Arsenal 1 – 0 Leicester City
I doubt that anyone would argue Sky Sports made the right choice in ditching this match. Until the last ten minutes, the corpses in The Midsomer Mysteries had more life than this match. Good players were mediocre at best and the rest aren’t worth commenting on.
And Arsenal took three points. With a horribly deflected goal from Nacho Monreal’s shot. Off Robert Huth. The Leicester defender’s face said it all, much to mirth of those who can’t forget his Chelsea association nor should his Pulis Years be overlooked either.
Toward the end of the game, Christian Fuchs threw ball directly at Alexis’ face. Comically, the Chilean took a couple of paces before collapsing and earned himself a yellow card for simulation. Fuchs should have received a straight red for violent conduct while Alexis another yellow for not retreating two metres from the throw-in.
An incident which typified the evening. The players couldn’t get it right while Alexis’ post-match photos of his ‘fat lip’ suggested that neither could the officials. Referee Mike Jones inexplicably failed to book on Benalouane for his challenge on Giroud, when he planted his studs in the Frenchman’s back. A “dark orange”, Arsène called it afterwards.
By any standards of decency, the post should end here. Or the match element of it, save for mentioning Petr Cech’s saves. Two of them which kept Arsenal in the match despite enjoying the lion’s share of the match. Possession may be nine-tenths of the law but it’s a sure-fire way to lose a football match, it seems.
Duff Beer, Duff Football
The worst match I ever saw was Birmingham City’s visit to Highbury in November 1985; a goalless draw, memorable only for David Seaman being in the visitor’s goal. Last night made that look good for eighty minutes.
Alexis couldn’t trap the ball but managed to rattle the bar just before half-time; he was in the running for Man of the Match, the first eighty minutes were so bad. Francis Coquelin underlined his demise as Arsenal’s midfield future while Theo Walcott was just as bad. Which for a player on £120k per week is some sort of achievement.
Fortunately, the defence was clued up and switched on, rarely putting a foot wrong while Granit Xhaka, with time on the ball and space, pinged passes around for fun. And got booked.
After the way this year has gone, maybe Arsène is right to think that luck has turned. Ringing the changes to rest the squad ahead of the North London Derby, he got away with it and won, which is what we want of any Arsenal game. The winning part, that is.
The top four is still beyond us. Liverpool’s run-in is far easier while City have three consecutive home games starting next weekend. Unless one of them is going all Spurs for no good reason, the Europa League is where next season’s European action lies. Indeed, we’ve already qualified for it – or the qualifying round – at the very least. No Chelsea-esque season out of the sun for us.
Wenger evaded the questions about the future, not with any aplomb or guile, just a straightforward, flat-out refusal to discuss his, Alexis or Mesut Ozil’s situations.
Probably because there is no change from the weekend for the players and Arsenal still haven’t come up with a palatable way of explaining why Wenger is staying. They won’t either; it will slip out after the final whistle on the last day of the season when there is no one about to protest.
The banks of empty seats told their own story.
Dad’s Jukebox and Other Stuff
The day didn’t get off to the best of starts. RBS Leipzig have a curiosity value but Sevilla and Benfica are familiar enough foes to make The Emirates shindig this summer look utterly uninspiring. How long before we’re told new faces will make their home debuts that weekend? Or, will it be a case of waiting to see if any new faces are arriving? That’s more the Arsenal way.
The FA got in on the act as well, announcing that Anthony Taylor is to officiate this year’s FA Cup final. Yes, that Anthony Taylor. It’s primed for post-match rants about how hard done by we were, isn’t it. Maybe it’s a pact with Arsène to elicit sympathy for him and a more welcoming atmosphere for renewal announcement?
Who knows but having limped over the line of 700 words, it remains only for me to point you in the direction of a new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox where Times of our Lives returns, with 1999 the year in question.