Arsenal Are Back On Top, The Ox Is Back & Kim’s Ba…ah, Not Yet.

trfArsenal 2 – 0 Crystal Palace
1 – 0 Oxlade-Chamberlain (47)
2 – 0 Oxlade-Chamberlain (73)

Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League thanks to two superb second half finishes from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsenal meandered through the first half, aimless and listless with their passing; the highlight was Santi Cazorla’s marvellous control of a woefully overhit pass. The second half was the opposite; Arsenal were reinvigorated, determined to take the points and they duly did. Top of the table this morning, content that they have put pressure onto the shoulders of Manchester City and Chelsea this evening.

Before the match, Arsène had spoken of the need to “break down defensive sides“, a process which required patience on the part of the players. Palace were undeniably a Pulis side; well-organised, working hard for each other to frustrate Arsenal and hope for the elusive counter-attack to give them three undeserved points. It would be easy to characterise that in the moment Jedinak grasped Olivier Giroud tightly, perhaps fearful of the attacking avalanche which might cascade toward the visitors defence were he to let go. OK, so I just did characterise Crystal Palace with that moment, mainly through a sense of injustice that Per Mertesacker suffered a harsher penalty later in the game.

The star billing this morning rests with Oxlade-Chamberlain. Recovered from his injury suffered on the opening day of the season, he finished with aplomb from Cazorla’s lofted pass over the top of the defence. Timing his run to perfection and taking advantage of the full back’s slow retreat, Ox lifted his shot over the advancing Speroni and into an unguarded net. An early strike was exactly what Arsenal needed following what might be politely described as a tepid performance in the preceding forty-five minutes. Breaking the deadlock forced Palace to loosen their defensive straitjacket, leaving more space to be exploited.

Not that they were without threat. Almost immediately the visitors caused a moment of consternation and parity was only denied by the quick wits and quicker feet of Wojciech Szczesny, the Pole saving magnificently from Jerome’s far post header. I was going to observe that it was a moment from which the goalkeeper could draw confidence but that is something the youngster is not short of. Nonetheless he should enjoy the plaudits which are directed at him for an outstanding piece of footwork to get across the goal quickly and then to save the goalbound header in a Jennings-esque manner.

Oxlade-Chamberlain settled matters with a finely worked goal. Not content with his backheel to keep momentum going forward, he attacked the space which opened behind his marker. Receiving the ball, it was too late for the defence to recover and the finish was duly applied. The move highlighted a point made by Jon Walters when talking about Manchester City; a mistake was induced and the space created by that error was duly exploited with a fitting punishment.

Post-match, Arsène sought to push Oxlade-Chamberlain’s future as a central midfielder,

I always believed that he could play wide and central, I said that many times that his future will be central. He has proven me right today, by scoring the goals but also by the quality of his performance.

The media need some convincing but it is that versatility which is likely to see him push ahead of Sterling in the England queue. Each of the Arsenal midfield can adapt to whatever formation the manager chooses – within reason – and that benefits the national team as well. Whether Hodgson chooses to take notice is another matter and I am sure that a place in Arsenal’s starting line-up is the first target Oxlade-Chamberlain has set himself. Theo Walcott’s injury was the cloud over the season – it remains so – but cover for his goals has emerged with others stepping forward. A willingness to shoot from distance can only benefit club and country.

More than anything Arsène will have been pleased with the second half performance and the reaction to the first forty-five minutes. Concerned as well; it is the second consecutive game where the first half has been lacklustre. Repeat that at Anfield and defeat will most likely ensue. Unless Kolo Toure is willing to be as generous again, of course. Southampton, the manager reasoned, was a result they needed to get out of their system. Perhaps it took the whole game to do so; I hope that next Saturday sees the players refreshed and quickly attuned to the match. They need to be.

