Villareal 1-1 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports Adebayor Wonder Goal Gives Arsenal Draw In Villarreal

The Independent: Adebayor scores wonder goal as young Gunners come of age

ESPNSoccernet: Adebayor stunner secures draw

Man of the Match — Marcos Senna

By every measure the most important player on the pitch was Marcos Senna. Yes, Adebayor scored one of the best goals I’ve ever seen in the Champions League (my favorite is still Thierry Henry’s mazy run at the Bernabeu) but overall Adebayor had the kind of game that makes people hate him (officially he was only caught offside 5 times but it sure seemed like a lot more than that). I certainly cannot give man of the match to Adebayor for just one brilliant moment.

I must give credit where credit is due, Senna was brilliant throughout.

I’m not sure if Senna has some kind of freakish ability to find space — and not just any space, but the exact right space. Or if maybe Wenger was like, “don’t bother marking him.” Or if Senna has some kind of wormhole generator in his pocket and is able to warp space and time. But somehow he was always open, always there to keep the ball in the attacking half, always there to put in the tackle, available to break up play, and constantly putting in the exact right pass that freed Villareal’s attackers.

Oh yeah, and the crown jewel was that he also scored an incredible goal.

In short, it was a master class in the holding midfield position. Don’t even try to emulate it, just sit back and watch in awe: which is pretty much what Cesc and Denilson did all night.

The Good

What can you say about Adebayor’s goal that hasn’t already been said?

It was a great goal, but it was a great game as well. [The goal] was unexpected. At the start his body was a bit in the wrong position to score, but he managed to turn that into an advantage for him. — Arsene Wenger

It was probably one of the best goals I have seen in the Champions League, a special goal from a special player.  — Theo Walcott

I don’t even know how I scored, but the most important thing is the ball went in the back of the net! — Emmanuel Adebayor

It was all that. If you haven’t seen it yet (because you live in a cave?) you must click through to the Arsenalist and watch it again.

The Bad

When Senna scored, I got that sick feeling, in fact, for most of the first half I had that sick feeling. Arsenal looked like dog shiat in the first half. Villareal were playing these beautiful little passes, they were moving brilliantly with and without the ball, and they were slicing Arsenal’s defense open almost at will. Wenger credited their two wide players, and I couldn’t agree with him more. In that first half, Nasri and Walcott were criminal in their lack of gdtting back to defend those attacking positions. It seems like Nasri is allergic to defending and there are games (like yesterday) where he needs a half time kick to the balls to get him to track back. Which happened yesterday and, surprise, the second half was better for Arsenal.

The point is in that first half  I kinda suddenly knew what it felt like to be on the receiving end of the Arsenal treatment. They were passing us to death, running us ragged, and the players looked like they were chasing ghosts. They even had the whole “pass you to death but not score” thing down pat!

As for the Senna goal, Song gets the blame in all the papers, but if you watch the beginning of the video over at the Arsenalist, Song is busy covering Rossi who dribbles in toward goal. Senna then sees that both Denilson and Cesc stop running, so he makes himself available, Rossi passes him the ball and at that moment 2/3 of Arsenal’s central midfield just stop moving. Song is the only one covering anything and does his best to get to Senna (nearly gets there) while Denilson and Cesc shamelessly are standing stock still.

We’ll need better from those two in the next leg.

The Ugly

It looks like we might have lost two players from that match: Almunia and Gallas. Mooney suffered what Wenger calls “a recurrence of an ankle” which I believe means that he is growing a third ankle.  They’ve tried to use ankle remover on it, but it just keeps recurring. He’ll be out for two weeks while they burn it off with liquid hydrogen.

Gallas, on the other hand, may have a partial tear of his medial collateral ligament and be out for the rest of the season. Which is a huge loss if that’s true.

We’ll know more about that in the days ahead.


In some areas Arsenal could have played better and I don’t like relying on absolutely amazing goals from Adebayor in order to win competitions. I’d rather we marked out Senna and dominated the midfield, but if we must play poorly and have a moment of brilliance well then, so be it.  After all, a 1-1 draw away is exactly what I predicted and a good away result at this stage in the competition.

I’m also heartened by the team’s second half performance. Wenger went in, kicked some arses, and the club came out and looked much better.  More performances like that second half and these kids will certainly be lifting some silverware in May.


  1. Totally agree that Song was not at fault for the first goal. He was the only one who attempted to close Senna down and as a result gets the flak.

  2. I think it shows how much the side needs Arshavin to click. Not just for his creative attacking play, but for his leadership on the pitch. We were drifting in the wind last night for about 75 of the 90 minutes, I don’t think that would have been the case with Arshavin out there.

