ARSENAL 0 CHELSEA 2
Our League Cup campaign came to an end for another season, with a 2-0 defeat at home to Chelsea. Arsene made 7 changes to the team that beat Crystal Palace three days earlier, with focus clearly on the league and Europe.
The League Cup is only available through pay-per-view here in Australia, so I didn’t see the game, only the goals, both of which appeared avoidable. The first was an error by Carl Jenkinson. It seems to me The Corporal has two main flaws in his game. The first is his aerial ability, which he can work on at the training ground. The other is how rusty he seems to be when thrown in for the odd game or two; his best form has always been after an extended run of games, but play him here or there and he seems to struggle (more than most). With Sagna’s fine form this will be a little trickier to address, but he’s young and very eager, so I think he’ll be ok in the long-term.
With no trophy since 2005 we’re all craving a trophy, but for me Arsene made the right decision sacrificing the League Cup. Losing is never nice, especially to the Russian funded bus stop in Fulham, but we’re top of the league and scrapping to get out of a very tough Champions League group, so those had to be the priorities.
Bigger prizes are within our reach this season and this wasn’t a Birmingham or Bradford City style disaster. The League Cup is contested in the middle of a busy schedule, has a two-legged semi-final, and a final when the Champions League (provided we’re still in it) is set to resume. It is a big impact for the smallest prize that no longer holds the status it did in 1987 or 1993. People say it’s our best chance of a trophy, but why? The FA Cup is contested by the same clubs, with the same knock-out format, except with a one-off semi-final and an end of season final. So provided you minimise the number of replays the FA Cup has a lesser impact and is certainly a tastier prize.
So whilst this defeat was disappointing, it’s not the end of the world; we have bigger fish to fry this season.
ARSENAL 2 LIVERPOOL 0
After two home defeats in cup competitions there was a bit of extra pressure on The Arsenal to respond, and respond we did. An excellent performance, virtue of two fantastic goals, saw us triumph 2-0 over Liverpool.
It was one of those performances where it’s hard to single out any one player; it was a fantastic team performance. Szczesny commanded his area, our full backs were excellent in defence and attack (Sagna got an assist), and the BFG and Koscielny kept Liverpool’s potent strike-force very quiet; a well-earned clean-sheet for the defence. In front of them Arteta, Ramsey, and Rosicky bossed the midfield, with Cazorla and Özil a constant threat. And up top Olivier Giroud was once again an absolute monster; his work-rate and hold up play was fantastic.
When we signed Özil some people asked if he’s what we really need. For me this game proved why we do. Last season we asked too much of Santi and in the event he had an off day, or was marked out of the game, we struggled. But now he has an ally. Whilst the German had a quiet game by his standards, he still creates a distraction, will cause defenders concern, and will therefore draw opposition defenders towards him. And when this happens? Up steps Santi Cazorla.
Our little Spanish maestro was magic. He controlled the play, scored a wonderful goal (an exquisitely taken volley after his header rebounded to him off the post), and when substituted late on he left to a thoroughly deserved standing ovation. This weekend was Santi’s day, next weekend it may be Özil’s turn. But having two play-makers is crucial. Teams cannot mark both of them out of the game, and if they do then Ramsey (who scored yet again, this time with an incredible strike from 20 yards) and Rosicky (who masterfully dictated the play and its tempo) will both cause havoc instead. We have an abundance of midfield talent as Liverpool found out the hard way; their midfield didn’t get a look in all game.
It’s a massive result that keeps us top of the table, and with Chelsea losing to Newcastle and Everton and 5pur2 playing out a 0-0 draw, our gap at the top has been extended to 5 points. Our biggest tests to date (5pur2, Napoli, Dortmund, and Liverpool) have all been at home so there is still plenty of hard work to be done, many points to prove, a very long way to go. But I’d rather be where we are than where the other 19 teams are.
Next up is Dortmund away, followed by a trip to Old Trafford. Liverpool was a great start to a difficult month, let’s hope things continue going this well; Up The Arsenal.