Hello! Me again, you know not Pedro or Geoff, but the other one…
I emerged yesterday from a 2 week footballing hibernation to attend Arsenal’s game versus high-flying Southampton. It’s not that I dislike international friendlies, it’s that I hate them as much as war, famine and Mock the Week. They are the embodiment of the greed and idiocy that ru(i)n the modern game. The sad thing is I, like most club football fans I expect, enjoy international football; perfectly demonstrated by the fact we will actively support people like John Terry and Ashley Cole for a few weeks during the Summer. But ruining club football by constantly breaking up the season in order to promote international football makes no sense. Why not hold all the friendlies during the Summer. Then I would gladly watch them and support my country. Until then Im going to sulk in my room like a petulant teenager.
Anyway onto the game… unfortunately I was having trouble concentrating after a violent reaction to tequila had left my head feeling like a rude combination of Pepsi and cordite. This was coupled with Pedro whispering in my ear everything i SHOULD be writing in today’s match report. Luckily I was able to ignore him and find strength by focusing on the stadium’s new Gatorade and Arsenal Bulgaria banners. Shout out to all the Bulgarian grovers…
The game was delayed by 15 mins due to delays on the tube, but Arsenal were able to deliver 3 point on time, something something…
In terms of the line-up, Flamini’s suspension meant Ramsey dropped back alongside Arteta and Wilshere came in on the right wing. We were also bolstered by the return of Walcott to the bench. The game started well enough. Southampton demonstrated why they have the second meanest defence in Europe, pressing our defenders high up the pitch, and then showing great discipline and organisation without the ball. It was clear we were going to have work very hard if we were to get anything from the game.
The first chance of note came from SuperJack who did his now trademark drive to the byline followed by a dink over the keeper. I seem to remember him doing that a few times last season, usually as a cross. This time his cross was more of a shot – I’m not sure whether it was intentional – which drifted over Boruc (LOL) but bounced back off the post into the keepers hands. Ozil was probably guilty of ball watching, as you have to feel a hungrier, less assisty player would have bust a gut to nod the ball in and claim the goal for himself.
The next big chance came after Ozil found space down the right and picked out Ramsey with a beautiful pass. The young Welshman had the temerity to flick/backheel (what is it actually called?) from quite deep in the penalty area. His technique was so good that he managed to get enough pace on it to leave the keeper (LOLOL) rooted to the spot. If it had gone in we might as well have given him the Player of the Season then and there. Unfortunately for us and him it clipped the post.
Then the decisive moment of the game as Southampton’s LOLkeeper decided to deal with a simple back pass by pirouetting on the ball like a broken figurine of a ballerina that you might find at a car boot sale. He just kept turning. Every time you thought he could clear it he decided another failed Cruyff turn. There was nothing more Giroud could really do but politely take the ball from him and toe poke it into the net. A moment of madness from the keeper but only made significant by Giroud’s opportunism and persistence.
After that Southampton showed good determination to create some dangerous chances. Their young english winger, Ward-Prowse, in particular, looked like a seasoned pro creating chance after chance from Southampton’s dead balls. It was poor defending by Arsenal from one of Ward-Prowse’s free kicks which led to their first real chance. A poor header from Giroud and then a shocking clearance from Arteta, who was poor yesterday, forced a good save from SZCZ.
SZCZ had to be alert again a few minutes later as the aforementioned Ward-Prowse found RICKY! who created some space and forced a fantastic save. At the time i dont think anyone realised how good a save SZCZ had made but watching the highlights back it was clear it was a top top keeping.
The second half saw Lallana and Schniederlin take advantage of the Flamini-shaped hole in our midfield and get a shot off that SZCZ dealt with comfortably. Sagna then showed great determination from an Arsenal goal kick, chasing down their defender and forcing yet another LOL moment from Southampton’s defence after a bad back pass forced Boruc to put the ball out for a corner. The subsequent link up play between Ramsey, Cazorla and Ozil, led to the enigmatic German firing in a great chance that went straight at the keeper.
Theo came on for Cazorla to a rapturous reception. I cant remember a return by an Arsenal player being greeted with such an anticipation. Partly because of the contribution he makes in terms of goals, assists and all round play but partly because Southampton were there for the taking and his pace would punish them as they looked for an equaliser.
Theo’s first contribution was a stinging shot that went just wide of Southampton’s goal after Wilshere stole the ball deep in our half drove into the Southampton half, and laid it off to Ramsey who slipped in Theo – a great example of our British core in action.
We were able to wrap the game up from the penalty spot after the BFG had his shirt pulled in the box (not for the first time i might add). What i liked about the penalty was that Giroud picked the ball up instantly, you want to see that confidence from a striker. He was able to dispatch the ball neatly, assuring Arsenal of the three points and putting us four points clear at the top of the league.
So what are the conclusions…
Arsenal are contenders, no doubt
What we saw yesterday was not the greatest game of football. It was a professional, assured and confident response to the Old Trafford setback. We easily put a very good team to the sword, and i think are the only team to score more than one goal against them this season. I’d take the game yesterday over any swash bucking 7-5 madness. Other than set pieces, Southampton never threatened and were limited to shots from outside the box. But what I liked the most about yesterday was the confidence of the team and the fans at 1-0. Think back to just one year ago, we would be having kittens anticipating the next defensive howler that would see us drop points. Nothing of the sort yesterday. Nearly everyone in the stadium knew we would score again and were waiting for the goal to come. That kind of confidence is what makes champions.
Good and bad
While Match of the Day rightly highlighted brilliant bits of skill from Ramsey and Wilshere. The really impressive player today was Szcz who not only made fantastic saves but came confidently for crosses and was genuinely a calming influence. Kos was also impressive at the back – he seems to thrive against the better teams. Jack was also impressive and while Ozil and Cazorla (bar one moment of magic) were relatively quiet I’m not concerned. The fact they can afford to have quiet games because we know Wilshere and Ramsey can step in is testament to our quality.
Fitness and injury
I speculated a few weeks ago that the reason we have so many injuries season after season is because of our training methods. We train to be one of the fittest teams in the league so that we win games in the last 20 mins when other teams start to tire. Maybe more injuries is a side effect of that. The only reason i mention it is because seeing Giroud’s determination yesterday to win the ball of Boruc’s demonstrated how Arsenal player’s superior fitness can make the difference. OK Boruc is a bit of a lump, but Giroud worked so hard to get the ball back (maybe this is just part of my man crush).
Southampton are England’s hipster team
Come on who doesn’t like them. They’ve got some great young players, they’ve got the guy who worked his way from the lower leagues to be England striker, a manager who is so cool he only speaks through a translator and even Boruc took the stick we were giving him well. Fair play. Whats more they do things the right way, no clogging, fouling football from them. Its how the game should be played. As well as Ward-Prowse, I thought Wanyama was fantastic for them yesterday and is key to their defensive solidity.
I hate getting into knocking referees as i think it is an impossible job. And i dont buy in to any conspiracy theories (in English football at least) so all I’ll say about Clattenberg yesterday is that he was a bit shit and made increasingly bizarre decisions that kind of ruined the game for both sides. While he got the big call right (our penalty) it was all the irritating minor decisions from him and his assistants – not playing advantage, balls going out for goal kicks – that they got wrong. I honestly dont know what the solution is beyond more video technology. But that would make sense so…
Weep for palace
Chamakh certainly did yesterday. Not sure if it was the head knock or the thought of having to work with that hateful, venal scumbag king of anti-football.
As always, apologies for anything I’ve missed/terrible grammar/misremember facts. Feel free to let me know on twitter @aldo_doel
Enjoy your Sunday!