In a match in which it looked as though Arsenal were going to run away with the game, Aston Villa came out roaring in the second half and actually made a go of things. Still, it's getting rather tiresome to have to pick through a match and find moments about which you can say, "oooh, look, that was shiny."
The first half was dire. Utterly dire. Villa continued to try that long balls in the air thing, which only resulted in them gifting the ball to Arsenal. The true surprise is that it took the Gunners so long to score--Andrei Arshavin finally broke his scoring drought with a goal in the 39th minute. Samir Nasri hit the side netting almost immediately afterward, and quite frankly I was astonished that we didn't go into the break down by six. Instead, it was 0-2 to the Arse at the half.
And the bright spot lies in Villa's reaction after the break. Gérard Houllier pulled off Robert Pires (not because he was poor, simply because he's old, I believe) in favor of Nathan Delfouneso. The best change, however, came with switching Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. The left side may be Ash's best position, but Downing is not sharp on the right, and quite frankly Ash gave quite a bit more from the right today. Please, Houllier, end this weird experiment--you should have all the evidence you need by this time.
Just minutes after the second half started, Barry Bannan--who, in my totally unbiased opinion, was the best player on the pitch today--sent a beautiful ball through to Stewart Downing. It ricocheted off a yellow shirt, allowing Ciaran Clark to trap it with his chest before sending in a perfect volley off his left foot. Of course, to these announcers, that was all luck and "positive attitude", with no credit to the youngster playing in midfield. Seriously, can we have back the announcers that talk about the magical disappearing football rather than the ones that are clearly on Arsenal's payroll?
While Marouane Chamakh almost immediately pulled one back for Arsenal by making both James Collins and Richard Dunne look absolutely foolish, Ciaran Clark's day wasn't finished. Apparently tired of being left out of the praise heaped upon Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan, Clark followed up his first Premier League goal with his first Premier League brace. This time it was the Gunner defense that fell apart, with Richard Dunne heading the ball to Clark, who got his forehead on the ball and stuck it over the line. While there were Arsenal defenders there to try for the clearance, those defenders were also standing behind the goal line.
And what does Ian Darke have to say after the collapse? More words about the poetry of Arsenal, slotted in with idle musings about how it's impossible to believe they won't be the champions of the league.
Considering Aston Villa ultimately lost 2-4 at Villa Park to Arsenal, it may seem petty to complain about the announcers. But when I wake up at 4:45am to watch my team broadcast on a U.S. channel, I don't need to hear complete and utter drivel, an absolute tribute to the glory that is Arsenal. Let's find an announcer that can actually talk about the good in both teams--at least, after Villa come down from a two goal deficit to close the gap, 2-3. Could I hear just one word beyond "attitude"? Could it be at least partially attributed to forward pressing, to the change in sides for Downing and Young, to Defouneso actually holding up play for what feels like the first time?
But of course, I am grumpy. It's 7am, we're all out of pumpkin pie, and my team just lost. There's still the hope of the kids to cling to, but if we don't find ourselves a better defense soon I may just stay in bed.