Cesc makes his mark as Arsenal set sights on weakened Villarreal

Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas had strong returnsThere may have been a two-week International Break sandwiched between this game and the last, but Arsenal picked up where they left off at Newcastle to produce a performance of real class and quality to beat Manchester City 2-0 at The Emirates.

Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas were back in the side after one and four-month absences and the paired combined for goals. The first came after just 8 minutes when Adebayor headed home a free-kick by the captain while the second came four minutes after half-time, Fabregas lifting another superb pass to allow Adebayor to round the Shay Given and sidefoot home.

In between the two goals both sides had chances to score. Micah Richards forced Manuel Almunia into a good low save early on while Gelson Fernandes blew City’s clearest opportunity by clipping the post after being put clean through by Shaun Wright-Phillips. Arsenal had chances too as Kolo Toure danced his way into the area to work Given and Alex Song allowed Andrey Arshavin a shot on goal after a clever backheel. Once again Given was in the way.

After going 2-0 up there was only ever one side in it as our boys continued to create chances and the City attack simply dried up. Song went the closest to making it 3-0 when he headed over a corner but there were numerous other opportunities created for Theo Walcott and Adebayor among others.

With injuries to Eduardo and Robin van Persie the manager resisted the temptation to play Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner together and the result was a highly mobile 4-5-1 that brought the best out of Adebayor, Arshavin, Walcott and Fabregas. I thought the balance in the midfield was superb with Song and Denilson providing the defensive platform for the aforementioned quartet to exploit.

Despite missing almost four months with a knee injury our captain looked like he’d never left. His passing was incisive and inventive and if anything, he looked refreshed rather than lacking in fitness after an extended period on the sidelines. It bodes very well for the run in and the return of a fully-fit Fabregas may be just what turns this very good side into Champions League or FA Cup winners.

The other two players returning from injury – Adebayor and Walcott – were, with Cesc, the standouts in this performance. Adebayor was very “last season”, running his socks off and causing the City defence problems with his pace, strength and overall commitment. Meanwhile Walcott looked as comfortable on the ball as he has ever been.

Next up is the trip to Spain for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie with Villarreal and what an exciting opportunity that promises to be. In a complete contrast with Arsenal, our opponents had a shocker of a weekend in their domestic league, falling 3-0 away to 12th-place Almeria and losing one of their true stars, striker Santi Cazorla, to a broken foot. If there was ever a time to play Villarreal then it is now.

A good result there could see us with one foot in a semi-final which will surely be against Manchester United. I mentioned last week how excited I am by the prospect of playing United at this stage and this has only intensified after they came back to beat Aston Villa last night. I know I should be happy that Villa lost given the points situation but watching a Manchester United side who barely deserved a point snatch all three through the infuriatingly poor Cristiano Ronaldo and a 17-year-old Italian was cruel and unjust. Oh, how I hate you United.

Anyway, that’s it in a wrap-up of what’s been a pretty good weekend. I’m off to daydream about Alex Song crashing in a 30-yarder to knock United out of the Champions League on away-goals. Good times.

Have your say on Arsenal’s win over City, the Villarreal game or United by leaving a comment.



  1. Wot a comeback for the captain and our African best.. with 2 assist and 2 gols respectively.
    I tink Arsene shld keep this formation for the Villareal game (4-5-1) with Samir comin on for Arshavin.
    Alex has been improvin game by game, his passing is getin more accurate. I tink he needs more game.
    I’m proud to be a gunner.. COME ON ARSENAL!

  2. Finally Adebayor has shaken off the injury shackles that have been holding him down and has started to show glimpses of his previous “brilliance”. But let’s not get too carried away cause it’s only been one game and well Madonna’s adoption bid was rejected recently, so she’s still on the prowl for something that almost fits his description to a tee! I wouldn’t be surprised if she pounced on the opportunity to enslave adopt him, drape him in a white lace vail and nail him to crucifix all while touring around the USA… in fact there isn’t much I wouldn’t put past that crazy bitch! Careful Ade… you could be next!