    The group stage shouldn’t cup tie a player for the knock out stages, especially when you plop a transfer window dead into the middle of the two.

    The first half was very hard to watch. I was watching on tape delay, and kept thinking that I should just fast forward to the 50th minute or so, just to stop the slow bleeding ulcer that was the first half.

    But 1-1 going back to the Emirates, a fine result.

    (Gallas’s injury will cost Arsenal 2-3 million quid less in transfer fees this summer, that is the unfortunate part.)

  3. (Gallas’s injury will cost Arsenal 2-3 million quid less in transfer fees this summer, that is the unfortunate part.)


    I dunno, when he was stripped of the armband, I thought he would move on but now I’m not so sure. If we win the Champions League (which it looks like we could do now that we’re facing Porto in the next round!) I have to think that he will want to stay.

  4. Tim – I am sure you were being slightly facetious, but United is going to crush Porto in Portugal, I foresee a 5-0 or 6-0 thumping.

  5. Im not sure how much blame you can attribute to fabregas
    i did notice he wasnt tracking back and making tackles at all really yesterday but I think this was to ensure he did not push too far back that he couldnt offer support to adebayor when we had the ball
    i totally agree, havent seen the papers but if theyr putting the blame on song then thats ridiculous, he was trying to do 2 men’s jobs
    Hes growing into a brilliant player, and although i actually agree senna probably was MoM, song was one of Our best players, as he has been in all the recent matches ive seen him in.
    Im a fan of denilson and i think his time will come, but song looks like a 25 year old and denil is still a kid imo. He doesnt have the consistency thing yet. Im quite confident tho that he’ll go on to be similar to marcos senna in ability – but wenger should be picking song ahead of him at the present time!

  6. It was a case of Wenger being found out. He shouldn’t have used the formation which he had against Man City. Villareal were using the spaces behind the wide players(nasri & walcott) to their advantage. In the second half, we were playing a bit more central, rather than using the width. Hence nasri got back into the game as he was drifting more central.

    I’m afraid Wigan would be the same case if Wenger doesn’t use a Plan B. I would rather have him use 4-4-1-1 formation again.

    Now that we’ve got 2 formations which suit our style, Wenger should use it to our advantage and not get found out again.

  7. Agreed Tim, Senna was MOM and showed us all how the holding MF role should be played even at 32 years old.

    Agreed, Song was not at fault for the goal. Senna was supposed to be Denilson’s man. Can’t blame Fab too much for that because he was playing much higher up the pitch to provide a link with Ade and had a very limited defensive role (as per the team scheme) until we equalized.

    Song, Sagna and Toure were the 3 best Arsenal players on the pitch throughout the game yesterday and Fabianski played extremely well when he came on for Almunia. Ade played well in the 2nd half, but as expected, Fab looked totally winded by the 65th minute.

    Fantastic goal by the Dade and in terms of difficulty points must rate higher than the Vela nutmeg and chip, and Eduardo’s left heel stab.

    Manu has not played well for 4 consecutive games and seem to be losing their edge and could well be sucker punched out of the CL by Porto. Hope not, because we still have to play them in the EPL and they will have a Tiger up their a$$ to win the EPL crown.

    @ Davi, Song may look like a 25 year old, but he is only 5 months older than Denilson.

  8. song definitely was NOT as fault for the goal. i saw the match for a second time yesterday after i went home and he was trying to tackle rossi who was making a very fine run towards the penalty box – one of his many fine runs in the first half. senna moved up into the gap and he wasn’t tracked by either cesc or denilson. rossi then passed the ball back to senna and song was the only one who even tried to close him down. if we play a 4-4-2 in the next game, i would vote for song and not denilson to partner cesc based on yesterday’s performance.

  9. I’ve got to agree about Song. He has been great in the last few games. He’d be first choice CM for me at the moment.

    Nasri was a bit rubbish last night.

    Denilson did ok but needs strength – next year will be his year.

    Cesc did ok, but not as clinical with the passing as last year.

    Ade was rubbish in the first half, but a lot better in the second

    Walcott was fairly ineffective last night – he does have games like that

    Gallas will be a loss for the time he’s out, but Djourou is ready.

    Still worried about Clichy – great defensively, but offers nothing in attack. We have no left hand side in offense unless Arshavin is playing.

    Toure and Sagna are the steady eddies in the team

    Fabianski should take his chance – I’d much prefer him in goal in a penalty shoot out (next round?)

    We should be ok on the second leg, but only if played at our pace – no sitting back lads!

