Arsenal 5 – 0 Huddersfield Town
The morning after the night before and I’m still not quite sure how that ended up 5 – 0.
For an hour, it looked as if Alexandre Lacazette’s quick goal would be our sole reward for the evening. Instead of inspiring us onto greater things, we slipped into our smoking jacket, lit the pipe and put our feet into the comfiest slippers we could find.
Port followed by brandy; not quite enough of the fine stuff to descend into the warm glow of an alcohol-induced sleep but enough to relax us. Huddersfield huffed and puffed but offered little genuine danger; two chances early in the second half, both resisted by Petr Cech, offered a glimmer of hope but they know their home form will keep them up if that is their fate. Good luck to them in that fight.
Arsenal needed a spark; it didn’t arrive immediately after Lacazette’s goal. Instead, we laboured; passes were too hard, fast or wayward. Touches were leaden when we needed finesse.
And then it happened. The game’s “What the actual f*ck did I just see?” moment; Olivier Giroud, six yards out, rattled the post. And then skewed the rebound wide, which was quite impressive because I thought it was easier to score.
He made amends on 68 minutes, Alexis scored on 69 before Mesut Özil rounded off a rash of goals three minutes later. 4 – 0 and Wengerball, a much-mythologised style of football, briefly surfaced. Arsenal shredded Huddersfield defence, taking all fire from their bellies, as the home XI picked them off with relative ease.
Giroud completed the scoreline rout in the final ten minutes but we had so many other chances, it could quite conceivably have finished 10 – 0.
And we’d still be scratching our heads as to how.
Like every Arsenal victory, it came at a cost. Alexandre Lacazette “will certainly be out” after suffering a groin injury, with the vagueness of Wenger’s prognosis suggesting a far longer absence. Back for the visit of Liverpool, perhaps?
Not that it really matters; United is a big game and despite being our record signing, it’s a racing certainty that Wenger would omit him from the starting line-up.
It’s easy to point fingers and say “I told you so” when it comes to rotation, but it’s an injury which might be suffered in training or in the first minute against United. The latter is arguably more damaging; at least this way, we know it’s Giroud to start.
Unless Wenger goes with Sanchez to lead the line, which can’t be ruled out.
It’s a difficult game to judge performances on. Arsène felt we became inhibited as the first half progressed and you can’t argue with that summary. The question is why?
Mesut Özil received plaudits for his goal and rightly so; a good finish and when we flowed, Özil was at the heart of it. Yet, when we didn’t, he was equally subdued. He didn’t drag a performance out of the team and the praise was too effusive post-match. The manager seeking to influence contract thoughts? Probably; in his case, it might make a difference.
Others flitted in and out of the game as well. Defensively, we were strong then lackadaisical. Followed by nervousness until the circle was completed and the football flowed. You get the picture.
Remember: a Santi is for Life, not just Christmas
No-one summed it up more than Sead Kolasinac. Our resident bull found a china shop to unleash his energy on, before a sublime moment of adventure in creating the fifth. In real-time, you waited for the look of thunder to cross his face as Giroud lashed the ball home. It never came.
Replays showed the Frenchman was right to step in; the club level was already ducking for cover at the prospect of Kolasinac wildly lashing at a runaway ball. No wonder he grinned like a loon as the ball hit the net.
It was all fun stuff at the end. Nacho Monreal popped up in the box with only Koscielny and Mustafi studiously staying in defence. Jumpers for goalposts…next goal wins…offside optional. And they certainly were, as the linesman missed a couple along the way. Who cares? You never do when you’re the beneficiary.
All of which was nice but it didn’t completely erase the cloud hanging over Arsenal heads. Earlier in the day, Santi Cazorla announced he needed further surgery, his ninth in total. His return to the first team is now the 12th of never.
The cruelty bestowed upon him by the fates isn’t dampening his spirit entirely. “I still have the motivation and the hope of being able to return to enjoy my great passion, football,” the announcement said.
You can but hope that there is light once at the end of the tunnel. He is 33 in December and absent from the football pitch in over a year. Let’s hope we see him in an Arsenal shirt again.