Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa – as it happened
Arsenal came back from 2-0 down to win, as Villa paid the price for a seven-minute second-half brainfade.
Anyway, thank you all for reading, and see you all again soon. May nothing but happiness come through your door.
The other talking point, of course, will be Van Persie’s elbow on Cuellar. Whether it gets the same heavy media rotation as Balotelli’s stamp depends on the whims of public opinion and Sky Sports News, but it didn’t look particularly edifying.
Odd game, all in all. Villa were brilliant in the first half, yet had seven lunatic minutes in the second half to completely bugger up their own game-plan: giving away two penalties and kicking that ball into a winger isn’t a great idea if you’re trying to play on the break. Arsenal were intermittently threatening but didn’t need to be any better: Walcott was highly effective in the second half, and Van Persie took his penalties well. The biggest plus points, though, will be the return of Mikel Arteta and, more importantly, Bacary Sagna. A full-back at full-back? Crazy talk.
94 min: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. Arsenal go through and will visit the north-east in the next round: either Sunderland or Middlesbrough, replay depending.
93 min: Bannan sends an alleyoop into the box, but Fabianski collects and gets a rousing slap on the arse from Koscielny by way of congratulation. No Villa player jumped with the keeper, which is a little peculiar.
92 min: Given lumps it forward. Mertesacker wins the header and Arsenal release Henry. He dithers, though, and he dispossessed.
90 min: Sagna’s first act nearly goes horribly wrong, as he slices a clearance vertically into his own box. Villa’s knockdown is loose however, and Arsenal break. Cuellar tidies up. Arsenal then win a free-kick wide on the right, as Gardner trips Coquelin.
89 min: Robin Van Persie is the Budweiser Man of the Match. Presumably, the general public don’t like Carlos Cuellar that much either. Arteta gives away a free-kick in midfield — Villa waste possession, but Henry is just offside.
87 min: Off go Theo Walcott and AOC, on come Bacary Sagna and Thierry Henry. Henry gets the biggest cheers, but Sagna’s return is much more heartening for Arsenal fans in the long run.
86 min: Arsenal have a corner, but elect to knock it around some more. They seem happy with the score as it is, which is probably because they’re winning. Eventually, Ciaran Clark gets frustrated and chops Ramsey down. No card, which meets with mild disapproval from the crowd.
85 min: … which is lumped into the box. Fabianksi claims comfortably and releases Arsenal on the break. The pass out wide to AOC is overhit, though, and Villa can recover. His shot, when it comes, is blocked.
84 min: Keane fouled in midfield by Song. Bannan stands over the free-kick …
82 min: Carlos Cuellar rumbles forward, but his attempted interplay with Hutton breaks down. Villa work the ball back and attack down the left: Ireland is free in the box but tries to get it to Bent when he might have shot. Then, Villa get stiffed by an awful offside decision: Keane is flagged, despite (a) not being offside, and (b) not going towards the ball. McLeish goes a bit mental, and rightly so. Villa having a little bit of pressure here …
81 min: Road safety’s Barry Bannan comes on for Stilyan Petrov, who’s had a good game. Bannan is described as “young and energetic” by the commentator, which doesn’t sound dirty unless you really want it to.
80 min: Arsenal fans get some ball-retention lols of their own going. Villa put another ball into the box, but Fabianski gathers.
79 min: The free-kick goes in and Dunne rises highest, nodding it across the box. Keane pulls away from Ramsey, but the Welshman does enough to put Keane off his shot, and Arsenal can smuggle it clear.
78 min: Koscielny hauls down Bent and is booked. He also kicked the ball into the prone Bent and shouted at him a bit, which was nice.
77 min: Ireland feeds Clark down the right — Coquelin seems very absent — who wins a corner. They work another short one and Ireland sends a fantastic cross in. But Clark can’t get decent contact on the header and a grateful Fabianski held on. That was a chance.
