One of my favourite all time Arsenal goals was scored by Robert Pires away to Southampton. Now, Podolski’s free kick is knocking on the door.
Before this match I watched highlights of Arsenal’s last loss to Southampton and our double hattrick win away.
Then the news that Kevin Friend was appointed as the match official got me a little excited. Now why would I get excited about a match official? I complain about referees far too much, but Kevin Friend is a Friend to Arsenal. Arsenal have never lost with him in charge… albeit just one match, but you didn’t know that until I told you!
In two Premier League matches Arsenal have two wins, no cautions, and have a goal differential of eight (8) when Kevin Friend is the man in charge. He was good news for us today. Arsenal have a Friend in Kevin.
Man of the Match – Gervinho, and how could it not be? He was on both wings, through the middle and bringing the ball forward. He crossed well from the byline, juked around defenders and his strike was well driven. His second was an excellent poachers goal. His missed header is not an issue for me, a little high for him to head it down and also right at him, so he could not push through it to add more power. His cutback to Oxlade-Chamberlain was so well done through such a tough run that it completed stunned the young winger. Back to his goal, the movement is fantastic there. He sprung the trap like a rat without a tail. His engine was fantastic tonight, no drop over his 80 or so minutes. He could have finished the match, but Wenger was going to let Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain see it out. Classy move Wenger.
Runner-up – Santi Cazorla, he was really good. He switched play up after Southampton caught on to his bailout passes to Gibbs in the left channel. He compensated for the lack of Diaby (who would have played more forward that Arteta and Coquelin) by using both wingers more efficiently. You can see a real understanding with him, Podolski, Gervinho and Gibbs.
Podolski opened his home account in some style. Beautifully curled and with some pace. He was not afraid to take his chances and threaded the ball through for Gibbs perfectly. He brought the ball up from deep. The one downside was that he got caught ball watching later in the match. He needs to focus on cutting down the distance to a pass. It speeds play up, gets him away for defenders and puts them on the back foot.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has got to be exhausted. He left everything on the pitch, you could see that in his body language at the end of the match. He has the confidence to shoot which is great, but he did have the composure needed to be lethal. Maybe that’s his youth, but I think it’s more down to playing against the Saints. Great work rate, really provided a spark in the lineup. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s exuberance to move forward left Fox open in the box to mop up on the goal. It was a little careless, but also a little understandable at the same time. The ball should have been on his feet for a sprint up the sideline.
Coquelin did a good job getting stuck in. I’m sure his nerves were not the same as last season when he played away to Manchester United. He fought well and drew some fouls, pretty standard stuff. He was a bit casual with some of his touches, a few simple passes were intercepted that should ALWAYS get through. He also had a small mix-up with Jenkinson that needs to get dealt with on the training ground. After receiving a poor throw-in he returned a ball to the upper thigh, hardly fair to a right back.
Mike Arteta is becoming a silent winner. He doesn’t make mistakes, he doesn’t risk plays unnecessarily, and the team is excelling around him. The pass he gave to Gervinho was a gem. He needed a confident display to set them up for ManCity next week.
Kieran Gibbs crossed the ball well. That’s right, I am saying that a full back made good crosses. He moved it low and with pace, while keeping it away from the keeper. The first own goal was due to a well placed shot, near the keeper’s feet, but along the ground, away from the hands: Textbook. His defending was not ideal, but he works well with Vermaelen so I never got that worried.
Thomas Vermaelen cleaned things up well. Covered Gibbs on occasion, ran up the pitch to take shots. His shot that cued up Walcott’s goal was not as powerful as I was expecting, but it’s good to see him in those positions again when the situation is appropriately presented.
Per Mertesacker made some very astute challenges and defensive decisions. He closed down opponents and blocked shots before anything could ever materialize. He was very solid, very composed.
Jenkinson had a mediocre game, and that might be generous to the lad. He did not communicate well with anyone in my opinion. I think today reminds us that he still has a long way to go. On the goal I put him at fault a bit because he lost his mark, which opened up the opportunity.
Szczesny was below par. He could have easily parried the cross up the right channel as nobody was there. His positioning was questionable as he seemed content to watch balls pass than move over in case of a fluke bounce. All it will take is one bad bounce off a divot for him to have egg on his face. Add to that were two botched clearances that could have easily cost the club more goals, especially against Man City in a week. Maybe Mannone deserves a recall…
Aaron Ramsey was lively, possibly the best we’ve seen this season. Was it because of Wales disappointing performances midweek? In the end he moved well, with the ball and without it. I liked his confidence and feel sorry that he did not get the goal.
Theo Walcott came on and showed some desire and positive attitude. It was nice to see, but until the new contract is signed or his future decided I will remain uneasy about his effort and passion. This was a step in the right direction.
Giroud was quite average. He wants a goal too much and the pressure is getting to him. Wenger alluded to that and listed it as a part reason to sit him. Now Giroud gets an emotional return to Montpelier midweek and I expect him to start there.
Overall it was a very strong Arsenal performance. They had trouble maintaining their focus for 90 minutes, but I was happy that the tactics that were winning did not change at half time. Getting Diaby back will be key for Man City as we need a proper link between the deep midfield and the forward midfield. If Man City clue in to that it will be a tough day for Arsenal. Outside of Szczesny’s blunder it was a perfect day for the Arsenal.