Due to the time difference between London and Sydney our game against Chelsea was on the morning of Christmas Eve. I was able to watch; however, as soon as the final whistle was blown I had to leave for the airport to fly north to Armidale, a small country town where I spent Christmas with my lovely girlfriend and her family. As a result it’s been very quiet here on ‘That Sums It All Up’, but I’m back in Sydney now and here with a Christmas round-up!
ARSENAL 0 CHELSEA 0
In my last post before Christmas I said I felt this game was a must win, but it wasn’t to be as we had to settle for a point. Mourinho is back with his boring, negative football; he came for a 0-0 draw and sadly he got it.
It was a dull game. They sat back with very little intent, other than hoping to catch us on the break. We didn’t play our best either, which meant chances were few and far between. Giroud could and probably should have grabbed us a winner not once, but twice; firstly being denied by himself (a poor sliced finish) and then by a good Petr Cech (a good close range save).
It was therefore a night when perhaps we needed a little luck and we certainly weren’t going to get it from the officials. We should have had a stonewall penalty when Walcott was brought down and I also thought Mikel, Ramires, and Ivanovic were all very lucky to stay on the field after some shocking challenges. But it wasn’t to be.
WEST HAM 1 ARSENAL 3
I was beginning to think it would be one of those games. We dominated the first half, but just couldn’t score, with either the final pass or shot going astray. Then, within seconds of the restart we shot ourselves in the foot. In a position from which we could have scored Walcott gave the ball away cheaply, West Ham broke, from which Arteta cleared poorly, Szczesny fumbled a shot, and Carlton bloody Cole (of all useless people) tapped home for 1-0.
But then, through a moment of misfortune (Aaron Ramsey getting injured), the game changed for the better thanks to Aaron’s replacement; Lukas Podolski. The German had a massive impact, providing width, support for Giroud, getting the assist for our second goal (a tremendous cross), and scoring the third with a quite brilliant left footed drive. It’s great to see Podolski back. He seems to have such a positive influence on the team, both on and off the field, and is our most clinical finisher. Here’s to a few more goals between now and the end of May.
I should give Theo Walcott a mention too, given he scored two of the goals. His all round play was pretty poor in my opinion (only minutes before he scored the equaliser I described him and his performance to my girlfriend as “non-existent to ineffective at best”, but yet again he added to his impressive goal and assist stats despite being playing on the periphery.
So in the end it was a comfortable 3-1 victory and back to the top of the league. It’s hard to complain about either of those things.
NEWCASTLE 0 ARSENAL 1
Newcastle’s form has been impressive of late, with 7 wins from their last 9 going into this game, including victories against Chelsea and Man United. But a solid, if not flamboyant, performance from The Arsenal saw us come away with a 1-0 victory courtesy of an Olivier Giroud goal.
It was a tight and tactical affair which got rather heated at times as Lee Probert seemed content to let almost everything and anything go, especially if your name was Check Tiote. How we received 3 yellow cards and yet Tiote finished the game without a caution is beyond me, particularly after committing another 4 or 5 fouls in the second half when he’d been given a final warning at the end of the first half.
But the referee’s performance was irrelevant in the end. For once Walcott’s free-kick delivery was excellent and Giroud provided the glancing header required to see it nestle in the back of the Newcastle net. After that Arsene went defensive, with five at the back to hold on to what we had. There were a few scary moments, none more so than when Szczesny smashed a clearance in Remy’s face and had to watch on as the ball thankfully rolled wide for a goal kick.
Three hard-fought points, at a very difficult away ground, and The Arsenal remain top of the league going into the New Year.
CALENDAR YEAR FORM MUST BECOME WHOLE SEASON FORM
Arsenal’s form has been fantastic during the calendar year 2013, winning 82 league points (five more than any other team). It’s seen us storm back to claim 4th place last season and sees us sitting top of the table as we move into 2014.
However, winning trophies (in particular the league title) it’s about achieving consistency for a whole season, not just a calendar year (i.e. two half seasons). That’s our challenge for now until May; to remain consistent for the whole season. Will we last the pace? Will Arsene invest to help strengthen the squad? Would this also help to provide a mid-season boost, an Özil like shot in the arm if you will? Only time will tell, but these are the kind of questions we will need to answer, starting on Wednesday at home to Cardiff City.
Until then, I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and have a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. Up The Arsenal.