Arsenal vs Villa was supposed to showcase the best and brightest talent. But only one team showed up to play and it was not Arsenal. Yet again.
Arsene Wenger deservedly receives many plaudits for encouraging youthful talent but on Saturday we were reminded that Martin O' Neill has been no slouch in that department either. In fact, Arsenal seemed dissipated and overcome with ennui. This after an energetic display against Man Utd the previous weekend which saw the squad beating the champions and raised our hopes.
Villa should have won by more. Ashley Young and Gabby Agbanlahor put on a clinic in speed and high desire. Apart from Gallas racing in to save a putback from Almunia's PK stop, he and Silvestre were left backpedaling all day. Even that PK miss did not dampen the Villa attack as they continued to push and probe the embattled defense.
Bakary Sagna impaired by a bad ankle drifted by the sidelines seemingly a spectator. Clichy's highlight moment was the own goal. And in a perfect summation of the match, Agbanlahor latched onto a Laursen long ball from the Villa end then blew by Gallas in a show of muscle for the second goal. On attack we were equally pathetic with no real chances except for a Fabregas shot which Friedel spilled but there were no opportunists to take advantage of it. Lots of lateral passing but no real forward progress.
Our defensive woes continue to mount. Sagna did not recover enough putting more pressure on Gallas and Silvestre to defend. Wenger's choice of Silvestre continues to boggle. The man has no foot speed and was caught out of position time and time again. Toure has been subpar but he is better than Silvestre. And even Djourou deserves a chance. In addition, he brings some height into the mix. With Sagna out for three weeks, Djourou will be pressed into service.
Fabregas has been having a less than stellar season. He appears lost. Flamini's departure seems to have taken the drive out of the midfield. Denilson has been inadequate as a replacement. Up front, Bendtner provides a physical presence but lacks the timing to finish. Walcott disappointed with another enigmatic absence of contribution.
We are presently rudderless, vulnerable, and bleeding respect. Wenger can do little more than exhort his players from the sidelines but we need an on field presence to provide leadership. Gallas is reactive and with Fabregas struggling with form, it will be premature to put this burden on him. Arsenal was at their best when they had a mix of creativity and workman like players. We lack the roll up the sleeves sort like Tony Adams or Martin Keown who kept other teams honest.