ARSENAL 2 SOUTHAMPTON 0
Arsenal returned to action this weekend, following the final international break of 2013, and we got back to winning ways, beating Southampton by two goals to nil.
It was a fairly comfortable victory against an impressive Southampton side. Their performance demonstrated exactly why they went into the game in third place, but fortunately we demonstrated exactly why we went into it top of the league.
We started very brightly and but for the woodwork would have scored a couple of goals courtesy of a delicious Jack Wilshere chip and a delightfully cheeky Ramsey flick. But the woodwork did intervene, the scoreline remained 0-0, and I for one began to wonder if it was going to be one of them days. Artur Boruc, however, had other ideas.
Having received a rather routine back-pass he had all the time in the world to play it clear. For some inexplicable reason he decided to dilly and dally. Giroud promptly closed him down and happily stole the ball from Boruc as the Polish stopper attempted a third failed Cruyff turn. Giroud took the ball goal wards before slotting it home with the outside of his left boot (much to the very picky annoyance of myself and @LittleDutchVA… you have a right foot too, Olivier!).
The second half was a rather quiet affair. We kept our shape and discipline, Southampton inexplicable withdrew the dangerous looking Adam Lallana, and the game seemed to be heading for a good old-fashioned one-nil to The Arsenal when Jose Fonte decided to try to swap shirts with the BFG, when he should have been trying to defend a corner. Penalty to Arsenal.
With our first and second choice penalty takers (Arteta and Özil) having already left the field, up stepped third choice Giroud who slotted it home for his second goal of the game, both of which he dedicated to his late grandfather who had died two days before the match.
Results elsewhere added to our good weekend, with Everton and Liverpool drawing 3-3, United dropping two points away to Cardiff, and 5pur2 being thumped 6-0 at Man City. All in all a very satisfactory weekend, extending our lead at the top of the league to 4 points.
ARSENAL 2 MARSEILLE 0
Champions League football also made a return this week and it was another comfortable 2-0 victory, with Marseille the victims on this occasion.
Given the tightness of the group, and the fact our final game is away in Naples, it was a crucial victory and another accomplished performance. I’m all for winning games by 3, 4, or 5 goals with swashbuckling football, but there’s also something to be said for winning games with a very solid and efficient performance. Afterwards a pleased Arsene said:
We were in control of the game and overall we were never really under threat tonight. We had a good control – maybe sometimes we were missing the cutting edge to finish the game off early on but we felt so much in control that we just played on, thinking that would come. It came a bit late for my taste but it came.
Both of the goals came from Jack Wilshere, his first ever brace. The first was a magnificent chip curled into the top left hand corner after just 30 seconds.
The second came after 65 minutes, with Jack slotting home to put the finishing touches on an excellent move down our right hand side involving Sagna, Ramsey, and finally Özil.
Arsene said it came a bit late for his taste and that was a result of missed opportunities. Ramsey forced a great save from Mandanda, who then saved a Mesut Özil penalty (which was justice for the French side as the foul was actually outside the penalty area), before Cazorla blazed over in the second half. But as Arsene said the second did eventually come, with Wilshere wrapping up the victory.
It means we remain top of Group F, three points clear of Dortmund who beat Napoli in the group’s other game. Qualification to the last 16 will be secured as long as we avoid a defeat of three goals or more in Naples, whilst a point or better would guarantee we finish top of the group.
CARDIFF CITY AWAY
It’s back to league action on Saturday, with a visit to newly promoted Cardiff City. It won’t be easy, with the red kitted Bluebirds having already beaten Man City and drawn with United on their home turf this season. As title challengers, and with a tough run of fixtures on the December horizon, this really is a fixture we must be winning, so here’s hoping our fine run continues. Up The Arsenal.