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Vital Villa Match Report - Home To Arsenal

Aston Villa
0 - 0

Villa Park


Attendance: 34 607


With the rain lashing down at Villa Park, the team in the bottom three and the 5-0 defeat to Manchester City not long in the memory, Villa fans could have been forgiven for fearing the worst -Arsenal were in town. The slick passing Londoners would be another test for Lambert's young Lions, only this time he would have to watch it play out from the stands, having received a one game touch line ban. Once again Villa's performance demonstrated what a roller-coaster season they are having.

The first half was largely uneventful, Arsenal and Villa swapping possession and play in a niggling affair, marred by the conditions. Arsenal created few chances, the best falling to Koscielny, who having progressed up the pitch amid a good counter-attacking move, then found himself alone in the box though judging by his swivelled, pitched up finish, Arsene Wenger would be forgiven for wishing that Giroud had met the ball himself, rather than supply the low cross for his hapless team mate.

It was Villa though that found the net. Andreas Weimann, a player who continues to impress in claret and blue, finished off Clark's low cross only to have his effort correctly ruled offside. Minutes later, the official's ruled in Arsenal's favour again when Agbonlahor steamed into the penalty box only to find himself on the end of a Gunner tackle. The home crowd demanded a penalty though referee Lee Mason waved all appeals away. Replays would later show it to be a beautifully timed interception.

Villa might also have felt aggrieved when Szczesny raced off his line to meet the oncoming Agbonlahor, the Arsenal Keeper diving on the ball then sliding out of the box with it. Referee Mason awarded Villa a free kick for handball but refused calls for cards, seeing the slippery and wet conditions as grounds for mitigation, much to the ire of the Villa faithful who were by now feeling hard done by.

Of course, central to Villa's first half threat was the colossal Benteke. The giant Belgian bullied, harried and collected the ball all evening long, passing and moving off the ball with intelligence and craft. Arsenal seemed to have no answer though some calls will still ring out for Bent. Villa did lack some cutting edge in the final third; that killer ball or neat finish. Undoubtedly, all this will continue to be a headache for Paul Lambert, who seems committed to Villa 4-4-3 with Benteke Agbonlahor and Weimann up front, the latter two swarming around Benteke with menace.

The second half was much brighter for Villa. The midfield of Bannan and Westwood were instrumental all afternoon, Bannan was particularly impressive in his passing and command of the play. Ashley Westwood should get the plaudits as well. At the price Villa have paid he is starting to look like a gem, a complete justification of Lambert's belief in promoting players from the lower leagues.

The Villa midfield pressed and pressured their Arsenal counterparts into misfiring passes and poor decision making all afternoon long. Arsene Wenger will no doubt cite his injury list and a recent trip to Montpelier as reasons for his side's struggles in the rain. Indeed, at times Arsenal looked jaded and lacking in penetration though, with valuable points at stake Paul Lambert simply will not care how his team climb up the table just as long as they do.

Villa fans may have been worried when a calf-injury forced international class defender, Ron 'Concrete' Vlaar from the field. Versatile American Lichaj slotted into left back with the excellent Lowton, another league one buy, moving to centre back. Once again this young Villa back four showed character and energy, marshalling themselves well against a run of Arsenal corners and free kicks. Enda Stevens, who was virtually written of as a third choice left back, doomed to the reserves, is suddenly looking remarkably solid and a first choice starter.

The defensive lapses that have recently plagued Villa were today, absent, perhaps demonstrating that the team is moving forward. Other than a Santi Cazorla strike, the end result of a sweet Arsenal move and two Aaron Ramsey efforts Arsenal offered little in terms of out-and-out opportunities. Instead, they had to contend with a purposeful and well drilled Villa defence who were giving little away.

It was substitute Holman though who nearly settled it for Villa. Having weaved his way through the centre he unleashed a bending drive from twenty yards out. It left Szczesny having to make an arcing finger tip save. Both the shot and the save were worthy of applause.

