1. Villa were unlucky not to win.
Although they eventually only managed to snatch a late draw, Aston Villa fans may wonder how they came away without three points today. During the first period they well and truly dominated Arsenal, and never really looked threatened, except for the goal they conceded out of the blue. Chance after chance was created at the other end though, the woodwork was hit a few times and one felt it was only a matter of time until they got a goal or six. The second half was more even, but Villa shaded it, only Diaby’s immense goal really had them concerned and at the end of the day, a point was the very least their performance deserved.
2. Arsenal MUST replace Fabregas.
As I mentioned in the first point above, Arsenal had very little creative flair for most of today’s match. Though they were also without Adebayor and Walcott, it was the loss of Fabregas that was most telling. Van Persie hardly featured, and though Denilson worked hard to pick his passes, there just was not enough going on around him. Nasri is a great talent but drifts in and out of games too much, and Eboue doesn’t really contribute much going forward. Diaby at times resembled Patrick Vieira, but they desperately need someone with more experience and quality to fill the enormous hole left by Fabregas while he is injured.
3. Arsenal could also do with a new centre back.
They lost Johan Djorou in the warm up and so were forced to field a clearly half-fit Kolo Toure, but the centre of Arsenal’s defence was worryingly sloppy at times. Toure we know is a class act when fully fit, so we can forgive him, but William Gallas looks increasingly at a loss in the Premier League. Whether it is down to a simple dip in form or an unhealthy mentality at a club where he can’t have many friends left after recent outbursts, there is no doubting that the sooner Wenger gets in a new partner for Toure the better. I hesitate to say that Arsenal’s defending was awful because Bakary Sagna was probably the best player on the park, but Silvestre didn’t bring much to the table at left back. In Gallas and Silvestre Wenger has two old pros who really shouldn’t be playing at the very top anymore and are becoming liabilities. Clichy made a late substitute appearance and the sooner he is back at left back the happier Gunners fans will be, but Wenger really needs reinforcements in January.
4. The penalty was a penalty.
There was no protests from Arsenal’s players, even from Gallas himself, when the penalty was awarded midway through the second half. This may be surprising when replays are reviewed because for me, there wasn’t a massive amount of contact and Agbonlahor certainly could have stayed on his feet if he really wanted to. But the fact is, it was a genuinely idiotic challenge. Agbonlahor had the legs on him and would have got to the ball, but he was essentially on the byline and had no support arriving immediately. Common sense should have dictated that Gallas needed simply to stay on his feet and shepherd Agbonlahor towards the corner, allowing defensive reinforcements to arrive to counter the onrushing Villains. Unfortunately Gallas somewhat lost his head and lunged into the back of Agbonlahor after the youngster’s pace outstripped him. So although there was little contact, it deserved to be penalised as it was so needlessly stupid, and plus, it was a tackle from behind.
5. Zat Knight can finish. Who’d have thought it?!
The injury time equaliser for Villa wasn’t, in itself, particularly surprising. One always had the impression that Villa could nick one at any point and late goals are becoming increasingly common this season. But while Zat Knight had been thrown up top to try and create some havoc with his towering height, what was surprising was the manner with which he drilled the ball into the net when it dropped to him. Most strikers would be proud of such an instinctive strike, he hit the ball incredibly cleanly and found the inner-side-netting of the goal with a precise finish. Being rather cynical when it comes to certain players, I can’t help wondering how much Knight had to do with it really, and part of me is sure that he simply swung that long leg of his and hoped for the best. Still, take nothing away from him, they all count, and it was a top finish.
6. It was Boxing Day by name, and by nature, as O’Neill and Wenger squared up.
After the penalty was awarded and safely tucked away, Arsene started to lose his cool, and O’Neill wasn’t exactly a picture of calm composure either. Still, I didn’t expect to see them being dragged apart by the fourth official and John Robertson when the camera swung towards them. O’Neill seemed to be very much the aggressor and in fairness, Wenger didn’t seem to know how to react! Lucky for him that Robertson was there to hold O’Neill back as the feisty Irishman would probably be more than a match for the Frenchman. In better news for Wenger, my Nan yesterday revealed that she finds him “really sexy”… honestly, I never expected to hear the words “Wenger” and “sexy” in the same sentence but there you go – football is full of surprises.