For some reason I told Pedro I’d write the match report which means my Sunday night/Monday morning has been considerably less relaxing than normal. Thanks a lot guys, no really thanks.
All the talk pre-game was of our exciting new signing Kim Kallstrom and we couldn’t wait to see him make his deb…. wait… what. Oh injured? Already? Oh so he’s gone back to Sweden. Right… #getwellsoonKim.
Tony Ballboy and his team of wonderous warlocks feloped (not a real word) into town for our late Sunday kick off. I’ve no idea why we got the late Sunday kick off; Arsenal v Palace is hardly a classic, but the footballing gods work in mysterious ways. The timing meant the crowd was especially tired/hungover and in fact was probably the quietest it has been for a long time. Contrast this with the Palace fans who were absolutely fantastic – rivalling Dortmund fans in terms of their noise and Fenerbache fans in terms of their doomed optimism. Seriously they were a noisy bunch, right to the end. They even had a catchy song for our old friend Maroune to the tune of ‘Hey Baby’ which is considerably better than the piss poor ‘Chamakh Chamakh Chamakh’ we mustered when he played for us.
The ground was unbelievably flat in the first half, partly because we were playing Crystal Palace but partly because barely anything of note happened. Chamakh cruyff turned Koscielny. Cazorla beautifully controlled a pass with the outside of his boot and um… well that was about it. It wasn’t until Ozil’s dinked free kick in the 35th minute forced a good save from their keeper that the screens inside the stadium even had a replay to show.
Desperately dull first halves are becoming such a regular occurrence these days that I’m wondering if it isn’t some brilliant tactical ploy from Arsene to lull teams into a dream like state in the first half, before we blitz them for 20 minutes in the second half. I’m not complaining because it seems to work but it seems to be happening more and more often.
In fact, the first half was so dull that I committed the cardinal sin of leaving my seat early to go and get some food and a drink. It gave me time to consider the catering options available to your average match going fan (ie not club level). There’s hot dogs and chicken burgers, pretty standard fare. But there is also a diabolical looking bratwurst which Pedro wonderfully described as looking like a hotdog with gout. There’s also the “Gunners hotdog” which is exactly the same as a normal hotdog expect more expensive and covered in bbq sauce and coleslaw. Coleslaw? On a hotdog? I saw a child eating one and wept for humankind. The other great thing about catering at the Emirates is the careful and painstaking way members of staff go about their business. Absolutely no rushing or sense of urgency means you’re almost certain to miss the start of the second half as they carefully count out your change in coppers. No disrespect to them I know it is a thankless job having thousands of football fans descending on you for 15 minutes for a pint, but the whole operation is pretty shabby and you have to think a world class stadium could get a better catering set up than the one we currently have. Why not sell Piebury Corner pies in there? Help out a local business and save people having to eat hotdogs with bbq and coleslaw on them. Why not use seasons tickets like Oyster cards, so people can buy food and drink on them and then don’t have to count out change? At least the Bovril is on the money.
The second half was much more exciting as Cazorla came into the game. It was the little Spaniard who carved an opening as he drifted in from the left kept his head up and perfectly picked out Oxlade-Chamberlain’s run into the box. The OX was able to control it with his first touch and dink it over the keeper with the second. Bang. While Santi’s pass was Fabregasesque in its brilliance, it was Chamberlain’s run that really impressed me. It’s those driving, perfectly-timed runs from midfield that made the Invincibles so deadly, and its those runs that have seen Aaron Ramsey be so effective this year. Let’s hope the OX can replicate some of that.
Palace nearly equalised immediately after when Monreal fell asleep and a Palace striker found himself unmarked at the back post. Thankfully SZCZ made a brilliant save, continuing his fine form in the goal hole.
Arsenal’s second came a few moments later, again with the OX at the heart of it. He cleverly backheeled Rosicky’s pass and ran into space as Giroud – who had been pretty anonymous until that point – held the ball up well then found his run perfectly. The OX took the ball in his stride, cut inside and blasted the ball past the Palace keeper. 2-0 and good night.
There was just time for Podolski to get subbed off on 70 mins and that, as they say, was that. So concluding thoughts:
Bad transfer window
I want to have my two pennies on this. Let me start by saying I have no inside info on anything at the club so I am talking from the point of view of a confused, rambling fan. I know even less about Kim Kallstrom, and have nothing against him and will support him in the same way I supported Andre Santos when he pulled on an Arsenal shirt. But are you telling me this is all that was available to a club with upward of £50 million to spend? We have an excellent first XI, but we need an excellent squad to win the league and challenge for the Champions League. 3 or 4 good additions (note good, not world class) would have given everyone – players and fans alike – belief. Instead we went for the cheapest possible option as Arsene reverted to his “too clever by half” transfer strategy. The fact that Kallstrom now has a long term injury is the party hat on top of the turd sandwich as far as I am concerned. And for all those crowing about Shalke blocking the Draxler move. If we were offering Shalke WHAT THEY WERE ASKING FOR then why would they not sell us the player? This feels a lot more like we were trying to knock a couple of million off the price, despite the fact Shalke are under no pressure to sell now and Draxler has plenty of other suitors. The thing that has disappointed me most about this is that the Ozil signing is feeling increasingly like a false dawn. Not the promise of new things to come, of a return on our investment in ever increasing ticket prices; but instead an aberration on our unending mission to win the league with a transfer surplus. I really hope this isn’t the case and that I am proved wrong but if we start to fade in February and March (like in 07/08 and 10/11) then Arsene’s decision not to properly strengthen the squad in this window will look reckless.
Good football news
But I have to caveat all my whingeing by saying, if there is one way to restore good faith its by putting in an accomplished, professional performance like the one we saw yesterday. We are top of the league for the time being and key players – Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain – are starting to step up now that others have been sidelined (Walcott, Ramsey). Results have been very kind to us this weekend. We now have a tough run of games coming up but if we can progress in the cups and put Liverpool and United to the sword then no one, including me, is going to give a stuff about what happened in January. It’s going to be tough but this team has defied expectations so far.
Well played young man, a great performance from him today. Good to see him get two goals and to add some verve and vigour in the middle of the park. His second goal especially was a lovely combination of trickery, movement, pace and finishing. Let’s hope he can step up in the big games and help make a difference this season.
So that’s it from me, have a good week and don’t forget to watch City Chelsea tonight safe in the knowledge that almost any result will be good for us.
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