Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal

I've mulled over this game and its various ramifications for a few days now, but I am still mainly consumed by the first two reactions I, and most other attending Villa fans, had to this match. Firstly, by how obscenely talented and well oiled is the present Arsenal team. And secondly, by how promising the future looks for us. Although on Saturday there was the usual passion during the game; joy, stunned silence, anger, more anger, and finally pride, the rousing second half performance of our team was backed by a generally vociferous and quite optimistic support. Of course we were gutted to lose, and I still think we were slightly unlucky to do so, but loss is an inevitable outcome of sport and if there is any good way to lose a game, surely its to one of the best teams seen at Villa Park in living memory. Manchester United were dangerous coming forward a few weeks ago, but Arsenal are just on a different level, a depressing yet enjoyable team to watch end a winning streak.

However I normally focus on the Villa positives from these games, so lets go through them again. Firstly we scored against a top team, and genuinely competed with them for sections of the match. In the second half we were so dominant that Arsenal were reduced to hoofing the ball indiscriminately and barely mustered an attack. There are some good signs from some great young players in our team, and some of the experienced ones are really starting to hit form. The injury to one of them, Stilian Petrov, was the key turning point of the match: for 15 minutes afterwards Barry went into his shell, they fully took control and two goals were, eventually, enough to see the points go back to North London. Another resurgent player is Big John Carew. There was a period in the second half when he really hit top form and everything was sticking to him. It wasn't as pretty as Arsenal's effortless control and movement in the first half, but their defence found it almost as difficult to cope with.

And really its hard to say a great deal more than this, without pondering the impact Reo-Coker may have had, or discuss Gabby's surly response to being shunted out onto the wing. The referee wasn't too bad, despite the now repetitive 'top-4' brand of pressure he was under, the fans of both sides were good but not great (although the continuing din of the second half rendition of "Martin O'Neill's ClaretandBlueArmy was singularly impressive), and the overall conclusion for both sets of fans was probably a happy one. They could well win the league, and even if they don't their fans get to watch that football every week, and we are now establishing ourselves as an up and coming force. Improved balance in the team, and a little more class or development could see us win games like this.

Next Saturday we're back in our own league with Portsmouth at home. Despite the ugly looking train times and probable frost I'm looking forward to this game immensely: two exciting teams, a near full-house already, and the chance to try and convert my two younger cousins into Villans fans. The dynasty starts here.

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