Defensively, Arsenal were relatively untroubled. Indeed, they were arguably architects of their own problems. Nacho Monreal was out of sorts once more, a hangover from St Mary’s. Only at Arsenal could a full back do with a goal to cure a dip in confidence. He nearly got it in the first twenty minutes yesterday; Speroni was too quick to close the space down. I understand that people believe he should have scored but Monreal is a left back, not left wing. Well, he may be left-wing, I have no idea of his politics. Anyway, criticising that miss strikes me as a touch harsh. He wasn’t the only one to switch off on occasion either. Mertesacker was culpable as well, simply more popular with the fans and cut more slack.

Inevitably attention turned to the question of Kim Kallstrom’s fitness. The details surrounding the player’s back problem were clarified and Spartak pay his wages during the rehabilitation. Glad that’s all cleared up. Well, aside from one point, really. The transfer window was open for thirty-one days and disturbingly, Arsenal ended up with a stark choice: a player with a back injury or no-one. To be left in that situation is baffling. I understand Wenger’s logic about the longer term picture, the need to ensure that cover is available when the season draws to a close and I have no issue as to whether or not Kallstrom plays for the club; that’s the manager’s choice. But to be left in the position where it’s an injured player or no-one is bizarre. How poorly planned was transfer activity this winter to be at 5pm on the final day of the Window and backed into such a corner. After the summer, it was hoped that the lessons would have been learned. It seems that they weren’t; poor planning in that sense is still evident.

The situation surrounding Kallstrom is nothing more than a storm in a teacup at the moment. It has to be pushed to one side whilst the squad moves on to its next challenge. It’s a step up from Crystal Palace but if the players show the same application at Anfield as was evident after the interval, they should be optimistic of returning home with a point at least.

’til Tomorrow.

157 thoughts on “Arsenal Are Back On Top, The Ox Is Back & Kim’s Ba…ah, Not Yet.

  1. @MA

    Hazard, William and Ramires are really giving Shifty problems because of their work rate and attacking so quickly. This shows just how good Fernandinho has been for them allowing their fullbacks to bomb forward because he covers so much space and Demichelas just can’t do it.

    Eto should have finished that.

  2. Challenge, earlier, by Demechelis on Hazard was just plain old stupid five yards from the ref. got himself rewarded with a swift booking for his idiocy.

    Speaking of the ref and bookings. He’s produced 4 yellows already in 42 mins.

    Eto just hit the post with a ferocious shot.

  3. dukey, sorry for the late reply..
    and this is linked with what bob was saying as well…

    i know our squad is top and i, like yourself, gives wenger credit for the turnaround this season and i too think that it will be an amazing feat if we win the league this season simply because we dont have the strike force our rivals have..it will be quite incredible really…
    giroud however has been immence this season leading the line by himself, hes smudger mark 2 and we all loved smudge…to be honest i dont know where all the wenger out stuff has come from at this point in time, or that we need a striker to replace giroud, but then again im not on twitter and the blogs i do read are pretty level headed, i find out second hand from the guys on here about whats going on elsewhere and i am suprised ppl are still waging that war because the team are doing so well…although as far as the window is concerned i think we are allowed to laugh at it, or critisise a touch, or in some cases cry..whatever tickles your bollox on the matter seeing as though we signed a player who was injured to cover the injuries weve got..typical wengernomiics

    in general though im in the camp where i had many questions of the management, not just wenger, but apreciative of all hes done over the years, at the same time not convinced hes the right man to take us to the next level…to an extent he has answered a few of those questions and im enjoying this season and i have a total connection with this squad more than previous ones..we seemed to have a ‘no more heroes’ phase but these guys are real warriors and are all our heros, apart from bendtner who is the one that needs replacing, not giroud, with a top forward and weve had two windows to do it and failed in both..

    but theres many questions that still remain unanswered of the management, and its just a case of wait and see..the biggest is even with all the compromises and tweaks and the improvement in the squad, are we still the type of team that falls apart and is knocked out of every comp in a fortnight? and that test is just around the corner and im really looking forward to these run of games i think weve got a chance, unlike previous years where i knew we were gonna get battered because defence wasnt in our plan..it now is..so weve always got a chance..

