Emmanuel Adebayor’s acrobatic finish gave Arsenal a valuable away goal but they were run ragged by Villarreal’s passing and movement in the first half.
As an Arsenal fan, one may have been forgiven for harboring just a hint of envy after watching Villarreal’s first half performance. The Gunners were overrun and out maneuvered in a first half totally dominated by the Spanish side. To be fair Arsenal are still fairly premature in the beginnings as a team and it clearly showed, with Villarreal displaying the type of football played only just last year by Arsenal.
The movement was superb and the Gunners were unable to cope. Rossi dropped into the hole and linked up play brilliantly; Cani and more effectively, the wiry Ibagaza looked to come in off the flank at all times to provide the support. With the wingers coming inside it posed problems for the defence in who to mark with Villarreal then easily able to switch the play out wide again. Capdevila and Ángel bombed forward with great dynamism but were it not for a fantastic Walcott tackle, the left back could have finished off a flowing move.
Senna and Eguren played equally important roles as they were the foundation for the attacks and showed great assurance when in possession. And it was Senna who got the first goal; Rossi’s balance and shielding dragged the midfielders in which allowed the Spaniard to arrive unmarked and fire an unstoppable shot past Almunia. There were initial question marks over who should have been marking Senna but rather than fault Song and Denilson, credit must go to Villarreal. It was a great test for Arsenal’s young midfield pair who came out stronger in the second period. They didn’t show for the ball greatly enough while Wenger tried to change things by switching the pair by utilising Song as the more disciplined midfielder and Denilson the one to knit play with his energy.
Arsenal needed Fabregas on the ball who, apart from a disallowed free-kick couldn’t conjure up great inspiration in the half. However the Spaniard started to dictate play after the restart and with that the Gunners began to find their feet. Nasri came infield from the left to link up with the skipper giving Adebayor the chance to roam and find space. And it was the combination of Fabregas and Adebayor once again that produced the goal; Fabregas’ fantastic long ball was expertly chested down by the Togolese forward before scissor-kicking into the bottom corner.
They say the sign of a true champion is to grind results out when things are not totally going their way but the danger for Arsenal is that they must not leave too much to do.
Man of the match: Giuseppe Rossi– A number of Villarreal players could have won it and indeed Fabregas and Adebayor may have had a shout but the Italian was the key link in their attacking play. He kept the ball fantastically well which allowed the wide men to play around the forward.
Villarreal (4-4-1-1): Diego López 6— Ángel 7, D Godín 7, G Rodríguez 7, D Capdevila 7— Senna 8, Cani 6 (sub: M Fernández, 46min), S Eguren 8, A Ibagaza 7 (sub: G Franco, 78) — G Rossi 9*, J Llorente 6 (sub: R Pires, 70). Subs not used: S Viera, Nihat, J Venta, F Fuentes.
Arsenal (4-5-1): M Almunia 7 (sub: L Fabianski, 27) — B Sagna 6, K Touré 6, W Gallas 6 (sub: J Djourou, 43), G Clichy 7 — T Walcott 6 (sub: E Eboué, 78), A Song 6, C Fàbregas 8, Denilson 6, S Nasri 7— E Adebayor 8.
Subs not used: C Vela, M Silvestre, N Bendtner, K Gibbs. Booked: Song, Adebayor, Fàbregas, Nasri.
Referee: T H Ovrebo (Norway).
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||3|
|6||Shots off Target||7|