Another late goal breaks Villa hearts

Posted by Kevin Hughes

Neville Williams/Getty ImagesIt was deja vu all over again for Andreas Weimann and Aston Villa in their late loss at Arsenal.

This is getting seriously repetitive, and not in a good way for Villa.

Another league game away, another late goal to ruin a result. This wasn't an injury-time sickener, the like of which denied Villa a point at Everton recently, but Santi Cazorla's 85th-minute winner ensured Paul Lambert's team left the Emirates empty-handed and with no consolation at all. Villa have carried a nasty habit of conceding late goals all season and seem incapable of curing a very serious problem.

- Match report: Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa

It's Saturday night and Villa are once again back in the Premier League's bottom three and their inability to see games out threatens to terminate an ever-present status in the top flight. Lambert has 11 games left to find a solution. Considering where Villa would be in the table if games lasted 80 minutes is pointless. They do not and never will. Good teams in this league keep going until the final whistle. Villa have to do the same.

There was an ominous feeling about this result even before kickoff, with the news that captain Ron Vlaar, whose absence over the Christmas period seemed inextricably linked to Villa conceding goals from all angles, was ruled out the side through injury. Vlaar hasn't been totally convincing during his debut season in English football, but Villa look stronger with him in the back line. In his absence, a recall for Joseph Bennett at left back with Villa reverting to a central defensive partnership of Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker.

It took Arsenal just six minutes to breach the Villa defence. So much for keeping an anxious home crowd waiting, building up the tension and frustration, and maintaining pressure on Arsene Wenger's wilting shoulders. Arsenal were lifted, off and running.

Villa stayed in the game, and, as expected, caused problems through their front four. Particularly Andreas Weimann, who had one or two decent runs at the Gunners' new left back Nacho Monreal. The Spaniard looked uncomfortable and unsure against the raw pace and enthusiasm of Villa's Austrian striker.

It was Weimann -- who had been wasteful with chances in his two previous appearances -- who pulled Villa level, and at that stage a point looked good. But Villa rarely looked composed. Arsenal kept the ball, kept prodding for a chance. And here is when Lambert showed a strange tactical hand. With a little over 15 minutes remaining, he brought midfielder Karim El Ahmadi on -- but not at the expense of a forward player, a like-for-like swap with Ashley Westwood. A third midfielder, to try to get hold of the ball, would have made sense.

Then: Charles N'Zogbia off, but winger Simon Dawkins on. An odd choice, when Brett Holman or Yacouba Sylla would have beefed up a midfield wide open and being picked apart by Arsenal with the minutes ticking by. It was no great surprise when Cazorla, allowed to run into space and untracked, scored his second of the game.

Villa struggle to control the ball, and therefore to control games. The team's tactics of sitting back and holding on, rather than getting on the ball, keeping possession, taking the sting out of proceedings, are risky and flawed. Keep letting the opposition have the ball, and they will, eventually, do something with it.

It's a lesson that Villa never seem to learn. They paid for their naivety again and you have to question whether they will manage to kick this bad habit in time to save themselves from relegation.


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