75 min: This is simmering down a bit. Arsenal don’t need to push for a goal any more, which kind of neuters Villa’s plans on the break. AOC beats Petrov with a nice shoulder-drop, but they’re happy to just work it around. Until, that is Fabianski clumps it upfield.
73 min: I can’t quite get my head around the Van Persie elbow. What was he doing? I hadn’t noticed any particular needle between him and Cuellar, and there wasn’t even any real game context, unlike Lescott’s the other week. It just looked like he fancied elbowing somebody. Anyway, he swings a tasty cross in for Walcott beyond the far post, but Warnock gets a flick away. Villa can clear.
70 min: Arteta comes on for k d lang, while Alan (?) Gardner comes for a limping Agbonlahor. Walcott charges down the right again, before pulling it back for Van Persie. He chips it with his right foot, but it goes over the bar.
69 min: A chipped ball over the top is cut out by Koscielny. Bent tumbled but nothing doing. Then, Petrov suddenly finds himself free in the box. He tries to cross it back to Bent — could and maybe should have shot — and the ball’s scuffed out for a corner. Villa appeal for a hand from Koscielny, who was prone near the byline, but nothing doing. And nothing doing from the corner, either. There’s more goals in this.
66 min: Arsenal probe. It’s not that they’ve changed anything, so much as just woken up a bit — the slightest hint of pace and pressure and Villa gifted them three goals.
64 min: Villa, who must be feeling a trifle stunned, try to build down the right with Hutton. His stretching cross is poor, and Arsenal charge up the other end. Rosicky’s shot is charged down in the box.
63 min: A replay catches Van Persie lining Cuellar up, and planting his elbow in his face. That was nasty, deliberate, and calculated, and should have been a red. There’s your post-match controversy.
62 min: Some correspondence, while we catch our breath. @thepigeonpost: “see? even the fans would prefer to play a shit version of volleyball rather than watch it”. Hard to argue with that. Meanwhile, Daniel Harris points out that Koscielny is “a dangerous customer“.
GOAL! Arsenal 3-2 (Van Persie pen). Given goes to his right this time, so Van Persie hits it high to his left. He leaps into the arms of a grinning Thierry Henry, who just became obsolete again.
PENALTY! Koscielny charges into the box like the ghost of Andrei Kanchelskis. Bent — Bent? — dives in and takes is legs. Clown.
58 min: Villa free-kick from near the corner flag is wasted, as an offside flag rudely interrupts. Hutton kicks the ball into the crowd — not entirely clear why — and an impromptu game of volleyball breaks out amongst the travelling fans.
GOAL! Arsenal 2-2 (Walcott). Walcott dances down the right, into the six-yard box, and the ball bobbles from his shot. Hutton, attempting to clear, can only hit the ball back into Walcott, who ruins the moment by celebrating like an arsehole. Comically inept from Villa.
54 min: Van Persie’s cross is too long for Walcott. Dunne, incidentally, was very very lucky not to get a yellow — his second — for the tackle. Perhaps the referee thought Ramsey wasn’t quite in control of the ball; perhaps he bottled it. Anybody else, though, I suspect it would have been a card.
GOAL! Arsenal 1-2 (Van Persie pen). Given goes left, Van Persie goes right. Nestles in the corner. Game, as they say, on.
52 min: Hutton is dispossessed by Ramsey and Arsenal charge forward. Ramsey bursts into the box, knocks it past Dunne, whose wild challenge brings him down. PENALTY!
50 min: Rosicky dinks the ball to Walcott, just a second before Cuellar clatters into him. He dabs it to Ramsey, who could shoot with this left but tries the harder, outside of the right finish. Given saves. A few moments later, Vermaelen sends a hopelessly optimistic shot well wide.
48 min: A sensual backheel 1-2 from Aaron Ramsey sends Walcott into the box at pace. The defender dives in but wins the tackle. Could have been very costly indeed.
47 min: After good work by Van Persie, Rosicky swings a cross in. It’s nodded behind for a corner by Villa — AOC takes it; wins another. Van Persie swings this one in and Mertesacker is completely unmarked. Ireland clears off the line!