  3. @ OluBcee KAKA – I could not have put that better myself with regards to the team for Villarreal. I think the same team with Nasri subbing in for Arshavin would be perfect, however there are some pretty big indications from the manager that Nasri won’t be available due to his flu. Any thoughts as to who else could slot in? Eboue or Ramsey? What about RVP or Bendtner as a left-sided midfielder?

  4. Lol, great blog SF. I hate the Mancs with a passion. Theres a possibility of us playing 4 games against them this season. 2 CL games, FA cup final and in the EPL, nothing would please me more than us personally crushing their tittle hopes in all the remaining competitions.

    Anyway, its great to see our players return with a bang. Cesc, Ade and Theo were brilliant. Song and Deni were also superb. I think le boss must use the same formation against Villarreal tomorrow with Nasri(hopefully) on the left. A goal or two tomorrow should be enough to take us through to the semi final.

  5. Like I said on the last post- Im dreaming of ending Uniteds UCL, EPL, and FA Cup hopes…

    But I am a bit nervous about Tuesday. We need absolute focus- We didnt have it in Roma for the second leg. We have to steal an away goal…

  6. It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here SF but I’ve been reading consistently and enjoying it as much as ever. I will say just three things.
    1. I was at the Pig and Whistle watching the match – where were you??
    2. Adebayor was very much “last season” like you said because I remember one phenomenal chase back he made for the ball after he lost it.
    3. Cesc is back baby! 🙂

  7. I was hoping that Villa would earn the draw, but that result might just have smashed any confidence they have in their chances for the run-in now. What a way to lose a match. United make two goals out of nothing and Villa must feel utterly distraught.

    Very much looking forward to the Villarreal game now, the writing’s on the wall. Arsenal at their imperious best with United limping along like a wounded animal – if we still continue our hollywood football then I predict great things this season!

  8. @SF

    If Nasri cant make it to tomorrows game i think Bendy should play on the left b/c of his work rate. He runs alot and his positiong sense is brilliant. So there you have it, my team for tomorrow…


  9. why is mike riley still allowed to ref man u games despite his so obvious bias 4 them

    well done guys agnst man city
    same score or better at villarel

  10. @ aino – How was Riley biased towards United? I thought he had a good game and there was no disputing that backpass.

    @ Grant – I’ve got Foxtel now mate, no more late-night pub visits for me!

  11. That Fabregas pass for the second goal was really something.

    I’d like to see Vela coming in for Arshavin if Nasri/RVP are not available. Vela and Walcott hitting them on the counter attack would be something.

  12. I don’t think we should get carried away. We still have very difficult trips to Anfield and Old Trafford. Plus Chelsea come to visit. I think games against between the top 4 are all toss ups. They can go either way so really a Champs League spot isn’t safe yet. Villa and Everton play each other but they have relatively easy schedules left. We still have time to slip up and with our Jekyl and Hyde team, anything is possible. First things first is Villareal. Losing Santi Carzola is a big deal for them and hopefully we will be able to take advantage. We have a few walking wounded though and I think playing at the Madrigal will be tricky. The team needs its full focus. If we can sneak a 1-0 that will be perfect. Fingers crossed.

  13. @ sf I’m off to daydream about eboue crashing in a 30-yarder to knock United out of the Champions League on away-goals. Haha wouldn’t that be funny!!!!!!!!!

  14. Good summing up of the weekend SF, but why do you think that it’s a forgone conclusion that Man U will get past Porto in CL quarters? Man U have been crap for 3 weeks now, and I agree they didn’t deserve 3 points yesterday. Once again, they rode their luck. If they do beat Porto, they would hold no fears for me now, provided we had a full squad to choose from. With Villareal’s problems, we now have a real chance of getting to the CL final. We’ll have to contend with the likes of Barca and Real unsettling Cesc and Ade with expressions of interest, but if we can keep our minds on the task ahead I think we should all be optimistic. I’m finally starting to go into games with a degree of the confidence we used to feel a couple of seasons ago, rather than with the trepidation caused by the inconsistent form of earlier in the season. With the sicknotes back, we’re starting to look more like the Arsenal of old.

