The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
The addition of a tiny talismanic braided rat-tail to the back of Nicklas Bendtner’s neck successfully made him look like a minor forest hobbit but had no effect on Arsenal’s inability to stop the repeated pillaging of their ground by an Aston Villa side that played like they wanted someone to compare them to Arsenal.
The first half was largely an unbroken montage of Manuel Almunia hitting the ground at full stretch, the ball bubbling away from him, and Gallas sending it into the crowd at a velocity that would in all likelihood be considered felonious if he were African and a football were legal tender.
In the second half Arsenal began building slow attacks and briefly looked as though they might reclaim their mantle as “the team that passes the ball around deftly without actually scoring,” which Villa were threatening to usurp. But then Gaël Clichy headed the ball into his own net, and then Agbonlahor raced down the pitch to score on a million-yard pass, and Arsenal were reduced to being a team with an outstanding chance of winning the Carling Cup. Carlos Vela came on, as if to make the point.
Gareth Barry has an amazing quality of seeming to contain twice the normal mass for a person his size without actually being any larger. Fabregas has a bit of that, too. Is that command of midfield, or just strong jaw muscles?
by Brian Phillips · November 15, 2008