ARSENAL 2 CRYSTAL PALACE 0
The Arsenal returned to the top of the league on Sunday with another 2-0 victory at The New Home of Football, our fourth in five home games (in all competitions). The victims this time were Crystal Palace, with what is not only become a familiar scoreline at home, but also a rather familiar performance; in control from start to finish, remaining patient to find the break through, whilst not making a mistake at the back.
Crystal Palace came to defend, to frustrate, and for 45 minutes that’s what they did. But with this current Arsenal side, with its abundance of quality and character, you always feel like it’s not a matter of if, but when. And the when came just two minutes into the second half. Oxlade-Chamberlain, making his first league start in six months, made a bursting run from midfield, was picked out by a lovely chipped pass from Cazorla, and flicked it home over the on-rushing Speroni.
Arsene has always stated that The Ox will play centrally in future, but his inclusion in a central role was somewhat forced on this occasion due to the number of injuries and Flamini’s suspension, but it’s exactly what we needed. The qualities demonstrated by Chamberlain in scoring our first goal are exactly what we lacked at Southampton. With no Ramsey, Wilshere, or Rosicky the Arteta / Flamini axis left us with nobody who could use their explosive burst of pace to drive forward, beat a man, and more importantly bridge the gap between Arteta / Flamini and Özil / Giroud.
And these qualities proved essential for our second goal too. Rosicky fed the ball into Chamberlain, who played a delightful flick to Giroud, spun around his marker, burst forward to receive the return pass from Giroud, and kept on driving towards goal before firing a shot low and hard past Speroni. Two for The Ox, two for The Arsenal.
The three points saw us return to the top of the league and, with the Russians beating City 1-0 last night, that’s exactly where we stay, two points clear of them both. And with Liverpool, 5pur2, and United all dropping points this weekend it proved to be a very enjoyable one.
IF IT’S A FOUL OUTSIDE THE AREA THEN IT’S A FOUL INSIDE THE AREA
One of my biggest bugbears in football is how often an offence is judged to be a foul outside the area, but then moments later is not considered a foul inside the area.
The punishment of a penalty is of course more severe than a free kick, especially a free-kick outside of shooting range. As such, it appears that referees apply their own unwritten rule that a foul which resulted in a free-kick on the halfway line has to be committed in a far more blatant way inside the area before they’d be willing to award a penalty…and even then they still don’t award a penalty.
The case in point is corners and how to defend them, or should I say how not to defend them. How many free-kicks get given per game for pushing and pulling on the halfway line, when players are challenging for headers from goal kicks? Quite a few. Yet inside the penalty area, from a corner, and it seems a defender can do whatever they like. They don’t look at the ball, they don’t attempt to head the ball, they just stop the attacking player from being able to do so himself. For example Maya Yoshida on Koscielny at St. Mary’s and Jedinak against Giroud on Sunday:
I’m mentioning this today because we lost neither game in the examples above, so I can’t be accused of being a sore loser, and also because it’s about time greater attention was given to such inconsistent refereeing, especially when it comes to defending corners. Some will argue you’d see 10 penalties a game if these decisions were given, to them I say so be it. We see 10 free-kicks so why not 10 penalties? Defenders would soon realise and would start to defend properly again. And believe me, this may not be deemed an issue now, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be an issue of epic proportions when some ‘dirty foreigner’ is doing it to a ‘poor little Englishman’ in the Champions League when it resumes in a few weeks time (much like when Inter were the villains for such cynical arts of ‘defending’ a few seasons ago).
HERE COMES THE STORM
Last time out I said it felt like Crystal Palace was the calm before the storm. Having comfortably secured the three points on Sunday the storm is now upon us, starting this weekend with a trip to Anfield. In terms of league fixtures we’re unbeaten at Anfield in our last six visits, winning three of the last four. We’re the early kick-off on Saturday so here’s hoping for another victory and three points that would extend our lead at the top, perhaps putting a little pressure on those below us when they play later in the day. Until then, up The Arsenal.