Good morning, lovely people – James here writing a very tired post. Sunday nights are the pits – that horrible feeling of not being able to get to sleep, whilst knowing you need to get to sleep, which stresses you out more and prevents you sleeping. It’s a vicious cycle. But I’m a trooper and will soldier on. It’s February at last, bringing an end to for all to dry January, the worst creation since half and half scarves (that were selling like hot cakes yesterday). All that is, aside from Pedro, who has resolutely claimed to be giving up the sauce for February. Fucking hipster.
Anyway, onto the game, which served up a veritable treat and warmed the cockles on what must have been the coldest day since records began. Anywhere. Ever. In the pub pre-game we were expecting a fairly turgid affair, given Villa’s decent defensive record and impotence up top – they truly are the floppiest willy of all attacking line-ups we’ve played this season.
Those fears were quickly allayed however, when in the opening 10 minutes we found the breakthrough, with the goal highlighting the value of a playmaker of Ozil’s quality in the side. One of our defenders (Hector, perhaps) lofted a clearance from the back, which appeared to be floating harmlessly towards the halfway line. However, in a moment of sheer genius, Ozil had the wherewithal to flick the ball on with the outside of his boot to find Giroud bearing down on goal. Admittedly, I had little faith in this resulting in a goal; firstly due to our Adonis’ lack of pace and secondly as a result of his showreel of fluffed one-on-ones. I like Giroud as a player and think he’s been superb this season, but his goals have tended to come from one-touch finishes. If you consider the fluffed chance at Chelsea away last season or Liverpool away the season before that, his Arsenal career has been somewhat littered with fluffed lines in that respect. For a moment it seemed he had wasted the chance with the ball slipping away from him, but he rescued the situation with a delightful dink over the onrushing Guzan. A brilliant goal and the perfect panacea to the frostbite developing on my man-parts.
The second goal saw a role reversal, with Giroud turning provider for Ozil in a really slick move. Theo started the attack breaking from our half and playing it to Giroud who slipped Ozil through one on one with a slide rule pass. Ozil still had plenty to do, but showed poise and composure to slot it into the far corner. It was a superb finish and did a lot to dispel the myth that Ozil is ‘slow’. Clearly he is a player who is selective about when he sprints full pelt, but a burst of pace is something we haven’t seen regularly enough from him. Plenty more of that please.
Our third came shortly after in equally impressive fashion. Theo, with the ball on the left touchline played it inside to Santi and then made an arcing run toward the centre of the 18 yard box, making him nigh on impossible to pick up. Santi fed it into Theo’s feet, with his first touch taking him away from a defender before opening up his body and slotting home a superb finish. I thought Theo was poor yesterday and looked understandably rusty, but that was a brilliant goal and underlined what a useful weapon he can be when utilized properly.
It was good to see Chuba get a decent run out for the last 25 minutes or so. He looked extremely lively when he came on, constantly harrying the Villa defence and causing them problems with his physicality. He did well to win the penalty for our fourth goal, knocking the ball past Guzan who clearly pulled him down. Santi took the proceeding spot kick and it must be one of the worst penalties I’ve seen that resulted in a goal. Nevertheless it’s another goal for our impish magician, which topped another excellent performance. He’s playing so well at the moment; it will almost be a surprise when he eventually doesn’t have a blinder.
We got a fifth goal late on, with Hector opening his Arsenal account with a really assured finish from outside the area. It was the cherry on the icing on the cake for the Catalonian quiff aficionado, who is looking more assured by the game. Bravo.
So three points won in style and the perfect prelude to the North London Derby this Saturday. A win was essential, given it was one of those weekends where everyone else won and the result did our goal difference a world of good. Seeing Southampton get turned over at home by Swansea was a very pleasant surprise, which now puts us level on points with them, save for their superior goal difference (of one goal, I believe).
We are now edging towards a critical point in the season – knockout rounds in the Champions League, the FA Cup is nearing its sharp end and the league positions are beginning to take shape. Fortunately, our team is looking as if it is beginning to peak at just the right time. Clearly a significant reason for this is the return of injured players, but I also get the impression that Wenger is slowly finding the right balance for this side. His change to the 4-1-4-1 formation has had mixed results this season, but a tweak in personnel seems to have catalysed an improvement. Taking out Flamini for Coquelin has had a big impact and I do hope the benefits of having an athletic player in that position have highlighted to Wenger why a signing is essential in that position this summer. Whilst Le Coq has done a brilliant job so far, in my view it highlights what a difference a player of that ilk could make to the squad, but of better quality. Conversely, someone made the point at the pub after the game that if we signed Coquelin for £20 million this January, there’d be spaffed boxers everywhere over his performances.
Bellerin is another player who looks the business. For some time there’s been very positive noises coming from those close to the academy about Hector and it’s great to see him taking his chance with such aplomb. Clearly he’s got blistering pace, but his positioning is very impressive for someone so inexperienced and his delivery is very promising. He also keeps up the #dreamboat movement at the club of beautiful players (Gabriel bringing the mean average down somewhat though).
A word too for Ospina who made a couple of excellent saves yesterday and looked generally assured in all he did. Clearly he hasn’t been hugely tested so far, but the signs are promising and he certainly brings an air of calm to proceedings. Whether he’s the long-term answer I don’t know, but he hasn’t put a foot wrong. I still expect us to sign a new keeper this summer to compete with Ospina as I think Chezzer’s days are numbered at Arsenal. It’s a shame as he obviously has massive talent, but that’s coupled with being an utter bellend. If he gets moved on, he only has himself to blame.
So, my least favourite game of the season coming up this weekend and I am not looking forward to it one iota. Whilst I know we are a superior team to Spurs in every department (except goalkeeper), a trip to White Hart Lane never fails to fill me with trepidation. It’s completely irrational given our record there, but if you offered me a point now, I’d take it and run. In terms of personnel, I’d keep the same team we played yesterday, with the exception of bringing in Ox or Alexis (depending on who is fit) for Theo. In a game like this, especially away from home, we need everyone to contribute and whilst Theo is a cracking player, his best work tends to be done only at the sharp end of the pitch.
Right, that’s your lot. Enjoy what is going to be the longest week of the year in the build up to the game x
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