Monday Night Football Recap - Arsenal vs. Villa
Created on Jan. 15, 2014 5:40 PM EST
Monday night football saw Arsenal go back to the top of the Premier League. Jack Wilshere, who again looked shaky in possession and too casual at times, would change the game in the space of sixty seconds providing a goal and assist.
After Mesut Ozil played Monreal in behind with a neat pass (Ozil's best moment of the match), the Spanish International squared for JW who's first touch was good enough and his second was a well placed grass-cutter guided low past Guzan's outstretched left palm.
Less than a minute later Wilshere picked the ball up just inside the Villa half and spotted Giroud sprinting towards the edge of the box. A great first touch by the big Frenchman, and a somewhat fortuitous second touch, allowed Giroud to fire home with his trademark blistering left-foot.
After the two goals were scored Arsenal, worryingly for Wenger, drifted into complacency. Casual back heels and over-trickery around the Villa penalty box was not the stuff of champions and proved fruitless. Star signing Mesut Ozil again had a dismal performance. There is no doubt that Ozil is a World Class player; but yet again he gave away possession far to cheaply at times, had no courage to shoot from distance, and didn't ever dictate the match.
Thankfully Santi Cazorla has found better form lately. His performance was far from awe inspiring but the little wizard's quick feet, ability to turn on a dime, and incisive passing often sways the midfield possession-battle towards the Gunners. It's refreshing to see at least one Arsenal player take a shot on from out side the 18 yard box.
All credit for the three points, however, goes to the back four.
Koscielny and Mertesacker are quite simply the best CB pairing in the Prem. Stats prove it, their position in the league proves it, and watching them together you feel that something has changed for the Gunners. Rarely do you see Benteke so well bottled up, but The Frenchman and the German did just that for most of the match. Cazorla gave away possession cheaply for Benteke's headed goal but the Center Backs could not be blamed. The athleticism of Koscielny and the positional sensibility of Mertesacker make them the hardest duo to breakdown in England.
Despite being top of the table the talk of a lack of depth at Arsenal is founded when you think about the following positions: Center Back, Right Full Back, and Striker.
At Center Back, when the player once dubbed the Verminator gets a game he looks clumsy, nervous, easily beaten 1v1, and chooses to make forward runs that often end up wasting energy and putting his fellow defenders at risk due to being out of position on the break. Help is needed in this area.
Right Full Back: Bacary Sagna is quality player. His importance to the team cannot be overlooked. His service from the right flank has been better than good in most matches. He climbs well to win headers and is a fit and still fairly quick player. Jenkinson is quite simply not ready - poor crossing from the flank and a little lanky and awkward at times; he has potential but he needs time to develop and master the speed of the BPL. With contract talks going no where help is needed.
Striker: Wenger's comments in the past week and a lack of any minutes yesterday prove that Lukas Podolski's time at The Emirates must surely be coming to a close. Walcott's knee injury is a big deal. Giroud may have scored yesterday, but Arsenal need a quality striker who can come on and be a real threat for thirty minutes. Is Sanogo that player? Not yet? Is Campbell, we won't know this season. Bendtner is a joke and a title winning team needs a better option. Help is indeed needed.
Will Wenger use the always dicey January transfer period to make such vital improvements to his squad? Unlikely. But it's good to dream.
Looking at Arsenal's defense this year, and all the way back to last season's push to clinch 4th in the League, it's clear the Steve Bould has started to make an impact on the Gunners. There is no doubt that losing Pat Rice was hard for Wenger and hard for Arsenal. But, thankfully, Bould has brought a resoluteness to the team that had been lacking these some odd eight years.
This morning I am dreaming...
Dreaming of Vidic, and Richards, and Martinez...