It seems to have become somewhat of a (bad) habit that I don’t get to write as often as I like. Once again, for one reason or another (this time including a trip to Melbourne for the Australian Open tennis) I have been unable to put pen to paper regarding recent Arsenal matches. Today is catch up time, so here goes:
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3 (Walcott, Özil, Rosicky)
Due to my visit to Melbourne for the tennis I’ve only seen highlights via Arsenal Online. But from what little I saw it was a largely comfortable and professional performance, orchestrated by Tomas “Little Mozart” Rosicky whose fine volley, our third, secured the victory.
Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0 (Giroud, Özil, Walcott, Cazorla, Bellerin)
Having destroyed Villa’s high line with a resounding 3-0 victory at Villa Park earlier this season it would seem Paul Lambert had not learnt his lesson because once again Villa’s ridiculously high line was picked apart with ease, resulting in an emphatic 5-0 victory. Özil was sensational, getting a thoroughly deserved goal and setting up our first with a quite delicious flicked through ball to Giroud. Lambert somehow hung onto his job after this debacle, but not for too much longer; the bloke from Boreham Wood, who ain’t no fucking good, is now in charge of the Villains.
Sp*rs 2 Arsenal 1 (Özil)
It was a North London derby to forget, with a disappointing 2-1 defeat. Despite taking an early lead, through a wonderful Özil finish, we never really got going. With the intent of mirroring what we did at City we sat deep and defended in numbers, but on this occasion we were extremely poor in possession and it cost us. Only the 7th victory for them in 46 matches against Arsene Wenger, it’s safe to assume the DVD is in production as we speak.
Arsenal 2 Leicester 1 (Koscielny, Walcott)
Following our North London derby defeat it was a somewhat nervy response, but three points are three points, and thanks to goals from Koscielny and Walcott that’s exactly what we got. It meant that the “North London power shift” lasted only a few days, with this victory taking us back up to fifth.
Arsenal 2 Middlesbrough 0 (Giroud x2)
Our defence of the FA Cup continued in impressive fashion, with a 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough, with both goals coming from Giroud. The first an example of ‘total football’, with all eleven players involved, and the second an example of improvisation and genius, as a quick corner from Alexis and a wonderful near post finish from Giroud saw us through to the next round.
There were some favourable draws to be had, but unfortunately we’ve been drawn away to Manchester United. Our recent record against them is nothing short of abysmal. However, the last time we went to Old Trafford as FA Cup holders we won 2-0, with Wiltord and Jeffers up front and Giggs missing an open goal. So stranger things have happened!
The Week Ahead
It’s back to Premier League action this weekend with a tricky trip to Selhurst Park to face an Alan Pardew rejuvenated Palace. Given the tight confines, the iffy surface, their likely approach to the game, and so forth I’m expecting a tight and unattractive tussle.
It will also be interesting to see what starting elven Arsene goes with. Will he risk a Cazorla / Özil central partnership like he did against Boro? Are Wilshere or Oxlade-Chamberlain available again? Does he introduce the industrious Rosicky? And most interestingly of all, should Theo Walcott be starting?
I was always a defendant of Walcott, due to his unique quality of pace. For all his flaws, both on and off the ball, you could forgive him as he was a much-needed outlet; his pace, his runs behind, and more often than not his efficient finishing. However, with the improvement of Oxlade-Chamberlain and the arrivals of Alexis and Welbeck his pace is no longer unique and therefore other aspects of his game are called in to question. And in my mind there is no doubt that his technique, link up play, and work rate are all of a lower standard than his three rivals for a starting spot out wide. With his contract expiring this summer it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Theo.
But one thing is for sure this weekend, which is that this match will be much like the Leicester game in terms of it being as much about the three points as it is the performance. Only six points separate Southampton in third with Liverpool in seventh, so it’s fair to say the race for the top four will be exceptionally tight. On the plus side, we’ve already played 12 of the top 14 teams away from home (with only United and Newcastle remaining) so I fully agree with Arsene’s assessment that where we finish will be down to our home form. Given we’re on a run of nine consecutive home wins (in all competitions) I remain hopeful that third place, and automatic Champions League qualification, is very much ours for the taking.
And talking of Champions League football, it resumes on Wednesday (Thursday morning for those of us down under) with the visit of Monaco. I don’t really follow French football (bar checking the results of Dad’s team St Etienne) but from what I’ve heard their form has improved since the time of the draw being made. That said, it’s still a favourable draw, especially compared to what could have laid in wait, so let’s make sure we put an end to our Round of 16 eliminations.