Zat Knight’s (90+2) late goal ensured Aston Villa got the point which they deserved, if not all. Gareth Barry (65) scored from the spot after Gallas had brought down Agbonlahor to answer to two goals either side of the half from Denilson (40) then Diaby (49) to give Arsenal the lead.
Luck rained down on Arsenal in the first half as Villa had five great chances, three hitting the woodwork, one blocked and another heroically cleared off the line from Sagna. The goal from Denilson had a bit of fortune as Reo-Coker was disposed on the edge of his box and the Brazilian midfielder slotted through Friedel.
The Gunners were thoroughly outplayed in the first half with the period in the build up to the goal, the only time Arsenal looked like themselves as they moved better and provided support in triangles.
Villa’s gameplan involved pressuring high not allowing the defence and the midfield to pass the ball out and penning them back. It worked for the majority of the match and Arsenal had no answer.
When they got the ball they attacked and supported the man in possession in numbers. The energy from the midfield was superb while in contrast the Gunners were sloppy; poor passing and bad touch as a result of aggressively carrying out the tactics. Agbonlahor looked to move into the channels between the full back and centre back.
Ashley Young also played in some wickedly paced corner kicks to the near post which surprisingly not used enough in the Premiership after seeing Riquelme display it time after time for Argentina. Manuel Almunia looked to try and get every ball in the early signalling a lack of confidence.
The second half saw more possession in a fifteen minute period after the second goal from Arsenal. A sensational breakaway saw Diaby finish past the keeper after starting the move with a piece of skill through Davies’s legs.
Villa piled up the pressure and it was interesting to see the communication from Arsenal’s defence in a tough period. Toure was pumped as were Sagna and Almunia but Gallas kept himself more reserved. The goal finally came as Zat Knight lashed home. O’Neill deployed an extra man in the box as it was 4v4 for the goal; a bigger pressence for Arsenal around the area was lacking especially after withdrawal of Song. Maybe Diaby or indeed Silvestre could have moved there.
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Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Eboue, Toure, Silvestre, Song Billong (Ramsey 43), Denilson, Nasri (Clichy 82), Diaby, Gallas, Van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Vela, Wilshere, Bendtner.
Booked: Song Billong, Toure, Diaby, Van Persie.
Goals: Denilson 40, Diaby 49.
Aston Villa: Friedel, Reo-Coker, Davies, Knight, Luke Young, Milner, Sidwell, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Harewood, Delfouneso, Salifou, Shorey, Gardner, Osbourne.
Booked: Agbonlahor, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Barry.
Goals: Barry 65 pen, Knight 90.
Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire)
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