After waiting hours in Royal London Hospital among screaming kids and glum looking patients, the nurse finally called me through to remove seven stitches from my head. If you don’t know, the Whitechapel hospital is practicing, so no surprise when my assistant looked about 15 years old and had a hand of jelly. My hesitant student was as cautious as Arsenal on Wednesday night.
Never have Arsenal played with such a wary step this season, than they did at Villa Park. Even on an off-day the Gunners will still create something. Against The Villains though it wasn’t the usual team effort that brought around Arsenal’s best opportunities, relying instead on the quality of Cesc Fabregas and Andrey Arshavin, whose solo runs both resulted in the frame of the goal being rattled.
The fans and the neutral would like Arsenal to play without the reigns every game, and they almost do. As wise as Wenger is, he understood the threat of Aston Villa on the counter-attack: the pace and direness of Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor is everything that the Frenchman enjoys himself.
Towards the end of the game, there was a sense of feeling Arsenal could snatch victory as they have on many occasion during this campaign. Villa could have lead in the first-half, and by the end a draw wasn’t a bad result. Taking four points overall, from a team who have beaten Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United at Old Trafford, is decent.
Through his tentative slant, Wenger has also kept the positive mentality of the squad buoyant during the hardest stretch of the fixture list. Without getting carried away, Arsenal are in a great position at the spear-head of the Premier League, but this doesn’t mean they can blast away every team up until the last day.
When Arsenal slip up, the same grounds of them being a gutless and inexperienced team are covered as the reasons why. At the moment it is important Arsenal do not allow those vultures find a landing spot and leaving the midlands unbeaten declared Arsenal do have a backbone and also a sensible head right now.
Defeat could have come by Arsenal playing care free as is often their resume. It would have been extremely damaging ahead of the Manchester United game and deflated Wenger’s side. By Arsenal accepting the credentials of Aston Villa, they have come away with not only a point but also kept in tack their unbeaten run – stretching 10 games now – which has barely been mentioned.
Unbeaten runs are extremely important. The longer a team can go unbeaten, the more a team will feel it is unbeatable. Wenger sees consistency as prime importance and hitting a milestone of 10 games without defeat would have been a goal before the Villa match. With this sense of power and immortality, Arsenal will be in a steady and more positive mind when Manchester United visits on Sunday.
Back at Whitechapel, the third year student had worked cautiously, but successfully removed every stitch with good care. There were no slip ups, but at the same time no promotions. Arsenal passed through the midlands in similar fashion and not inflicting defeat upon themselves will have been the first stitch successfully removed from the handful of difficult games ahead. Stitch by stitch Arsenal can win this league. Next job: sewing up Alex Ferguson’s mouth.