Morning all – James here with a match report. The clocks have changed this morning, so I feel like I am in some kind of vortex where time no longer exists. I think it’s probably midnight in NYC, so I’d much sooner not think about what Pete is up to…thinking a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, a box of Kleenex and the works of Kevin Costner box-set – it isn’t a pretty sight.
Arsenal were posed with a tricky end to what has been a fantastic week. My concern was primarily around fatigue and fitness ahead of the game against an Everton side who were coming off a poor result last week, who would be wanting to put in an improved shift. The omens were good, with the Toffees not winning in North London for over 20 years, however they’re a side brimming with pace and power who would test our legs after chasing the ball for 70% of the Bayern game.
The pre-match debate centred on whom to play on the right of midfield in Ramsey’s absence. The obvious replacement was the Ox, who is in rotten form at the moment, but I would have favoured shifting Theo to the right with the newly bearded Adonis leading the line. Arsene did indeed give Giroud the nod, whilst Theo was rested, leaving the Ox to take the right wing slot. Resting Theo was probably a wise decision given his injury record during his time at the club – whilst he has enjoyed a sustained bout of clean health; he has been prone to knocks and strains. My view is we have a great shot at the title, but we need the stars to align for us, which really centres on the fitness of our players (and the hamstrings of Kun Aguero).
The opening 30 minutes were relatively underwhelming in comparison to our previous two outings at the Emirates, with the teaming rain a contributing factor to a lack of cohesion from either side. Inevitably it was our German maestro, Mesut Ozil, who orchestrated our opening goal. Receiving the ball on the right flank, Galloway gave him far too much time to get the perfect angle, before floating in a pinpoint cross which Giroud did well to flick past the hapless Howard (who has been a pretty rubbish keeper for quite some time).
Within 16 seconds Everton had shot themselves in the foot. From kick off they played the ball back to Jon Stones who played a one-two with Barry. Giroud did exceptionally well to knick the ball ahead of him. Alexis gathered possession on the left before being hacked down by Coleman to win a free kick. Santi – who had a really fantastic game – whipped in a sumptuous delivery, with Koscielny nicking in ahead of Howard to score Arsenal’s 900th Premier League goal. His passionate celebration exemplifies how he feels about the club that gave him his chance at the top level, with his meteoric rise from playing in Ligue 2 until he was 24 to one of the most revered centre halves in Europe a massive credit to both himself and to Arsene and the coaching staff.
With 45 seconds to half time, we conceded a hugely frustrating goal, with Oxlade the obvious culprit. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, he did what he has been doing for too long, which is playing with his head down. Instead of playing a simple pass to the unmarked Bellerin, he tried to force a shot at goal that was never on. The ball spilled to Deulofeu (who should have been sent off for about three pathetic dives). He found Barkley who had a free run at our box, save for a fairly benign attempt at a tackle from Ox before lashing a shot against Gabriel’s thigh, which took it past Cech.
Whilst Arsenal teams of yesteryear may have gone into their shells, the home side enjoyed the better of the second half, with Mesut Ozil at the heart of our most effective offensive play. A deft flick played Giroud through, whose rasping shot hit the bar. Ozil himself turned sharply to wrong foot Howard and hit the outside of the post. Howard also had to save twice at the feet of Alexis. There were of course a few pant-shitting inducing moments, namely Lukaku’s header that skimmed the top of the bar, followed by Deulofeu’s close range effort, which was smothered brilliantly by our helmeted hero. Cech is making the difference for us and on current standing, is the signing of the summer. Bravo.
There was still time for Gareth Barry to get a red card for a second bookable offence, hacking down Gibbs with around 30 seconds of the game to go. I take an unhealthy pleasure in Gibbs’ attacking furores – whenever we are narrowly leading a game with 10 minutes to go, #Gibbs@10 is released. I love it.
The final whistle brought about raucous chants of “we are top of the league” – the first time we have been able to claim that since February 2014. As it stands, we are in a fantastic position and are building up some serious momentum. If we continue this over the dreaded November, we have a mouth-watering crescendo against Man City to look forward to before Christmas.
Whilst Santi had a superb game yesterday, the best player on the pitch once again was Ozil. What a season he is having. Such has been his quality this term, Arsenal fans no longer have to defend his brilliance to rival fans – it is undisputed. Whilst it shouldn’t *matter* what the media and opposition supporters say about Ozil, it is high time that he finally gets the recognition he deserves. Pound for pound, particularly with Aguero’s injury, he is the best player in the league. Keep it up you beautiful man.
I’d like to end with a word for Jose Mourinho. He is the most odious shit-bag of a man and to see his implosion has been a hugely enjoyable side show to our on-field exploits. His increasingly creepy obsession with Arsene makes it all the more hilarious. I can’t believe he is much more than one defeat away from the sack – their next game is against Klopp’s Liverpool, so watch this space…
That’s all from me – enjoy the football today, particularly the Manchester derby which will hopefully end with many a red card, injury and point deductions.
Until next time x
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