  15. I would like to see Vela start but I would suspect Eboue will. Doubt Nik B would be used on the wing. I know he has before but I just dont see it. surely cesc, Den and Song all will start again in the middle.
    I actually hope RVP isn’t fit. I just dont like the 4-4-2 away in europe, especially when one of the strikers is RVP. for me that never ever works.

    I wish united were away tomorrow. they are on such poor form I could see Porto beating them by enough goals to finish it. but at OT, United will probably get at least a draw and then get their best players back for the away game. lucky united but its not a foregone conclusion all the same.

  16. The saturday performance was impressive and it can only get better if we do not suffer any more injuries.I do not think we are safe yet in 4th place until we open a 9 point lead over Villa and Everton to cushion us against possible (not probable) losses of 9 points to ManU,Liverpool and Chelsea.Am hoping for a good result against Villareal-at least lets get a goal:1-0 or 1-1 will do for me

  17. I prefer porto in the semi. Man u are 2 strong and we in contrast are unpredictable. If only rosicky cld come back faster.

  18. i think rosicky will find it extremely difficult to get back into the team given the current form of nasri and arshavin

  19. just finished watchin the full match there (i know but the grand national was on saturday) just a few thoughts.

    1. we could have scored a lot more.

    2. defence in the second half was excellent.

    3. because of an outstanding performance from song and denilson, they bossed the middle so well it even enabled willy and kolo to make a few runs forward. particularly liked kolo droppin theshoulder and takin defeners on.

    4. 4-5-1 formation worked really well. fabregas seemed to enjoy the freedom and arshavin, walcott and cesc gettin forward in support.

    5. they mixed the play up with an injection of pace to complement the passes, there was a directness about are play i think helped by the return of walcott. a special mention should be made for eboue who came on and carried on what walcott had started, alright his finishing is still suspect but it was nice to see him and walcott run at people.

    6.adebayor ‘the return’ i agree wholeheartedly with wat your saying SF. do you think he’s scared of the crozillian?

    most of that had already been said by others but i thought i would let you know wat i’m thinkin.

    one last thing. this probably sounds a bit daft but i am kind of glad arsha is cup tied for the cl. it keeps him free for the league and fa cup we have struggled before when returning from cup games but with arsha comin in keeps the momentum going, he is a bit of a hard nut aswell check out the difference between him being tackled and ronaldo 40 rolls.

    keep up the excellent work sf.

  20. Good review/preview of the game Spanish.

    Our performance was solid against City. All 3 players returning from injuries had a big impact on the game. As always Cesc was fabulous going forward. I bet he loved that free roaming role like last season. Adebayor had an excellent game because he tried very hard. I was expecting him to run his socks off to guarantee his place in the team which he did. With Arshavin signing, Bentdner’s improvement and RVP & Eduardo in the team, Bayor had no other option than to work hard. Although I don’t like his attitude, I always think he has a potential to be a Monster striker like Drogba. Walcott did cause some problems with his pace. I expect him to be more dangerous against Villareal.
    4-2-3-1 Formation impressed me a lot. Also Toure’s dribblings. I think Wenger will try the same formation tuesday night. Denilson and Song played a solid game against City. We will see how they will do against Villareal. By the way is Senna fit to play for Villareal? It is certainly the best time to play Y.Submarines who will miss Cazorla and possibly Senna. Nasri being fit to start is a very good news for us. Most probably he will replace Arshavin on the left flank.

    We have a great momentum going into tomorrow’s game. Esp with Cesc and Nasri in the team, we will create at least couple of chances. It would be great if same Bayor from Saturday shows up. An away goal is always crucial. I have a £15 bet on Cesc scoring a goal. Nice.

