Katita Flamini Storms Villa in Seiged Performance

Arsenal see themselves step out into a bright world, blinking in the light of ‘tests’ upon ‘tests’ upon ‘tests’ passed. Did I emphasize enough that Arsenal cannot be tested enough? Take, for instance, this collumn on Setanta Sports (which, for a sports-provider is embarrassingly and poorly written), which says that Manchester United will still win because they’re Man Utd and we’re just Arsenal.

And perhaps you would have believed the nay-sayer, after Arsenal went behind to Aston Villa early on in the 14th minute of play. John Carew – that tall, dangerous striker Arsenal fans know all too well of – outdid Kolo Toure for pace down the flank, jinked away from the defender and sending in a bobbling cross that deflected off both Toure and Gallas, for Craig Gardner to finish. Villa Park is a great ground filled with great supporters, and the place duly erupted – Villa’s form was ominous, having won four on the trot, and suddenly some were thinking that Arsenal still had a dire European hangover.

It was a doubt that started to de-materialize quickly, and was duly eradicated nine minutes later. Eboue shuffled in from the right wing in his distinctive way, feeding in Sagna. Sagna’s cross on the byline scythed through the box to eventually find an onrushing Mathieu Flamini, who shot first time off the left foot to equalise impressively. Running down the left in celebration, Flamini lifted his shirt – Henry style – to reveal a handwritten message?/name?/taunt? of “KATITA“. The best I’ve come up with is that Katita Waldo was a Spanish ballerina, which is some pretty irrelevant trivia for you. Anyone with ‘the knowledge’, let us know.

Soon enough, Adebayor had made it 2-1. The beanpole striker leapt high and proud above two observers (defenders) to nod Arsenal into the lead – contrast this with the Arsenal of old, who hardly ever, if ever, scored from crosses into the box. Wenger’s proved his adaptability, and the team have proved their resourcefulness.

That is, of course, failing to take into consideration the near-pummeling the team received in the second half, as Aston Villa did their very best to equalize. This included – a cynical hack from Carew to upend Hleb and leave us with more edge-of-seat injury news; a lovely dive from Ashley Young to find a penalty in the 88th minute; as well as some pacey and dangerous interplays that saw Arsenal on the back foot.

It’s rather cynical to highlight Villa’s cheap shots in a half that they really did dominate, and Arsenal were fortunate to come out with maximum points after Carew hit the crossbar with a powerful header. Nevertheless, Almunia only had two saves to make in the match, in spite of the pressure the defence found themselves under.

What is fantastic about the win is that it signals the ‘good-for-all-seasons’ mentality that has been instilled in the side. Flamini replaced Fabregas as the lingering midfield threat, and Diarra emulated Flamini’s traditional role of defensive midfield harrier.

No ratings today, as I resigned myself to listen in on the radio when the stream collapsed after half-time. Players of note, however, include Toure, Hleb, Adebayor, and – need I say it? – Mathieu Flamini.

Toure did what he has always done, and thats fuse a gutsy performance together with last-ditch tackles and good marshalling of the defence. Adebayor frustrated many in the opening minutes of the game, but effectively shut them up with dangerous flirtations with the Villa defence, and a goal to boot.

Hleb and Flamini are the special players, though. Hleb, before getting hacked to the ground by Carew, finished an astonishing 39 passes out of an attempted 40. His dribbling is as accomplished as ever, and he carries an aura of danger around him against players who actually bother to study their opponents instead of scare themselves witless with endless Portuguese hype.

And then, there’s Flamini. The reason we can compete with Manchester United for 90 minutes, the reason we can attack the very face of the old Northern bogey, and the reason we can muster three points while playing very much within ourselves as we did in the second half. He now surely must be the ultimate utility player – initially proving his credentials as a makeshift leftback in our Champions League run two seasons ago; popping up with vital goals last season; this season he has shown fight, dogmatic harrying of the opposition, and the ability to attack in Fabregas’ absense.

No ratings today: My stream went down and was forced to watch dots on a screen alongside listening to the radio, but the man of the match would be a pick between Flamini and Toure. Both are vital to what title-challenge we have in us – and to the naysayers: that is correct. A title challenge.

In other news, Adebayor has praised Aliaksandr Hleb, saying Hleb’s ability on the ball makes him an astounding player. Adebayor says:

He is a very good footballer, we know that, he is one of the main players in the squad. He has the technique, he has the ability and I think he is one of the greatest players I have played with.

And there you go. Reasons to maintain one’s faith in this burgeoning side. Newcastle is up next, with an underfire manager in the form of one Messrs Allardyce. Fancy your chances? You’d better.



Filed under Arsenal, Blogging, English Premier League, Match Reports

18 responses to “Katita Flamini Storms Villa in Seiged Performance

  1. kidK

    there is no way Toure is running for man of the match. its hleb or flamini (with high marks for sagna, gael and gallas

  2. jammathon

    Flamini and Hleb were wonderful. Take away Toure, however, and how would we have coped against Villa laying seige on our goal in the second half?

  3. gooner plain and simple

    Clichy, Hleb and Eboue were all excelent but Flamini was my man of the match definitely. If somone had said to me before kick-off that Matty would play the ‘Cesc-role’ so perfectly I would’ve told them they were an idiot and to put down the Mushrooms but he adjusted effortlessly. Clichy and Hleb were there usual selves, Hleb beating defenders and threading passes and Clichy was so good defensively Martin O’Neil actually switched Young to the right (our left) for a whole 3 minutes before realising he wouldnt get any luck from Gael, who also continues to improve in attack. A lot of people criticise Clichy’s ‘final ball’, as he is not the best cross, but fail to see all his beuatiful threaded passes to Rosicky, Hleb and Cesc (or Flamini at Villa) and how he single handedly opens teams up with his runs and feint touches to split players. Eboue was excellent and I think deserves recognition just cos he is the first player a lot of people criticise. His trickery was invovled in both goals and perhaps the best aspect of this game from him was he left all the theatrics and attitude at home and just focused on the game. All that said we were shite in the second half and got very lucky, but hey Champions need luck!

