Arsenal vs Aston Villa: Why The Gunners Are Swapping Wengerball for Direct Action

Arsenal are now three points clear of rivals Spurs in the race for third place after a run of five successive league wins. The reason behind the Gunners' fantastic form? A change in approach...
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Arsenal are now three points clear of rivals Spurs in the race for third place after a run of five successive league wins. The reason behind the Gunners' fantastic form? A change in approach...

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Gibbs and Walcott's goals meant Arsenal had two English goalscorers in a league game for the first time since October 1997

Yesterday’s win against a struggling Aston Villa side not only saw the continuation of a winning streak that’s propelling Arsenal up the league but also the beginning of the end of a small Arsenal transition.

Since being written off by a large majority of the press as a stylish outfit without any substance, Arsenal have shed their attractiveness and gone back to basics; their passing losing the intricacy of a Rubik’s cube and being replaced with simplicity.

This isn’t to say that Wenger has grabbed Tony Pulis’ tactical notes and suddenly turned his prized possessions into a route one team akin to a rugby squad – far from it – but since the flak his team suffered from the humiliating losses earlier in the season, Arsenal have been keeping it simple.

Instead of falling back from an oncoming attacker, hoards of Gunners surround opposition players; hounding them relentlessly until the ball is recovered again. Yesterday’s win saw a stripped-down Arsenal team begin to inject a bit of flair back into their veins.

Inklings of the older Arsenal came out in the second goal with Theo Walcott racing on to Song’s architectural pass with a beautiful first touch and a neat finish

Kieran Gibbs’ opening goal at a sun-kissed Emirates stadium was a fine example of Arsenal’s simplicity and effective football; Gervinho’s direct pass played into the path of the left back before he slotted it through the body of Shay Given. The goal was a far cry from the Arsenal of August or September who would have taken a simple A to B route by stopping at X,Y and Z on the way after popping in at Nando’s for a half chicken and chips – pretty on the eye but without the needless layers of overpriced foundation.

Inklings of the older Arsenal came out in the second goal with Theo Walcott racing on to Song’s architectural pass with a beautiful first touch and a neat finish; a very direct piece of play but sprinkled gently with Arsenal’s continued growth in confidence. Unlike Stoke or Blackburn, Arsenal are playing a brand of direct football which doesn’t conclude with an oversized lone striker heading a looping pass from a two-bit goalkeeper.

It’s important to note that this transition to a more ‘basic’ style doesn’t mean that the Gunners have suddenly become ugly. Sure, Chamakh isn’t the best looking of strikers but this hasn’t been replicated in the play. Wenger has always known his team to be talented but up until now, they have always been seen as that pretty actress in Hollywood who has lacked that substance, that passion; but the Professor has finally taught his beleaguered and stressed actresses to be both pretty as well as vicious.

There’s no greater example of Arsenal’s change than after the second goal. As Villa came out for the second half with aspirations of getting an early goal, they pushed on. Arsenal teams of months gone by would have seen a cheap goal given away but this tighter outfit pushed at every poor Villa pass and saw off the mounting pressure with Gervinho and Walcott tracking back at every opportunity to help out their defence who seem to grow in confidence after every match.

the Professor has finally taught his beleaguered and stressed actresses to be both pretty as well as vicious.

Another small cameo from Oxlade-Chamberlain gave Gooner’s another taste of his increasing talent; his small bursts of pace showing the Villa defence that leaving the youngster unattended was as risky as putting Emile Heskey as a lone striker against a team that has now only conceded two goals in their previous five games.

The cherry was placed firmly on top of the cake as Arteta finished off the Villains with a powerful freekick in injury time. Arteta’s set pieces have become increasingly frustrating for Arsenal fans; many of his efforts being smacked directly into walls or a few feet wide but he today showed why sometimes he can prize Van Persie away from the ball in these situations and Shay Given stood no chance.

As the final whistle blew it marked another fine display by an Arsenal team who are slowly adding bits and bobs of flair into their game again. Wenger’s decision to tear away the showboating in favour for a more direct and back-to-basics mentality will stand the Gunners in good stead for the rest of the season as their north London rivals continue to have lasagne-laden nightmares.

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