All in all, a huge point for Villa and a good, solid performance in bad conditions. Lambert's Lions must now go forward with momentum and get the three points against Reading. With games against QPR and Stoke waiting in the wings, this could prove to be a big couple of weeks for their season.

Star Player

Man of the match: Bannan

Room for improvement: El Ahmadi

Date:Sunday November 25 2012
Time: 12:53PM


Thanks Grizzly. Good and fair report. I was well pleased with the performance and agree with you on El Ahmadi, who nearly cost us a goal in the second half. Just compare yesterday's performance with the games last season against Spurs, Arse, ManU; PL is clearly taking us in the right direction. As you say, the next two weeks are going to be important. I am confident the team will do well.
Forest Hill Villan
25/11/2012 13:24:00
Another great report I also agree about El Ahmadi he's a dodgy chap at times... One thing I noticed is he seems to look to bring players down cynically when there is no need too... Westwood is getting better and better with each game as is Benteke...
25/11/2012 14:34:00
Good report sir, I have to say after yesterday even though it was a good point we never ever looked like winning, my mind is made now that relegation will happen this season, I cannot see us escaping the drop as there are a number of teams around us who have more experience , unless Lambert buys a couple of older players in January, I can't see it though he cannot even handle Darren Bent who meant people seem to forget he kept us up when we got him with Houlier in charge. QPR will beat us with the Harry influence. Lets hope we stuff Reading
25/11/2012 15:07:00
Keep some faith Andy I dont think we will go down and I actually cant see how anybody would think that... Its funny I know a lot of Arsenal fans and everyone of them said we deserved it... My Dad even said it and he has been dismissive of Villa over the past few years... My brother is very pessimistic about Villa and over the past few games he is finally coming around to the idea that PL has all the answers... Now we will probably struggle up until January but when hat time comes around we will buy some genuine talent and will begin to climb the table... We will be fine sir dont worry...
25/11/2012 15:13:00
Not sure what you mean by "cannot handle Bent", Andy. Do you mean he isn't currently playing him? If so, surely that's a manager's decision to make. It isn't as if DB hasn't had chances to shine this season, and he hasn't set the world on fire when he has played. I really like DB when he's on form, and I think his time will come this season, but I do think Benteke offers something more to the *team* in terms of holdup play, bringing others into the game, etc. Personally, I don't think Paul Lambert has to explain himself for not constantly playing DB - it's up to DB to wait for his chance and, when it comes, to do what he does best and grab it.
25/11/2012 16:04:00
Yeah sorry Bob that's what I meant, it's all smoke and mirrors, he said in the press conference before the game that Bent was fit then he is not on the Bench, I am sorry but if fit he should be on the bench as I agree Benteke has been great but we still are not scoring, I think with Banan playing well we should have Bent at least as a sub as we haven't really played to his strengths since young and downing left, when we gave him service he was electric. I just hope he is not trying to make a gesture about Bent, he will of course leave in January even though Lambert says he won't , it just seems strange to me. I am praying for a Reading win as Southampton are winning at the moment
25/11/2012 16:31:00
Good report. that was the way i saw the game. there is not a chance we will go dow. Yesterday will give the lads some confidence. I just wish we were getting more bums on seats to creat a better atmosphere. There was great support at Man U but we took a while to get going last night.
25/11/2012 17:19:00
Yes another good report Grizzly. And I also agree about KEA. He was quite decent when he first arived, but now he's going backwards. Stevens is playing well,Westwood is coming on well but we need Ireand back for the Reading match.
Pride of Lions
25/11/2012 17:25:00
With you all the way Andy3221. Key to survival will be the experienced players we sign in January (and most likely have to pay over the odds for). In luck we trust.
25/11/2012 17:49:00
Can't see us being relegated this season, not with the performance i saw yesterday. If you watched it Andy you must have being looking away for the most part, 'cause we certainly showed a fight and resilience that was sorely lacking last season. We were playing the Arsenal and regardless of how 'poor' they were, they are a top 4 team. Thanks for the report Grizzly, it matched my view, apart from Lichaj coming in to right back not left.
25/11/2012 18:52:00
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