    but if we fail again..then to my mind we can give wenger as many years as he wants and give him as much money as he wants but he still wont ever take us to the next level because he wont build a team good enough or mentally strong enough to win the big games that will win us the trophies…
    and if we dont win the trophies we’ll always be rebuilding because the key players will always be tempted to go elsewhere to win them..
    and if different squads keep failing year after year under the same manager then its obviously something the managers doing wrong…
    and no amount of sentiment, good will, or top 4 finishes will stop me from thinking we possibly need a new man for the job..the only thing that will stop me from thinking that is to see him lift another trophy..and i really hope he does because for all the effort hes put in and all the years weve put in i think as a whole gooniverse we all deserve it….

  4. Tell you what…Arsenal need to play with this kind of energy against the top 4 teams

  5. Luis and Matic are being really physical with Silva, Navas and Negredo and you can tell its really really bothering them.

  6. in other news im glad chelsea are winning because city look shaken and have been unstoppable recently..
    a loss at fortress dubai will really rock their sand castle…

  7. Don’t want to be pedantic, but technically we are fortress dubai. Etihad is Abu Dhabi. Interestingly roughly translated Etihad is Unite or United

  8. City are struggling and only been in the game sporadically
    Its all chelsea and they could easily be four goals to the good
    They just cant cope with the speed of the chelsea three in midfield
    If chelsea dont sit back they could win this comfortably
    Have not seen city this disjointed since bayern first leg and first half in munich

  9. Shifty over the last 5-10 mins have become unraveled by Chavs physicality and work rate but are only down 1-0.

  10. @MA

    They miss Fernandinho more. He covers so much space and allows the Fullbacks to bomb forward on knowing that they don’t have to worry because he will cover them. With him out and Demichelas not being able to we are seeing Ramires, Hazard and William exploit that space and create chances.

  11. Fortress Abu Dhabi! Its great commercial value for Abu Dhabi this. Nobody even knew the place was full of luxury hotels and nice vacation spots before they took over City. Heck the average man did not even know Abu Dhabi existed. Now every wannabe hip footy supporter that want to be like the stars venture there on holliday. Its brilliant.

    They invested much in City yes. but the commercial value, the brand making of “abu Dhabi”. its going great imo.

    City has put Abu Dhabi on the map for the common man. simple as.

  12. ahh ok thanks for the heads up..
    fortess abou diaby then..

    in my steve bould defence though it shows how much i give a fuck about the nitty gritty of city…

    as long as you got my point im happy and be as pedantic as you want mate we learn something new everyday..

  13. City have 67% of the possession and more shots (11) on goal against Chelski’s 9. I don’t share this view that they are on the ropes. Fact speaks for itself. They’re still very much in the game. More goals still to come from both sides.

  14. hmm i wonder if City winning would be the best for us? After all 6pnts behind for chelsea then? almost out of the race, between us and city. Plus City have some pretty tough matches coming up. Chelsea more “smooth” ride…

  15. city have shown how unstoppable they can be, especially at home..
    chelsea have shown they cant beat westham especially at home

    chelsea win and nil city at home and it stops the juggernaught..puts a doubt in their mind

    and with both teams two points behind it means we can drop two points somewhere and not really lose ground if they win at same time..

    id still be happy with a draw though..anything but a city win but a chelsea win really rocks the boat and not just joses mind games but arsenes mind games recently have got to them a tad..

  16. Must be a strange experience for the City players not to have the ref on their side for a change.. They seem frustrated …lol

  17. This match is showing just how massive a blow Aguero is but more importantly Fernandinho, I have to reiterate that because he not only allows Toure to get forward and covers so much groud, their defensive mishaps and the space that is create by basically their whole squad going forward.

