This match was an example of Arsenal in their pomp. The fresh North London sunshine warming the backs of the Arsenal faithful and players alike. Whilst that very same sun dazzled and heated the brow of the Aston Villa contingent. It is in such climate that many Arsenal fans will be reminded of their favourite moments over the last few years at Highbury. Adams volleying in to win the title in 1997/98. Numerous Bergkamp chips, Overmars running into space, Vieira standing indomitably in the centre circle, Pires weaving and scuttling around the park. However those names are being replaced, the old memories being refreshed with new names and faces. Adebayor stretching every sinew to score and then set up team mates, Eboue playing as if possessed by Garrincha, Kolo standing up tall putting in heroic challenges, Hleb perpetual motion in both attack and defence, Diaby eating up the ground to finish a simple effort and RVP performing what the Observer termed ‘a hip hop dance’ to score past Sorensen.
However it is after such a result that attentions turn to one man, TH14. Henry has had more moments in the sun than most of late and over the last few years. Memorable goals against Liverpool, Man U, Spurs, Charlton and well, every other team to tread on the silky surface of Highbury. Arsenal would have won yesterday without the presence of our Gallic premier but would the performance have had the sunshine? When Henry and Arsenal play like that the sun always seems to shine.
Aston Villa did not help themselves rarely worrying Jens and not putting the midfield under enough pressure. Given that space and freedom Arsenal were always going to win. Straight from the off the Arsenal wingers, Messrs Reyes and Pires, were advancing past the strikers and switching wings. Even the early loss of Febregas did not dent the play, with Diaby entering the team seamlessly. The first goal came after 19 minutes when Henry out paced the Villa defence and got to the ball before Sorensen, he turned on the left edge of the box and floated a chip towards goal only to be stopped by Hughes. These days though Arsenal have Adebayor, a striker not concerned with beautiful goals but goals however they arrive, he rose and nodded the ball back to score. These are important goals for Arsenal, Adebayor has come in and scored straight away, plus he scores early goals and gets us off the mark.
As is Arsenals wont when in pomp they can score two goals in 5 minutes and then kill the game. Arsenals second came 6 minutes after the first. Reyes, increasing his lead as No 1 assist man in the Premiership, played a ball through to Henry that he plucked out of the air and controlled as if the ball was magnetically attracted to his foot. In the next movement Henry side footed the ball over Sorensen. The goal was so well executed by Henry it defied belief. By this time Arsenal were, as Wenger said, ‘out of reach’. The game was a carnival before half time, but this is a weakness of Arsenal, we are just not ruthless enough. At a time like this the captain needs to step up, and how.
The second half had barely started before another long ball was played Adebayor, occupying two Villa defenders, touched the ball back to Henry, who had positioned himself in space as if to attempt a drop goal in Rugby, Henry took one touch and placed the ball into the top corner from 25 yards. Henry was on course for the best hat-trick ever but was subbed with the Juve game in mind with half an hour to go. His replacement, RVP, came on to score a goal that came straight from the street football RVP grew up playing. Ten minutes later Adebayor raced down the inside right channel to square the ball to Diaby for the simplest of the goals thus far.
Arsenal simply ran away with the game but what of the big picture? Bolton and Spurs both lost giving Arsenal the upper hand, however we go to Old Trafford next Sunday for a match we must get a result from, it is crucial we match the Spurs result as we can not afford to give them the slightest chance to pull away. I fear for my hearts sake that the battle for 4th may come down to Arsenal vs Spurs on April 22nd.
If artistic merit counted for anything tangible Arsenal would have dominated the league for the last 8 seasons, of that there is no doubt. As it is we Arsenal fans have to be content with the knowledge that the whole world is watching Arsenal with envy, yes even Barcelona.