“Signed, sealed, delivered”
Do you know where this phrase originated from? No? Neither did I until very recently. Until I started studying common law, in fact.
The phrase refers to an agreement called “contract under seal”. This type of agreement is an unusual one: it places the written form above the consideration (consideration is that something you offer in return to a person who does what you wish of him, e.g. pay money for something you bought is the consideration necessary for the contract of sale to come into force). The only requirements for the contract under seal to become valid are that it must be signed, sealed (by both parties) and delivered to the said parties. Hence the phrase.
Back to football matters and well, Arsenal delivered. Yesterday we saw a much better performance (and a much better result) from the lads. The difference between the game at Selhrust Park and the display at the Emirates a week ago was so striking it was almost as if another team played against Pardew’s side. The scoreline didn’t really do justice to us and it’s one of the few complaints one might have from the game.
“Arsene’s selection will be indicative: he’ll pick the players he trusts to deliver in these circumstances. If that means hurting egos, he’ll do it. No time for compromise and experimenting: pre-season is over.”
Arsene did just that. Alexis and Bellerin came straight back into the squad, Cazorla was moved centrally alongside Coquelin, Oxlade gave way to Ramsey on the flank & Walcott was nowhere to be seen. Arsene’s most trusted players got the nod, lined up exactly the way they did against Liverpool in April and ground out the result.
It was a dazzling show of skill and nimble footwork all the way through the first half. We moved the ball quickly, created openings and overloads and, most importantly, conjured up clear-cut chances.
Our first sight of goal came in the 6th minute already, after a lightning-quick counter saw Ozil send Alexis one-on-one. The Chilean dithered, however, and as a result both the initial shot and the rebound were blocked.
Minute number 9 and we created two chances: first Ramsey’s long-range effort is saved by McArthy, then Alexis fails to even test the keeper after robbing Ward on the left.
On the 16th minute we finally found a breakthrough. Alexis’s unrelenting pressing ensures Ozil has free reign on the left, the German crosses and Giroud meets the cross on the volley with a semi-bicycle kick. A thing of beauty from the Frenchman.
Minute number 23 and we should have been 2-0 up. Alexis pops up on the right, his low drive is parried by the keeper, but neither Ozil nor Ramsey smash the rebound into the net.
3 minutes later, another chance for Alexis and another chance he should have made the most of. The Chilean is given all the time and space to bury a header into the net, instead he blasts over.
We paid the price for failing to make our utter dominance count on the 28th minute. Ramsey is fooled on the right, Bolasie chests the ball down for McArthur who rolls the ball into Ward’s path and the full-back fires an unstoppable low shot past Cech.
I saw some blaming the keeper for this goal and, frankly, I find it astonishing. Ward’s effort was impeccable, one in a million, while Cech’s view was partially obstructed. If there’s someone to blame, it’s Koscielny. The Frenchman just stood and watched how Ward lashed out his right foot at the ball. No closing down, no throwing yourself under the shot, only a half-arsed attempt at a block. It’s the second time Kos did it in a week and the second time it cost us. Someone has a word with him.
The goal knocked the wind out of our sails somewhat, but we still created two moments of danger before half-time. First Giroud fired his effort wide after Alexis and Ozil set him up, then Ramsey’s beautiful flick at the near post was palmed away by McArthy. Even at the break, not something we deserved.
Second half almost saw us fall behind on the 48th minute after Wickham struck the post despite Bellerin’s last-ditch attempt to stop him and then Puncheon fired the rebound sky-high.
We responded immediately. Ramsey passed the ball when a shot might have been a better option and then, on the 55th minute, Alexis scored. He met Bellerin’s cross with a thumping header and Delaney put out a foot to change the direction of the shot. But it was too late. 2-1.
Palace woke up and Puncheon could have equalised, but produced a really weak effort after getting rid of Bellerin. Our response took almost ten minutes to conjure up, however when we did, Ramsey should have put the game to bed.
Pardew’s men spent the remaining half an hour trying to equalise, but, mercifully came up short. Some weak efforts from corners and a vital late tackle from Arteta ensured we got the points. We even could have made it 3-1, only for McArthy to save brilliantly from Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain in injury time.
Wrapping it up
“We have shown our strong response and we have shown different aspects in our game that are vital in the Premier League. We had a good, fluent game in the first half and when they came back to 1-1 it was a mental test to see how we could respond. We managed to find a second goal and after that in the second half of the game we just had to dig in, fight, and we did it as well. I’m pleased because we have shown many different aspects that will be very important in the season.”
We had stand-out performers all over the pitch: Bellerin keeping Zaha and Puncheon quiet all day, Monreal whipping in some crosses from the left, Coquelin the usual beasty self alongside Cazorla pulling the strings. Ramsey played much more like Ramsey we know and love, creating 4 chances for teammates (all from open play) and helping out Bellerin too (the Welshman completed 4 tackles, two of these on the right). Arteta also made a telling contribution when he came on to shore things up.
Alexis could have a better game in terms of finishing, however, I think it’s to be expected with his level of rustiness. His sheer willpower to make something happen was the difference yesterday, though: the Chilean set up Ozil for the first, scored the second, forced mistakes, took shots. I expect him to be unstoppable when he regains full fitness.
However it was Ozil who stole the show with his magnificent display. In the 82 minutes he was on the pitch, the German completed 54 passes out of 55 attempted (!), notched an assist and was robbed by Alexis and Ramsey of two more, before himself robbing Souare to the delight of even Palace fans. Mesut was at the heart of everything good yesterday, much like Alexis, so even the simple act of being more clinical with his chances can get us the extra goals we need.
Finally, to round off a perfect weekend, Chelsea got smashed to pieces by City at the Etihad. It was delightful to watch. Aguero ripping into Chelsea’s defense time and again, Costa and Cahill being treated by City’s doctors because Chelsea had none capable of treating players on the pitch, Cesc and Hazard being invisible, Costa getting nutmegged by Fernandinho. And of course, the post-game reaction from the Classless One. Not to mention how he basically blamed Terry and yanked him off at half-time. Beautiful.
Right, enough said from me. Back when something of note happens.
Enjoy your week