  18. Longer the game goes on, you have to favor Chelsea to win. Saying that, the Natives are recurringly breaching the Away team’s D only to be thwarted by GK, the woodwork, poor execution and sheer ill-luck.

  19. c,

    agreed regarding fernandinho, would be nice if we had the luck of facing the big teams with their main men out, Chelsea also faced Utd with no rvpenis and Rooney the chavy chavs.

  20. I suppose Chelsea will be the new favourites for the title now.. we don’t mind we can slip under the radar.

  21. Looks like it is shaping up to be a great result for us. Now we just need to handle our business and we are still in the driver seat.

  22. Chelsea deserve the win, but you have to look at the fact that against United they had no RvP, Rooney or Mata to play against. In this game no Aguero or Fernandinho. Still, we learnt City are not the unbeatable side the media think they are. Chelsea still struggle to score goals and Arsenal are top of the table by 2pts.

  23. Well, we are right where we need to be going in to what is, quite possibly, the most difficult stretch of the season for us.

  24. Chelsea has very good concentration levels and are very disciplined, they also seem very secure and confident in their own game. Sometimes when we meet “old foes” like United we become very nervous… thats has often been our downfall. Nervouse and a drop in concentration level.

    Chelsea were really good today…

  25. So the press is surprise surprise wrong again.

    Talked up City and their attacking ‘juggernaut’ but have been found out.

    Personally think Mourinho as odious as he is is a master tactician and has given both Pellegrini and Wenger a class here.

    We played with minimal cover in the middle against City and played the price. nor did Wenger remedy the situation. Mourinho worked out nullifying the City middle and attacking them down the flanks and it paid dividends

    As for City as I have been saying, we are close to equal to them in depth with quality and quantity but for Aguero and possibly a defender, but on account of how horrible Demechelis was, maybe the difference is just up top.

    No doubt the press will now turn on City and start harping Chelsea’s virtues as favorites. They talk as if we do not exist and that the top spot has been changing hands all season. It hasn’t.

    That we are above these two admittedly very good teams after 24 games should really be telling the press something but they are thick as two short planks.

    Still work for us to do next weekend. We must beat Liverpool and drop them further behind. Thereafter, we have a very winnable game against United at home. The FA cup could go either way IMO, then if we get a draw against Bayern, we’d have done very well. Anything more would be of course welcome.

  26. Starting with a win against Liverpool on Saturday to extend our lid further. One game at a time. Achieving an away win against an opposition the quality of Liverpool would be a huge confidence boost.

  27. I like that we do not exist. I hope they do not see us until we stand with the trophy in our hand grinning 🙂

  28. Vice,

    yep we only have two relatively easy games v sunderand and Swansea at home until April. if we come out of feb & march still in with a shout we have a good run in in April…lets hope its a run for the title and not a run for 4th!!

  29. A couple funny things I think and was set to think about:

    People still don’t give us a shot in hell to win the EPL yet we are top of the table.

    If Shifty play defense like this against Barca, they will be completely ripped to shreds because instead of having William, Ramires, Hazard and Eto’o breaking at their defense and shooting, they will have Neymar, Pedro, Inesta, Sanchez and Messi.

    The Chavs are a decent squad that allows Hazard to roam free and to be honest he has been brilliant but if he was to get injured the Chavs would struggle.

  30. “But to be left in the position where it’s an injured player or no-one is bizarre. How poorly planned was transfer activity this winter to be at 5pm on the final day of the Window and backed into such a corner. After the summer, it was hoped that the lessons would have been learned. It seems that they weren’t; poor planning in that sense is still evident.”
    The reality is that we didn’t have a need for a central midfielder up until the last couple of days of the transfer window. It was less poor planning and more a case of Flamini getting a 3 match ban and the likes of Arteta, Wilshere and Ramsey picking up injuries that forced us into some late transfer action. I genuinely doubt that Arsene started the new year thinking that we desperately need some midfield cover but then decided to postpone it until Jan 31st for no particular reason.