    *> COYG

  21. some positive posts from gunners fans from all over the world.i see everybody is confident of a good outing against villareal.wenger said it,the lads have been working hard and there is no way they wont be rewarded

  22. As Gibbs mentioned above, both Nasri and Walcott are fit for tomorrow’s game. Most likely a 4-5-1 then, with those two taking up the wide positions.

  23. I feel good about tomorrow- this makes me nervous because I felt good about Roma and Liverpool last year as well… Hope we pull it off. Cant wait

  24. just read in a daily mail article that bobby pires said he wouldnt celebrate if he scored against arsenal !! lol
    after vilreals peformance at the weekend il be suprised if they even show up !lol
    my prediction arsenal 1 nil prob a late goal should leave us a comfortable 2nd leg at the grove

  25. Guys yes United were not that great but dont forget teams like united never play that well after a international break.

    And they had 5 first teamers out.

    Think credit is deserved to united. And i predict a 1-0 win over porto with a goal from Tevez late in the game.

  26. @ Spanish “infuriatingly poor Cristiano Ronaldo”

    i didnt watch the game but how can he be poor if he scored 2 goals and nearly set one up for Welbeck.

    dont know too many players that are poor that can score 2 class goals ?

  27. @ Ronaldo7 – I know you’re well-aware that I’m hardly Ronaldo’s biggest fan but up until the point that he put the second goal in, he had done very little apart from get robbed and not track back for Villa’s second.

    He’s undeniably a class player, no-one can deny that, and he produced the goods again in terms of providing a way to goals. However, his general performance left a lot to be desired and that, combined with his constant petulance and unwillingness to work for the team hurt United against Villa. He’ll still provide moments of class but my question is why he can’t get his attitude in order and at least LOOK like a team player.

  28. I agree with you in that this season his been extremely frustrating to watch. He complains alot and doesnt track back. I have only seen him play like last season once this year (against Inter in both legs). He was immense in those games.

    Last season he was much more of a fighter. I guess that happens to some players when they reach the heights he did last season and have as big as a ego as him. You would have to say he did it all.

    Im suprised fergie has not pulled him aside and had a word to him. Id say he just lets it go if he can keep producing those types of goals.

  29. p.s

    Im stil creaming my pants over some big arsenal vs united games.

    hope we play each other in the FA Cup Final. CL semi final. And end of season PL game.

    i cant wipe the smile off my face just imagining those games happening.

    The battle between the 2 great managers. Battle between 2 teams that play some of the most attarctive football in the world. yummmm

  30. @Ronaldo7.. Ronaldo is a world class player but he still need to improve on his team-play. Plus stop divin and waitin 4 the ref to pay him special attention. CR7 shld emulate Kaka, Zizou, etc. they dont hold the ball if not necessary.
    @SF.. Nicky shld replace Samir if he’s unavailable. He’ll be an addition in set-pieces.

  31. @ Ronaldo7 – The thing that pained me particularly was Ronaldo’s behaviour in the build up to his second goal. He was dribbling the ball and was tackled by two Villa defenders and fell on the ground. You could tell he was thinking of staying down because he thought the ball had been taken by Aston Villa and then when he realised his teammate had it (can’t remember who) he popped up like nothing had happened. Then he received the ball a couple of passes later and scored. It’s frustrating because had Villa got the ball and broken he would have stayed down and forced a stoppage but United got the ball and then he capitalised. It’s that sort of gamesmanship that makes Ronaldo very hard to admire, let alone like.

  32. yeah i agree.

    Dont think play stops though..he usualy stays down and has a cry but play doesnt stop unless the ref blows for a free kick.

  33. Well for arsenal to win something this season we’ve got a lot of work to do. We looked jaded in the 1st half and could have gone down 2-0 if not for fabianski’s saves. We seriously need a 4-4-2 formation to carry out max attack. Song looked quite cluesless as the holding midfielder, he needs time to mature.

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