45 min: And we’re back. Arsenal try their hand at the kick-off. Nobody falls over. Two outstanding kick-offs this afternoon, both exactly what was required.
Right. Here’s a picture of Alan Hutton.
Ray of sunshine @thepigeonpost is back. “dunne could score a hat-trick of own goals and still no-one would remember this game next week. intrinsically dull”. Given the way this is going, we might well remember this as the game in which Wenger put the head on Gunnersaurus.
McLeish should take a lot of credit for that first half. Villa are set up to hurt Arsenal on the break, and they have. Agbonlahor playing right on Coquelin, Ireland more tucked in on the right, Keane roaming around behind Bent: rigid in defence, fluid in transition. Arsenal, mind, have been dodgy on the break for ages, so it’s not exactly rocket surgery.
A tweet! “Chances of Dunne also getting an own goal?” asks @Philby1976. Decent, I’d say. Is it him or Carragher that’s scored the most?
You know, Arsenal could probably do with a little bit more wit in midfield. Some vision to unlock a stubborn midfield; maybe somebody with a bit of a shot on him too. Short. Russian, maybe. (Preferably the 2008 edition, true, but beggars can’t be choosers.)
46 min: And that’s half-time. There is a loud initial wave of booing, but nothing sustained. Villa have been excellent: defended stoutly (with the occasional touch of fortune) and breaking with intent and purpose. Arsenal, by contrast, have dominated possession but haven’t really worked themselves a clear chance.
GOAL! 2-0 Aston Villa (Bent)! Villa break and feed it to Petrov. He slips it into Bent. His first shot is saved, but he scores the rebound from an incredibly narrow angle. That was classy. Prepare for BOOS.
44 min: AOC crashes a shot straight at Given. It rebounds but Villa get it clear. Then AOC swings a deep cross in. One minute to be added …
44 min: Dunne crashes into Rosicky in midfield and gets the booking. He complains. God knows why: that was as yellow as a cowardly banana.
43 min: As if to highlight my point, Villa’s excellent corner routine is replayed. It appears that Mertesacker may have been out of position, you’ll be surprised to hear.
41 min: AOC floats a ball into the box, and Dunne just gets a head on it to keep it from the lurking Walcott. Coquelin shoots and there’s a moment of pinball. Villa clear their lines, but the home team come back at them. Hutton gives the ball away like a moron on the edge of the box, letting Ramsey in. He dances past Cuellar but hits Given. Corner IS SODDING AWFUL AGAIN DO THEY NOT EVEN PRACTICE THESE FOR GOD’S SAKE YOU’RE PROFESSIONALS.
39 min: Walcott is dispossesed by Warnock; his second excellent tackle in a minute. When he’s playing well, you can almost — almost — see why he went to South Africa last summer. Almost.
38 min: @thepigeonpost: “and then dunne scored. still dull”. There’s no pleasing some people.
38 min: Van Persie tries to slip Rosicky in, but Hutton — despite trying not to, it appears — just about cuts it out, and larrups it upfield. Back come Arsenal: a ball between Dunne and Warnock for Van Persie is just too strong.
36 min: We can thank @thepigeonpost for the goal; just seconds before, he sent us this: “can anyone remember a decent villa v arsenal game? can anyone even remember an incident from any of them?”. Agbonlahor beats Coquelin again, then feeds it to Keane on the edge of the box. His shot ricochets back to Fabianski.
35 min:Arsenal try to hit back immediately, but AOC’s cross is poor. Villa can’t clear, though, and Walcott gets to have a go as well. It bobbles to Rosicky, who tries a Carrick-esque pass-shot. Given nearly loses it to Van Persie, but recovers. Everybody’s woken up at last!
GOAL! Aston Villa (Dunne) 1-0: Short corner does Ramsey down the left, and the cross is excellent. Dunne rises like a really good at rising thing and nods it home. Old-school Wenger defending from Arsenal, there.