  31. The reality is that we didn’t have a need for a central midfielder up until the last couple of days of the transfer window. It was less poor planning and more a case of Flamini getting a 3 match ban and the likes of Arteta, Wilshere and Ramsey picking up injuries that forced us into some late transfer action

    thats not the reality at all because we signed an injured player who wont be back until the same time as rambo and we knew it wen we signed him..it defeats the object a little dont you think??..

    but arsene explained why he went through with the deal anyway and it had nothing to do with any of that..it was because he left it too late, there was nobody else, he might need him in the final few games and it was a free loan..pretty simple really but at the same time pretty pointless seeing as though he let frimpong leave..

    I genuinely doubt that Arsene started the new year thinking that we desperately need some midfield cover but then decided to postpone it until Jan 31st for no particular reason

    this is manager who is notorious for waiting and waiting until the last minute to get the best deal possible i think thats a particular reason..hes often praised for this tactic by many of his most loyal subjects..only this time it didnt work out as planned…because it was poorly planned.. if he wanted someone who he might need later then why let frimpong leave? pretty silly decision really wasnt it to shorten your midfield options even further and reinforce with another long term injury.. this transfer left us shorter in numbers than what we were before thats why it made no sense but some ppl dont see that..

  32. @JJ
    “thats not the reality at all because we signed an injured player who wont be back until the same time as rambo and we knew it wen we signed him..it defeats the object a little dont you think??..

    but arsene explained why he went through with the deal anyway and it had nothing to do with any of that..it was because he left it too late, there was nobody else, he might need him in the final few games and it was a free loan..pretty simple really but at the same time pretty pointless seeing as though he let frimpong leave..”
    I assume we have read the same statement by Arsene which means that you know very well that we did not know about the extent of Källström’s injury until he had his medical. And at that moment, yes, it was too late to go for someone else, but the reason why we went for Källström in the first place is because of the recent pile-up in central midfield casualties. Previously, according to all reports, we were only in for Draxler and he plays in a different position.

    “this is manager who is notorious for waiting and waiting until the last minute to get the best deal possible i think thats a particular reason..hes often praised for this tactic by many of his most loyal subjects..only this time it didnt work out as planned…because it was poorly planned.. if he wanted someone who he might need later then why let frimpong leave? pretty silly decision really wasnt it to shorten your midfield options even further and reinforce with another long term injury.. this transfer left us shorter in numbers than what we were before thats why it made no sense but some ppl dont see that..”

    Well, I assume he let Frimpong leave because he does not trust his ability? Constant injuries didn’t help him and at this point in time Arsene probably does not believe that Frimpong is the kind of player who can help us in the run-in while on the other hand some guy with almost 100 international caps might very well do so. Still don’t get how you can wait until the last moment to get the best possible deal on a loan-signing (for a club that’s not been playing football for a couple months now, too!). If Källström had been on the agenda from the start of January, we probably could’ve gotten pretty much the same terms we have now on that player since there’s no money changing hands between clubs. But at the start of January we weren’t looking to be without Flamini, Ramsey and Wilshere for the longer term (and add to that the fact that Arteta has been nursing an injury for a couple of weeks now, too).

  33. JonJon and Evil,

    Did you guys see my comments earlier in the day on the transfer fiasco? If not, I shall repost below.

  34. Storm in a teacup the latest transfer mess may be. This wasn’t just some abstraction happening that no one was paying attention to, and I understand people make mistakes, but the bungling of the transfer mattered.

    The January window and to a larger extent, last Summer’s transfer uncomfortably highlight why someone other than Wenger ought to have the overall say on transfer activities.

    I wouldn’t read too much into his explanation of the blooper, after all he has admitted to telling strategic lies in the past to protect his squad from media scrutiny.

