An ambitionless Arsenal plodded their way to a staid 0-0 draw with Aston Villa this evening.
Arsene Wenger made a number of changes. Kieran Gibbs replaced Thomas Vermaelen at left back with the captain left on the bench. Carl Jenkinson came in for Bacary Sagna while Aaron Ramsey started in place of Jack Wilshere in midfield.
The early stages of the game were very cagey with Villa working hard to close down Arsenal as high up the pitch as possible. And the home side started more brightly with good possession and some efforts on goal. Szczesny was forced into a near post save from Westwood and Benteke headed well wide from a corner as Arsenal struggled to get into the game.
Arsenal’s first attempt on goal came in the 19th minute when Oxlade-Chamberlain cut inside the Villa box from the right hand side and fired a left footed shot not far of the near post.
Lukas Podolski almost found himself open in front of goal in the 27th minute but Brad Guzan did well to smother. Shortly afterwards, after a bit of a scramble in the Villa box, Aaron Ramsey forced Guzan into a good save with his feet after a low shot.
The conditions were difficult for both teams with heavy rain and a slippy pitch, and Arsenal were almost punished when Wojciech Szczesny, having caught a high ball, slid out of the area and was penalised by referee Lee Mason. From the resulting free kick Ciaran Clarke lashed the ball from after a well worked routine but was correctly given offside.
The Gunners could have gone ahead in the 44th minute. Laurent Koscielny won the ball, drove forward, Giroud crossed from the left hand side, it came to the Frenchman just outside the 6 yard box but with the ball slightly behind him and on his weaker foot he scooped it over the bar.
We had the first chance of the second half. Oxlade-Chamberlain came forward, played it inside to Cazorla, there was a little give to Giroud who flicked it back to the Spaniard and he unleashed a shot from the edge of the box which wasn’t far wide.
The 57th minute saw more good work from Oxlade-Chamberlain down the right hand side, he got past the defender, fired in a low cross but Ramsey, arriving outside the near post, couldn’t quite get not enough on it to get it on target. If you get me.
After great work to win Arsenal a corner, Aaron Ramsey had a chance to score from the resulting set-piece. Olivier Giroud headed on, it came to the Welshman at the back post but he sidefooted over the bar.
Villa also threatened, one break saw them outnumber Arsenal at the back but that broke down, then good build up play fashioned a chance for Agbonlahor which Szczesny saved well. Benteke was a constant threat, winning headers and while none were particularly dangerous it was good play from the Belgian Arsene Wenger thought about signing this summer.
Aaron Ramsey was Arsenal’s most productive player in the 2nd half and he pulled a shot not far wide from distance, before Holman forced Wojciech Szczesny into a brilliant save as his rasping shot hit the crossbar off the keeper’s fingertips.
Arsenal brought on Gervinho in place of Podolski, whose first two touches provided Villa with a goal kick and a throw in respectively; Arshavin for Oxlade-Chamberlain and late on Coquelin for Giroud – a change which was met with boos from the travelling fans who knew the team needed a goal. Although there is a midweek game it’s hard to understand what the manager was thinking.
Andrei Arshavin almost found Gervinho with a cross from the left hand side but Ciaran Clarke made a vital interception, and late on Coquelin had a chance to put in a cross from the right but skewed it out for a goal kick with the final kick of the game.
This looked like a game that Arsenal were trying not to lose rather than trying to win, and when you consider the opposition that’s hard to take.
Big game to come at Goodison on Wednesday.5,336 views