32 min: Keane gets a yard in the Arsenal box; Koscielny plays him onside. He tries to flip it over the Frenchman’s head to Bent, but it hits him in the face. Short corner …
31 min: There’s an elderly gentleman in a hat having a quick snooze.
30 min: Walcott aims a cross into the box, but there’s only Villa’s subtle checked shirts to greet it.
29 min: Vermaelen, who’s stayed up after the corner, swings his left foot at a chipped Van Persie through ball. In his head, in flies in a beautiful parabola over Given and in. In reality, he scuffs it.
28 min: AOC really is exciting. He kills a ball with a Berbatov-esque touch and passes inside to Rosicky. They work the ball to Van Persie inside the box, but he can’t escape Cuellar. Corner … is predictably shit.
27 min: Keane releases Bent, who checks his run. Villa work the ball across the field and Keane slings in a looping cross, which passes over Bent’s head. If he’s been 12 feet tall, he’d have had a hat-trick by now. And a bad back.
24 min: Walcott breaks down the right but Dunne cuts out his limp cross. He really can’t play football, can he? “Which Bent will turn up? The one who performs insipidly, or the other one who performs insipidly and scores a goal?” asks @ManUtd24 on Twitter.
23 min: Van Persie tries to get round Dunne but founders on the giant Irishman. Arsenal corner. Not great, and AOC gives possession away. Villa break, and Agbonlahor skins Coquelin but overhits the cross.
22 min: Our commentary team think Bent definitely pulled out of the challenge with Fabianksi, and are impugning his commitment.
20 min: Bent looks like he’s going to beat Fabianksi to a bouncing ball outside the six-yard-box, but he can’t quite get there. Does he bottle it? Maybe. Then Arsenal break — Warnock gave the balll away — and AOC drags a shot wide of Given’s right post.
19 min: Van Persie takes it. He kicks it into the wall. It was so poor that Villa were given a sympathy free-kick a few seconds later, and can clear.
18 min: Ramsey wins a tackle and frees Walcott. He whips a cross into the box but Van Persie can’t make proper contact. Then, Warnock concedes a dumb freekick just inside the D.
17 min: AOC runs round Hutton, and Cuellar sweeps up. Again, Villa get hustled while they try to pass out of defence. Ireland just about keeps Given’s hasty clearance alive. Another minute of your life slips away.
16 min: Arsenal are Arsenaling the ball around, but Villa’s shape is good.
15 min: Coquelin is robbed by Agbonlahor, but Mertesacker blocks the cross. Villa throw. They work a crossing space for Clark, but it misses Bent, who’s then offside as the ball comes back.
13 min: An Arsenal corner skims off the defender’s head, and is comfortably claimed by Given.
12 min: Rosicky releases Walcott who’s momentarily free. A diving tackle comes and Walcott stumbles, can’t quite recover his balance, and lashes the ball wide. He claims to have been fouled, but it looked more like hastiness to me.
11 min: It looks like Villa are targeting Coquelin at right-back, and trying to get Agbonlahor in behind him. But the defender makes a good covering header back to his goalkeeper.
10 min: Warnock floats a free-kick into the area, but Fabianksi makes the punch. I know! Warnock then squashes a break-away and tries to feed Agbonlahor, but the ball’s inaccurate. Keane’s pressing forces Fabianski to find a poor touch.
8 min: Steven Ireland bumbles down the right, with Song in attendance. The balls runs out for a goal-kick; Ireland’s carping to the linesman, but to no avail.
7 min: Hutton breaks down the right but AOC makes a sliding tackle, to much applause. A solitary tear trickles down Arshavin’s face. Then, Walcott skins Clark down the right. He feeds Van Persie but Dunne is covering. Arsenal’s corner is wasted.
5 min: Van Persie nudges the free-kick to Vermaelen, who HAMMERS it flat and straight. Given makes a diving save. God he caught that well. Arsenal have a corner, then another, then a throw. Nothing comes of them.