  4. kidK

    hey I am not saying he was bad, just that no way MOM. all the other defenders were better then him today

  5. Steve

    Great result against a very good Villa side that are going to cause many other teams problems this season.

    I agree with the comment about Almunia kicking the ball long too often. Every time he does, we surrender possession and someone needs to tell him that when we’re under pressure, the last thing we want to do is give the other team the ball back.
    In saying that, I thought Al played very well against the constant aerial barrage and I would hate to imagine what trouble mad Jens would have got into when trying to defend all those corners, free kicks and crosses.

    Our fullbacks were magnificent again. Hleb and the Flamster have improved off-the-chart in a season and Diarra is already starting to fit in with the ‘Arsenal way’ after only a couple of full games. I am now starting to get excited about our chances this season, although not confident enough yet to start making predictions. I just hope we can keep it going until May. Up The Arse!!!!

    Sir Arsene knows all

  6. jammathon

    Brilliantly put, Steve.

    The howlers Jens Lehmann made early in the season make people forget about how attrocious he is at handling corners. The howlers can be removed from the game, but his ‘treading on toes’ at corners are just too destabalizing for a team as reliant on rhythm as Arsenal are.

  7. GunnerPete

    If you then add Fabrigas, Van Persie, Diaby to the above squad, you will see why I said in June that AFC have the finest squad ive ever seen. And that is after supporting the cream for 58 years.

  8. extrapreneur

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    check out my blog at http://www.afrikaaners-are-us.com

    Edit: Mate, you make my daily existence so much more pleasing. Promote your blog and die a grim death. WITH PETALS.

  9. Flint McCullough

    I think Almunia was kicking it long because of the conditions in the 2nd half. Little has been made of the fact that Hleb was again kicked off the park. He is so good at receiving & keeping the ball that it was a major influence on the 2nd half.

    Although they hit the bar they had no other clear chances but a player like Carew will always be a threat because of his size allied to good technical ability. We dealt pretty well with him but it was a bit ‘squeaky bum’ at times. Gilberto did well & provided more physique to calm things down.

    Theo was frankly poor. I thought Bentner would have been a better option particularly as Ade appeared to have had a knock.

  10. shotta gunnah

    Third Gen: I share most of your key observations but I must differ significantly with you on one major point: there was only one “special player” in Arsenal shirt yesterday and it was Aliaksander Hleb. The stats prove it: over 80% completed passes of 39 attempts, most of them under heavy pressure in the opponents half and most of them in the first period. Astounding. The man made us tick. That is why, like Flint, I am struck by the failure of Gunners, much less the clueless media, to recognize the complete hatchet job done by Carew on our talisman (a much misused and misapplied word). At the start of the 2nd half Villa’s intentions were clear, to become more physical. That is why I regard Carew’s two-footed tackle from behind as a premeditated assault. Hleb was in full-tilt, at the fulcrum of a trademark Arsenal counter-attack, before he was felled. Once he was disabled and left the park our midfield just ground to a halt. Teams know he is a special player and by taking him out they know we will be half as effective. Only then can the Tim Sherwoods justify their nonsense. Tackle’s like this should be an outright red. Gunners beware – our playmakers must be protected or our season may be doomed.

  11. Kman


    I do not think you were there wathcing the game. or even on tv.
    Toure was the reason we kept Villa at bay in the second half and at times It was amazing to see him control the overrrated Englishmen at Villa (Agbonxxx and Ash Young in particular).and their Gambian(ok norwegian) Frontmam Carew
    However, a lot of credit to HLEB
    then Flamini, Eboue and the rest of the team….in that order

  12. kidK

    yeah kman, I wasnt there watching the game (or even on tv). I just get my kicks by arguing with bloggers about their posts.

  13. kping

    I hope the will win the championship this year, I think they deserve it to win. Proud that van Persie is doing so well, but a pitty he has a lot of problems with his body. Hope to see him on the pitch very soon. Arsenal for me was Bergkamp, now Arsenal is van Persie.

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  15. peter

    Katita? M’mm sounds like name of eastern european girlfriend to me, HA HA

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  17. watcher

    Not a single blog i’ve read mentioned about Adebayor’s sublime return touch to Eboue for the equalising cross. For me, thats the exact turning point of the match.

  18. milkified

    I must say sorry that i miss the match, but im glad that we grab the most out of it. 3 important points. Flamini, the unsung hero, has always been a great player in Arsenal. Not stating him being underrated by many every now and then. It’s a bless that Arsenal have Flamini. Not really? But to me, im glad Flamini is back in the starting line up.

    Flamini is like… Robbie Savage in Blackburn. Timely tackle, rough and able to withstand challenges, he is my one of my idol. With many being timids, its Flamini who did the job. Rubbished the cards being shown to him all this while. If it’s not Flamini, who else would? Fabregas does the attacking; back 4 protecting the goal post. And it’s Flamini.

    With Gilberto reaching his final third, i must say its Flamini who take the position as a defensive midfielder. Versatile he is too.

    Hleb is another unsung hero to me. Honestly… i felt that somehow, Flamini, Hleb and Clichy deserved more rating.

    And to the thridgen, im glad i found this blog. A great one for Arsenal fans. Thank you!!!