Good morning folks – James here with the penultimate match report of the season – thank goodness.
Yesterday saw us steal a point at the Etihad, which in the cold light of day was a good result. It heaps the pressure on Tottenham and gives us something to play for on the last day, whilst virtually securing third spot. Whilst the Champions League isn’t a tournament that fills me with much excitement, there is no doubt that it is imperative to qualify if we are to hold onto our best players whilst attracting personnel of the requisite quality to the club this summer.
In terms of team news, early rumours filtered through on Twitter suggesting Mesut Ozil wasn’t part of the match day squad, which immediately got tongues wagging. The club tweeted shortly after the release of the line up to announce Ozil was suffering from a minor hip injury – many have read into his absence as signalling the firing pistol for his departure this summer. I, nor many of those speculators, am not privy to any ‘in the know’ information – for now, speculating is pointless. Time will tell.
The early signs for Arsenal were ominous, as Koscielny went to clear a loose ball and ended up kicking thin air. Within eight minutes we found ourselves a goal down and it was very preventable. The pretty hopeless Navas swung in a hopeful cross, which really should have dealt with. As it was, the loose ball dropped to Aguero, whose snap shot into the bottom corner was characteristically unerring. El Neny – who had probably his worst game in an Arsenal shirt yesterday, should have put more pressure on the Argentinian, whilst Koscielny inexplicably stood off Aguero, making only a cursory attempt to block the shot. It felt like it was going to be one of those days.
Within minutes however, we were back on terms. After Clichy did what Clichy does, almost heading a cross into his own net, Giroud was given the freedom of the box to nod in from the resulting corner to score his first goal since punk was big. Shortly after we lost Danny Welbeck to what appears to be a tear to his meniscus – a massive blow to him after his recent injury record – fingers crossed today’s scans are more positive than have initially been intimated.
Wilshere replaced him and I hoped that may give us a semblance of control in midfield, but as has been the case since Cazorla’s injury, we really struggle to retain possession. The remainder of the first half was uneventful, with the Citizens hogging possession but doing very little with it.
Within five minutes of the second half, we hit the self-destruct button once again. Bellerin initially misjudged a bouncing ball on half way, allowing De Bruyne to pick it up just inside our half. From that position, there really should have been no danger, but this is Arsenal. The Belgian was given the freedom of the Arsenal half, fending off a meek Bellerin challenge and then finding time to place a shot into the bottom corner. Cech, rightly, has been heavily criticised for letting the shot slip past him and evidently, conceding at his near post has been a career-spanning Achilles heel. He has conceded 10 shots from outside the box this season – the highest in the league. Whilst some may use this as ammunition to criticise him, it highlights a greater deficiency which is our inability to close shots down on the edge of our box. Gabriel backed off De Bruyne, inviting him to take a shot and to allow a player of that quality so much space was criminally poor defending. Bellerin has several chances to clip De Bruyne’s heels to give away the foul – it’s cynical but every team does it and it smacks of a lack of in-game intelligence that we fail to follow suit. Arteta was superb at giving away those cynical fouls, often at the expense of a booking, but more often than not it is worth a yellow card to prevent a free run at our back four.
We brought on Theo Walcott for the ineffective Iwobi – who looked tired, which is understandable – to try and get in behind the City defence and it nearly payed dividends. A lovely flick from Giroud sent Theo through one on one, but his finish was one of a man low on confidence and game time.
Shortly after however, we were back on terms. In one of the few pieces of genuine quality in the match, Alexis broke through the City midfield and laid the ball into Giroud who produced a fantastic ball into the path of the Chilean, whose finish past Hart was stunning. It is worth noting Ramsey’s role in the goal, with his run pulling Otamendi out of central defence and creating the space for Alexis to have a free run on goal. The Welshman didn’t have his best game yesterday, but his tireless and intelligent running can always create opportunities.
We never looked like getting the winner (save for Koscielny’s header ricocheting off the bar, only to be ruled out for offside). The only hairy moment for us came when Bony’s powerful strike also smashed off the bar. At the final whistle, Arsenal were the happier of the two sides, with City now in real danger of missing out on a top four spot with their neighbours breathing down their necks.
There was some post-game discussion about Wenger’s celebration at full time and he was roundly criticised, which I find somewhat boorish. He’s oft criticised for not showing enough emotion and passion and then receives similar criticism when he does. Yes, it was only a draw, but securing third place and making up ground on Tottenham is good news, whichever way you cut it. Frankly, people need to stop being so damn sensitive and not be so angry all the time. Sometimes, it is worth remembering football should be enjoyed.
After the game there were more fun and games surrounding banners and what looked a pretty minor scrap involving the strange man with the poo-emoji for a haircut. I find the whole thing utterly boring and it genuinely feels as if a lot of the ardent-Wenger out lot’s only reason for going to games is to voice their disapproval of the manager and worse still, making sure they have their soapbox moment to vent their spleen. On the manager, I certainly wouldn’t be averse to change, but I would never make it my raison d’etre – my only real concern is what happens on the pitch. Twitter, blogs, podcasts – they’re all great inventions and it would be churlish of me to bemoan them given I utilise the platform of blogging; but the problem evolves whereby a lot of stupid people have a platform.
Anecdotally as someone who has been to every league away game this season, the violence, abuse, vile vitriol and outright nastiness seems to predominantly (not always) emanate from those who hate our manager. I find it plain weird. I know the readership of this site veer very much toward the Wenger-out side of the argument, which is fine and I get people’s frustrations completely – if there was someone of proven quality to replace Wenger, I’d do it tomorrow. But the anger, hostility and downright hatred is bizarre, retrograde and misses the whole point of following a football team. It also begs the question what these people will do with their time as and when Wenger is gone.
Until next time – see you in the comments.
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