4 min: First sight of AOC, as he charges at Hutton but forgets the ball. Then, Keane concedes a free-kick about thirty-five yards out for a clumsy handball.
3 min: Ramsey finds a yard near the Villa box, and fires a tame shot that Given claims easily.
2 min: Arsenal try to free Walcott down the right, but he can’t quite get the ball. Wenger is struggling with the zip on his sleeping-bag, and has been for two or three minutes, apparently. Well, if you will buy half-finished zips with potential, Arsene, sometimes it won’t work.
1 min: Rosicky fires a long crossfield pass to AOC, but he can’t control. Villa try to pass their way out but concede a thrown-in by their own corner flag. Arsenal start passing it around.
1 min: Villa kick off with Budweiser, and get good territory with a touchfinder. Arsenal don’t score immediately. BOO!
Paul Whitehouse used to be a very good actor. I suppose he still could be. But what an embarrassing waste of talent he’s become. BUY AVIVA.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa (AOC, Walcott, Vermaelen; Keane) 7 yellows, Hutton to get two of them.
ARSENAL: Fabianski, Coquelin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Song, Rosicky, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, van Persie, Walcott
SUBS: Szczesney, Sagna, Arteta, Benayoun, Arshavin, Henry, Park
VILLA: Given; Hutton, Cuellar, Dunne, Warnock; Ireland, Clark, Petrov, Agbonlahor; Keane, Bent
SUBS: Guzan, Lichaj, Baker, Bannan, Gardner, Heskey, Weimann
FA CUP FIFTH ROUND DRAW:
Liverpool vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Everton vs. Blackpool or Sheffield Wednesday
Chelsea vs. Birmingham City
Crawley Town vs. Stoke City
Stevenage vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Norwich City vs. Leicester City
Sunderland or Middlebrough vs. Arsenal or Aston Villa
Millwall or Southampton vs. Bolton Wanderers
As for Villa, if I may paraphrase a Villa-supporting friend: “I don’t care that he managed Birmingham. I care that when he managed Birmingham, Birmingham were rubbish.” It’s fair to say that Alex McLeish’s reign started shakily — fan disquiet, occasionally bizarre team-selections, Alan Hutton — but things have got a little better of late. A barely-believable win at Chelsea, a cracking come-from-behind win at Wolves, an apparently energised Robbie Keane, and hints and flickers from the bald quixotic genius that is Stephen Ireland? Could be worse. And of course the last time an Alex McLeish side faced Arsenal in a cup game, things went quite well for him. Marc Albrighton and James Collins are late withdrawals from the squad.
Much of that has been down to a comically dreadful injury record. (And wasn’t there was an air of inevitability about this week’s news that “medical miracle” and Future
Conservative MP England Captain Jack Wilshere has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation?) However, several of the wounded — Thierry Henry, Mikel Arteta and OMG A FULLBACK Bacary Sagna — are on the bench today. We will also see the thrillingly coltish Asymmetric Optimised-Crashbarrier, whose substitution against Manchester United last weekend provoked outrage from the restless natives. Poor Andrei Arshavin. (For MBM purposes, Osprey-Chrysanthemum will be “AOC”, partly because it’s quicker, and partly because I’m going to run out of alternative words for him soon.)
Arsenal, eh? You could, if you were so inclined, make a case that the last time Arsenal played anything like well was a routine 4-0 shredding of Wigan, on December 3 last year. Since then, they’ve won 4 (three of them 1-0), drawn 1-1 with Wolves, and lost 5; while one of those losses was a dead rubber against Olympiakos, the others included the spectacular breakdown against Fulham and a footballing lesson from Swansea.
Hello, good afternoon, salutations and welcome to our LIVE and EXCLUSIVE (ahem) minute-by-minute coverage of the FA Cup with Budweiser fourth round with Budweiser tie with Budweiser between Arsenal with Budweiser and Aston Villa with Budweiser. (Because I’m not a complete one, I have no Budweiser.)