0 – 1 Sanchez (27)
0 – 2 Ramsey (32)
0 – 3 Sanchez (45+1)
1 – 3 Quinn (53)
Arsenal ventured into the bowels of Hull and returned with three points to keep the pressure up in the race for second. Level on points with Manchester City, a game in hand and reducing the goal difference was just what Arsène would have wanted before the game. It was just what he got. And more.
The tone for the evening was set when the first touch of the ball for a Hull player arrived two minutes into the match and Steve Harper, the Hull ‘keeper, immediately returned possession to Arsenal. Not quite as ruthless as the Dutch in the 1974 World Cup final but it certainly was a prelude to Arsenal’s dominance.
It didn’t take long to arrive and the increasing physicality of Hull’s approach was punished. Not quite enough for some for Livermore had already been booked when he felled Sanchez on the edge of the penalty area. The Chilean’s free kick deflected off the top of Michael Dawson’s head and the St Totteringham’s Day celebration began courtesy of the former Tottenham player as the ball span into the net.
After the match Steve Bruce moaned that two of the goals were deflected. Wholly correct but as he had already admitted Arsenal were fabulous, why bother moaning? And more to the point, why not mention the run Aaron Ramsey made to meet Santi Cazorla’s exquisite pass? Or the Spaniard’s vision and ability to make the pass? Or the turn that led to the goal, the ball looping up from the block challenge over Harper and in. There can have been no complaints about Arsenal’s dominance being rewarded with goals.
The theme of crime and punishment continued with the third. Having breached the Hull back line shortly before, Alexis did it again, rounding Harper and slotting home. City hadn’t learned and Steve Bruce’s tactic of three centre backs marking Giroud seemed more curious with each passing minute. The French striker wasn’t effective in front of goal but in running across the line, allowed midfielders to pour forward and they duly obliged.
It’s not hard to understand why Alexis was voted Man of the Match but I felt it was Cazorla who kept the side ticking over, combining well with Coquellin to ensure that the voluminous quantity of possession was used efficiently in prompting attacks. The constant linking of Santi to a return to La Liga underlines the quality of his play this season and his influence in lifting Arsenal into a position where their Premier League destiny is in their control.
All this and Mesut Özil’s sumptuous flick, a moment which will surely be worn out when the End of Season review DVD is launched…
Post-match, Arsène understandably enthused about the expansive performance, the same XI which had laboured against Chelsea’s well-drilled defence,
Tonight was a demonstration that we can improve and that we can keep the quality very high. We played the kind of football we love to play and we played it for long periods of the game with the quality we desire
Wenger’s surprise at the scoreline not being more emphatic was tempered by the fact that it wasn’t down to lack of trying. The chances came with a hypnotic regularity from the first ball of the second half through to Theo Walcott refusing the sort of chance he would have buried if he were match fit.
His cameo was a contrast to Jack Wilshere’s appearance. Twenty-odd minutes marked with the thrusting dribbles which invariably end with the England international writhing on the turf in agony, guilty of the crime of holding onto the ball and inviting tackles. I understand the theory, if he released the ball earlier, he wouldn’t get caught but surely the crime is the foul rather than the dribble. The judgements passed on Arsenal players have in some cases, been built on the strangest of foundations.
Arsène thought Jack’s performance a positive in terms of his energy. It was more so in terms of his attitude, knowing that he needs to be at his best to force his way into contention and having done so, usurp a team which is almost imperious in its form. They ought to be confident of winning, for they certainly have the right attitude toward their opponents. I know that Hull more often than not, gift Arsenal the points but occasional bloodied noses in this fixture and a run of 17 wins out of 21 meant there was little doubt about the thoroughness of their preparations for the game.
There were just two blemishes on the evening. Quinn’s goal came about as an unpunished foul on Koscielny but also a lapse in the marking, allowing the Hull player a free header which will have disappointed Per. The second was El Mohammady‘s ludicrous theatrics; I am honestly baffled as to why he isn’t being taken to task this morning when you think about the fuss which was made in the media over Robert Pires a few years back. To me, it’s a clear case of bringing the game into disrepute and the FA ought to be charging him retrospectively. I doubt Mason mentioned it in his report because if he did, it’s utterly disgraceful that the player wasn’t punished.
But the morning see us third, knowing that the right combination of results this weekend will see that confirmed as the lowest position Arsenal can finish. And the small matter of confirming that Tottenham can’t catch us; another season, another St Totteringham’s Day. Monotonous regularity indeed.
And the final word on Saint Totteringham’s Day goes to Mirror Football; a warning on the perils of not proofreading a pre-prepared post…