The Gunners put in a strong team effort to progress to the semi-finals of the Champions League with Walcott, Adebayor and Van Persie providing the goals.
Arsenal successfully negotiated the first hurdle in ‘decider week’, defeating a Villarreal side who sorely missed their captain to help steer their sinking submarine. The Gunners were the better team throughout; clinical and playing with much purpose and urgency, they technically outclassed a Villarreal side who were supposed to be at a similar level.
Arsene Wenger’s selection signaled his intention to attack and with Cesc Fabregas orchestrating things the Gunners were quick off the mark. Eboue’s through ball may have got the most deftest of touch of Fabregas or it may have been the most cleverest of dummies, nevertheless the ball found it’s way to Walcott who superbly chipped the ball of Lopez. Most of Arsenal’s attacks was coming from the right with Walcott and Eboue particularly able to exchange quick one-touch passess, as Capdevila stood off the England winger to allow him the space.
With Van Persie dropping in to make a five man when defending Arsenal were able to pressure Villarreal high up the pitch. If Fabregas failed to put the Villarreal defender under pressure, Van Persie was there to cover and similarly for Song. The Dutchman had license to roam allowing Arsenal to play with more incisiveness and fluency and there was also a more directness. The quickness in movement and thinking was too much for Villarreal and although they did mount some sort of danger towards the end of the half, were unable to capitalise.
Pellegrini missed a trick by playing Rossi, who was superb in the first leg as the lone striker. The tactic was for the Italian to hold up play, which would allow the midfielders to advance past him, similar to the role of Totti. However this required Villarreal to be very accurate with their passing and also attack from different angles. As it was, they were very congested in the centre. One may wonder if they had someone with the dynamism of Walcott and the presence of Adebayor, the Spanish side will surely be stronger contenders for the crown.
Emmanuel Adebayor, who is probably the second player to be born in an offside position finally timed a run correctly and slotted in the second from Fabregas’ pass. The less we talk about Silvestre and Wenger’s embarassing dad dance the better however. The game was over by then but Arsenal added another as Godin was penalised for a foul on Walcott. The linesman may not have seen the touch the Uruguayan got on the ball or whether he deemed it as not substantial enough to stop Walcott, it still seems a harsh decision. Eguren’s protest got him a red and Robin Van Persie blasted in the resulting the penalty.
The balance of the side was much stronger albeit with much influence from Fabregas. It showed that keeping the ball is a great form of attack while all the talk of the midfield defensive shield is rather irrelevant; with five men back (full backs and one midfielder) at most times the Gunners were comfortably able to stop attacks. The only times the defence seemed most vulnerable was when the full backs bombed forward leaving the space behind though thankfully weren’t much.
The makeshift Arsenal defence was largely untroubled and should be proud of the performance which set up a last four tie with Manchester United. The next challenge for this ever improving young side is a Chelsea side spearheaded by Didier Drogba. You can almost hear him breathing down one’s neck.
Man of the Match: Cesc Fabregas – A great team performance but the skipper dictated the play and no other player ran as much.
Arsenal: Fabianski (7), Eboue (8), Toure (7), Silvestre (7), Gibbs (7), Walcott (8) (Denilson 77 (6)), Song (7), Fabregas (8)*, Nasri (7), Adebayor (7) (Bendtner 83), Van Persie (7) (Diaby 77).
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Eduardo, Vela, Ramsey.
Booked: Silvestre, Gibbs.
Goals: Walcott 10, Adebayor 60, Van Persie 69 pen.
Villarreal: Diego Lopez, Angel, Rodriguez, Godin, Capdevila, Cani (Pablo 70), Eguren, Bruno (Nihat 64), Fernandez (Ibagaza 64), Pires, Rossi.
Subs Not Used: Viera, Llorente, Javi Venta, Fuentes.
Sent Off: Eguren (68).
Booked: Eguren, Cani, Godin.
Ref: Wolfgang Stark (Germany).
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|7||Shots on Target||3|
|6||Shots off Target||4|