By Chad Wrenn
The next home game on Villa’s schedule after gaining a well-earned point at St. Mary’s was against Remi Garde’s ex-team Arsenal, who having played on Wednesday night against Olympiakos carried over some good form after a solid 3-0 away win. If Villa could snatch a result at Villa Park in what many are labelling the most unpredictable season of all time, then everyone associated with the club would be able to see some way out of this tricky predicament.
Prematch Fan Thoughts
I made my way to the match on the train and the mood of many Villa fans paired up with the way the weather was on the same day: miserable, bleak and uninspired. After the way Arsenal performed midweek and came through their game without any major injuries meant that the task at hand for the Villa players was already a mountain to climb.
However, like every week there was still some hope that we could pull off a miracle performance with the likes of Bournemouth and Newcastle, our supposed ‘relegation rivals’ unfortunately showing us the way to do so with wins against Liverpool and Chelsea. The team line-up was announced, with Garde sticking to his guns and naming a completely unchanged starting eleven after they battled well to grab a point.
The only changes appeared on the bench with Jack Grealish and Jordan Lyden coming in, giving us a pretty strong bench if the team were to be in need of an attacking threat. Carles Gil, Adama Traore and Jack Grealish could all be called upon to be game changers, although many including myself thought that maybe these players should be given more responsibility with a starting role rather than being a substitute.
Kick-off came and instantly Villa showed a fair bit of attacking intent with Scott Sinclair firing a shot from outside the box straight into Petr Cech’s grasp. However, after eight minutes of time Alan Hutton gave away a penalty after struggling with Walcott’s rapid pace. The decision was concluded a long time after Walcott went down, but bizarrely it was a linesman at the half-way line that called the infringement. How he could see Hutton’s hands on Walcott, only the football gods know. Olivier Giroud stepped up to take the penalty and I said to my mate “bottom right” and surely enough the Frenchman slid it into the bottom right hand corner, sending Guzan flailing the wrong way.
Villa began to get back into the game and created a few more openings and shots, until Ayew broke away to set Villa off on a counter attack, the ball was laid in to Gana who lost it and Arsenal counter attacked us with more desire and pace. Mesut Ozil played with Joleon Lescott and then gave it to Aaron Ramsey who slotted it in to the back of the net, 2-0 Arsenal, abysmal.
The start of the Second Half brought a bit more promise from Villa as Garde decided against making any changes to the side. Straight from the off Veretout had an effort which flew over the bar, then Villa started to get some joy down the right-hand side with Alan Hutton’s overlaps and dinked crosses. There were golden chances for both Gestede and Sinclair, with Leandro Bacuna also coming close from a curling half-volley effort.
Substitutions for Gestede and Gana saw both Carles Gil and Jack Grealish come into the frame, providing a bit more flair and creativity but the task proved too much in the end for Villa as the minutes ran down the clock and even though we improved in the creative department, Arsenal sat back and soaked up our pressure making sure that we didn’t provide a cutting edge.
The final substitution that every Villa fan was crying out for, Adama Traore who I saw warming up for about 30 minutes was finally called upon with around 3 minutes plus stoppage time to go. He immediately demanded the ball and instantly flew past 4 Arsenal players firing in a shot that hit the side netting, making every Villa fan inside Villa Park think “why isn’t he starting?” The game overall was a poor one for Villa and the light on our survival hopes is being drowned with buckets of water every week.
The atmosphere around the ground and inside it for the full 90 minutes, also matched the weather, bleak and miserable. Empty seats were noticeable in all four stands. There was an enjoyable and uplifting start to the game seeing the big Sex Pistols themed flag take centre stage in the middle of the Holte End. However, I can recall about one song being blasted out from all ends of the stadium when Villa started to pick up the ball and run at the Arsenal defence.
There was an inevitable feeling that Arsenal would win this game. The chanting between the North Stand and away end was also quieter than usual, but what can you do on a Sunday when you aren’t inspired by your team? The fans need to be inspired by the players on the pitch to have belief to get behind their team, and there was more abuse and disappointment due to our poor performance and quality. The atmosphere of what was left of the crowd was lifted by the brilliant Adama Traore when he went on a Messi-esque dribble, but it was obviously too little too late.
Post-Match Fan Thoughts
Villa have to get a decent haul of points from the four games over the Christmas period to have any chance of saving their lives, games that include teams like Norwich, Newcastle and Sunderland. All deemed ‘winnable’ by Remi Garde.
The time is now for every single player to stand up and scrap for survival, the excuses ran out a long time ago and instead of feeling sorry for ourselves we need to pick ourselves up off the floor. The squad may not be the best in comparison to previous years but we just need confidence, Leicester and Crystal Palace both prove how important confidence can be for a group of players. If we can nick a win, I’m sure the ball would start rolling as the players could build on a result like that.
We’ve got Newcastle away next and even though they’ve turned a corner; it’s easier to see Villa snatching a win upon Tyneside than it is against Arsenal or Southampton.
So like we always do, let’s get behind the players and give them confidence ourselves, give them a boost to realise why letting this great club get relegated with its amazingly dedicated fans would be an absolute tragedy. Let’s fight for our lives and hope the players do the same.
Away Fans Score – 6.5/10
Arsenal filled both tiers and sang loudly when they were scoring goals in the first half, but they played a part in Villa Park falling silent for long periods of the game. They weren’t as impressive in comparison to other fans that have made the trip to Birmingham. However, maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt due to the fixture being played out on a Sunday afternoon.
There was a notable part to the game when the Gunners’ fans began to sing “He drinks when he wants, he drinks when he wants! Jack Grealish he drinks when he wants!” Which the North Stand joined in with and the Villa fans found fairly entertaining.
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