  10. Playing the blame game is a direct function of the tactics and duties expected of the team last night. Poor communication by the midfield led to the Senna goal and perhaps it was Song’s responsibility to be marking him instead of Rossi. I’m not sure who was marking who last night and that was the problem. I think Song is the easier scapegoat simply because traditionally his position is to mark the creative midfielder out of hte game. So perhaps those blaming Song aren’t wrong because while he was marking someone, not marking your assignment is equally faulty. Watching the replays over and over also infuriates me that Cesc and Denilson were ball watching as Senna had a cup of tea before he unleashed his shot. To be honest you could blame that entire trio for the opening goal because it was evident that someone wasn’t sticking to their man and someone needed to point that out, but no one did. We came back in the second half but I’m not sure why it required a poor first half and a goal down before we shifted into top gear. We could have marauded them from the start and gotten a win, although Villareal did play well for 90 minutes, if we had played the entire game as we did the second half we’d have been the better overall side and could be in an even better position.

    On the bright side Porto did an excellent job at Old Trafford and if not for Van Der Sar, the Mancs could have been down 2 or 3 goals going to Portugal. Maybe we will experience the deja vu of the Porto coach running down the touchline celebrating. Somewhere out there Mourinho must be cracking a sly grin.

  11. @ WC

    Arsenal rarely ever does man to man marking but uses zonal coverage. Song was providing coverage on our right/center flank and so Denilson should have been on the left, which would have made Senna his man.

  12. Good point WC with only one problem: Senna is the holding midfielder, it’s Cesc’s job to mark the holding midfielder.

    It’s probably just injury, but Cesc has not played at his highest level defensively since he came back from injury.

    I directly blame Cesc for Senna’s goal. In fact, for the fact that Senna had so much space at all, is Cesc’s fault.

    Or Wenger, for not telling the players who to mark (it’s possible he was playing a zone).

  13. I think Fabianski look good coming in cold and showed alot of composure. I really dont see too much dropoff in talent between manny and lukas so it’ll bee good to see the pole between the poles for a while.

  14. I feel very lucky with the 1-1 we got. We absolutely did not deserve that.
    I think Gunnersou is right. The 1st goal was a direct result of Arsenal being found out and out-coached in the first half. Villareal systematically used the spaces at the wings and created space in the middle with the Rossi runs that pulled 2-3 Arsenal players to the ball to cover. Certainly Denilson & Cesc looked lazy standing there, but it is the system that was at fault.
    Gallas and Almunia are big losses but their subs are very capable. I am worried for either Djourou or Fabianski, but the problem is that now we have no more depth for the rest of the season. No more injuries please….
    And lastly, don’t underestimate Porto. They outplayed ManU. It wasn’t luck. And they gave that first goal to ManU on a high school level defensive blunder. The good news for Arsenal is that I’d rather get either ManU or Porto instead of any of the 4 other teams in the other half of the bracket.

  15. Still looking for signs of hoped for consistency, but we put in our accustomed periodical tentative performance. The most disturbing aspect of senna’s goal was that he nearly scored from the exact same position in the second half and was similarly unmarked, learning deficiency? youth. Gallas’ absence couldn’t come at a worse time as he has been doing very well these last months. I wish we could play 4-4-2 but we haven’t the personnel to do it.

    If manu shows up like they did at old trafford i pick porto to push on, but start tevez and with the correct attitude manu can do the job, still i’m going with porto, they’ve a good record on united.

  16. Best quote ever written in a gamecast in the 31st minute of the Liv Vs Chel UCL match cane this important bit of informatio

    “John Terry’s hair is receeding at an alarming rate. There will soon be an island at the front, sitting, rather like Britain in the days of Empire, in splendid isolation.”

  17. Senna played well in the first half He was distinctly average in the second and outplayed by both Alex Song and Denilson then. Cesc isn’t fully match fit. One of the earlier posts above points this out and it was very clear to see him standing trying to catch his breath in the last twenty minutes. I was surprised that he didn’t go off for Walcott.

    Give Senna some credit for a fine strike (one of his few….he hasn;t scored AT ALL since last October, so one in six months isn’t bad, is it? Hardly a master class though and not worth spending the major part of our blog apportioning blame between our players. It was 1-1. A really good result. We’ll win it in London. Cheer up.

    If Senna was in our squad right now, I don’t think he’d be an automatic pick. Not sure he has what it takes for two games a week at EPL pace.

  18. Tomorrow’s blog should concern more important matters: like where the hell are we all going to watch the match on Saturday morning?

    It is not live on tv in the US.

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