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Where Villa Went Right at Arsenal

Villa’s win over Arsenal yesterday was arguably the club’s best result and equally, best performance of the season. Not because Villa were the better team over the 90 minutes but because they were tactically astute and every player did their jobs. Setting up with one up front was always likely but the way the side came out of the traps was more like a three up front and was a system that Arsenal’s somewhat unfamiliar backline were taken aback by.

Villa got in Arsenal’s faces early on and deserved their lead went Bent scored his sublime opener but the key to the game was the 5 minutes after that. The away side would have been forgiven for sitting back and holding their lead for 5 minutes but did quite the opposite and pushed for a quick, all important second. Once that came the mission was to hold out until half time which they did, just about, with a touch of good fortune. In the second half the defence was superb as Villa allowed ‘same old Arsenal’ to pass the ball around but create limited guilt edged chances.

The visitors got lucky when Arsenal had a goal disallowed and Friedel did his job between the sticks with a great save from Gibbs but other than that, despite the home side’s dominance, Villa looked relatively comfortable, blocking anything that came off an Arsenal player’s foot. To concede in the last minute to a scrappy goal was disappointing but McAllister’s side had closed the result by then and the performance only really added to the frustration in the lack of the effort in that game from the rest of the season. Remarkably Villa gave away 13 corners without conceding having been awful from set pieces all season.

Ashley Young was possibly the weakest player on the day, despite a quality assist, completing just 43% of his passes, despite not making a single cross in the game. Downing was more effective once again on the opposite flank, delivering 5 crosses, though no of those were connected with, and completing a much improved 78% of his passes. The winger also had the most touches of the ball for Villa with 69 and was dispossessed just twice. Nigel Reo-Coker was playing in a surprisingly advanced position and had 66 touches but was dispossessed more than any other player (4), though he did win back possession twice. The midfielder also made 2 blocks, 1 clearance, 3 interceptions and a team high of 7 successful tackles.

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