  35. thats the whole point..
    kallstrom wasnt a target
    he became one because it was deadline day and there was nobody else…
    and he may or may not have trusted frimpongs abilitys…possibly not seeing as though his contract was being allowed to run down and the majority of us could all agree frimpong had no future after this year, but 100 international caps or not, kallstrom doesnt have a future either as hes only on loan and a player whos injured has less ability than someone whos fit and ready to play..loves the club and would have given everything if asked..
    we were short of numbers a tad short term, he released a fit player and signed an injured player, makes zero sense..

    and when all said and done theos out until the end of the season..it was a striker we needed not a central midfielder..

    the transfer raised a few eyebrows and rightly so but like it says its a storm in a tea cup..

    6 points from our next 2 fixtures and nobody will care what we did or didnt do in january…

  36. And above all, it’s a speculative business.

    We must just hope that the results following the January window are as successful as the results following the Summer window have been.

  37. Kallstrom was a last minute after thought since jack was carrying a slight knock, Ramsey suffered bad news and Flamini got himself a red card for 3 games.

    Unfortunately by the time they had him in, it was very tight to bring anyone-else in. I think they were surprised that the micro-fracture was worst than expected.

    Not sure if there are as many players with quality and experience able to be brought in on loan at a late stage.

    This particular piece of business does not commit us in any way and we are free to re-assess adding in midfield according to priorities then.

    Similarly, the striker position whilst needing obvious reinforcement was tight on supply.

    I don’t think Wenger wants to commit to any player as he has an eye on who will come on market this summer. There are as you know a number of top players who will be likely to move.

    Plus I don’t think we are looking for cover for Giroud specifically rather we should be looking first and foremost for capability (and a diff set). if you look at the type of players we were in for last summer, we were after the mobile type who could beat a player or two with pace and trickery. HIguain, Suarez would suggest that is the sort of variation we needed and it is no surprise that we pretty much match City in quality and quantity in every area bar really Aguero (his 15 goal haul tellingly the difference in GD between them and us)

    With Park and Betnder still on the boooks, he will need to keep the decks suitably clear. Thereby a loan move was the next best thing. But Vucinic and (the very old ) Klose refused to move. The likes of a Berbatov would prefer a sunset deal encumbering us for likely 3 years should his level (as it is already with Fulham) drop.

    One possibility to my mind was Pato who is unwanted at Cortinthians. he cost them 12m + and we apparently felt around in December with 6.5m kindly turned down. A loan OTOH may have made sense to all parties with an option to buy. The player is quick, tricky and still only 24 (albeit with questionable focus and injruy issues…of course, a pre-requisite these days for Arsenal)

    However unless we are in the know, there is no way to ascertain the full spectrum of issues involving player/club motivations let alone third party issues.

    So understandably there was very little to be done with the striker situation however much even Wenger may have felt we were a tad light.

    OTOH, Draxler was a possibility proviso the parent club had motivation to sell. I think we were testing their resolve but I do not think we were as heavily committed into his pursuit as made up by the media nor do I think we prioritized this as an area needing addressing in Jan.

    If we really wanted a bit more attacking threat from midfield (Let’s forget about the cockermeenie idea of transforming draxler into a false 9), we could have gotten an equally good (if not better) alternative in Konoplyanka who almost ruined his career with Liverpool coming in for 16m.

    Draxler whilst high in potential has a bit to go where the likes of Jovetic sold to City for 25m has been doing similar work over a longer period to justify that (lower) price tag.

    Konoplyanka ar 24-25 is just about the right age with experience, is NOT cup tied (another issue with strikers this Jan) and can play across midfield being ambidexterous.

    The fee pottered around for Draxler even for the lower 25m we were purported to have tabled could have landed us Konoplyanka and possibly a defender.

    So unsurprisingly, business was off for us in the final week, until the whole issue with the midfield flared up.

    Wenger is correct to take precaution and bite the bullet since the revelation of the full extent of the injury was only made known to him very late on (these things do take a bit of time)

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