Arsenal 2 – 1 Cardiff City
There’s only one place to start this morning and bravo, Hector Bellerin.
The winter chorus of scrapers this morning did little to enthuse me with the news not helping at all. It was cheery stuff; Brexit followed by how we talk about death. Perhaps the latter was a match report of last night at the Emirates? I didn’t hang around to find out. Even this morning’s cuppa lacked lustre; a hint of blandness with nothing else to add.
I genuinely don’t where to start about the match. We won and that’s ultimately all that matters, but my god it was bloody awful. Genuinely turgid and as bad as anything witnessed in the early 1980s on a regular basis. To say it was a functional performance is being kind.
Team changes didn’t help. It was a much-changed side from the one which lost on Friday. Emery was conservative in his choice and that reflected the laboured performance. At some point, I’ll be liberal with praise but I’m not being green. That’s Kermit.
Anyway, we were crap. There’s a lot of concern around about the confused nature of our performances. For the past decade or so, we moaned about the team playing the same way and substitutions you could set your watch by.
Now, we’ve got a coach who adjusts his team to the players available and the opposition. I don’t think Cardiff drew the conservatism of the performance. A back four with Lichtsteiner and Monreal out of position in the centre probably drove that. Knowing we concede at the drop of a hat and a makeshift defence? I’d be cautious.
That said, I don’t understand playing Lichtsteiner and substituting him. In a game like this, surely Jenkinson from the start was the choice?
Mike Dean-ies Us Two Clear Penalties
As Unai acknowledged, Cardiff deserved the lead at half-time. We can argue about ‘a better side’ but we weren’t playing a better side, we played Cardiff. With this squad, I do think there is an element of the players being dragged down to opponents levels rather than imposing themselves from the start.
We can look at one stonewall penalty in the first half, as well as one we might have been given by another referee. Mike Dean was nothing if not even-handed, denying Cardiff a stonewall penalty when Monreal tripped one of their players in the box.
Dean found himself with nowhere to hide for the penalty he did award. A clean line of sight meant when Kolasinac was tripped, the spot kick was the only option. It was that or taking charge of Macclesfield’s game at the weekend. Aubameyang did the business with the penalty.
Dean also did us a favour in booking Lacazette for diving. It wound the Frenchman up and he produced a snarling run from the touchline to drill the ball under the goalkeeper to make it 2 – 0. Game over. Ish.
We contrived to make life uncomfortable for ourselves during injury time. Cardiff scored with a decent finish which used the defender as a shield for the shot. Leno was beaten the minute the ball was struck; Ramsey and Aubameyang contrived to miss a late chance to make it 3 – 1 but there was no damage done.
Guen Will I Learn To Keep My Trap Shut?
Few players come out of a game like this with credit but Lacazette’s work-rate was faultless and he was deservedly Man of the Match. Guendouzi endured the first half, got kicked from pillar to post and a yellow card as he walked off for telling Dean what he thought of him. The second half saw the youngster channel his energies into a positive performance and he deserves credit for that.
As is always observed, he tries to do something positive with the ball every time he receives it and takes risks. Experience will tell him how to gauge quite how risky a pass is.
Away from the match, Denis Suarez is due in London today to finalise his loan move with an option to buy in the summer, according to the Catalan press. He looked thrilled to be saying goodbye to the Champions League in photos yesterday or maybe he just doesn’t like Luis Suarez. Mind you, if the Uruguayan was anywhere near my ear like that, I’d be worried he was about to bite it off.
Christopher Nkunku remains as much a mystery today and for the rest of the season as he was when he first surfaced in transfer rumours. His agent reckons a deal with PSG is unlikely. So who else could form the second wideboy we’re chasing but Yannick Carrasco? A loan deal is more likely than one for Ivan Perisic as Inter are playing hardball and demanding an obligation to buy.
The shenanighans ends tomorrow and we can start praying that the walking wounded heal by Sunday.