.  He was immediately replaced, with Aaron Ramsey coming on to the field.  The game was won, but there were nervous glances towards a disconsolate Cesc, back on the bench and out of the action.

Abou Diaby, who is finding a good streak of form (and thus certain to be injured some time soon), added a lovely third when Villa failed to close him down and he curled one in to the near post.  3-0 was somewhat flattering, but there is a clear gulf between Villa and the top three.  They offered very little attacking threat, and ultimately do not have a player capable of the match-winning brilliance Fabregas demonstrated yesterday.  There’s only so far solidity and teamwork can take you.

The worst case scenario is that Cesc could miss three weeks.  In the best possible scenario, he’ll miss a couple of games: Portsmouth away on Wednesday and then the FA Cup game with West Ham at the weekend.  Worryingly, Denilson too picked up a knock yesterday – a recurrence of his back injury – and Alex Song will soon depart to the African Cup of Nations with Cameroon.  It’s a situation that had Arsene talking openly yesterday about the possibility of signing a central midfielder.  It could be an interesting January.

In the broader scheme of things, we’re now four points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand.  It’s a huge turnaround from when they royally thumped us on our own turf – due largely to Chelsea’s own poor form.  United don’t look any great shakes either.  We’re definitely in the race now.  A January signing or two and, more importantly, consistency over the new few months and we could even end up winning it.

Come On You Reds.

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