But above all, another great TEAM performance!
Well, Well, ToTL with 22 points and a fine goal difference of 11 after just nine games! The boys did us proud today. Chris Foy tried his best to ruin it for us, but even he could not stop us.
I thought before the game this would either be very easy or we would have to dig deep; and as we all know, it became the latter. Just as against Norwich, Flamini had to leave the game very early, but this time it seemed a groin injury rather than a reoccurrence of his concussion. And just as last week, we lacked a bit of shape and rhythm once he had gone, although Arteta impressed with not just his positioning but also his willingness to put his body on the line.
The pitch was very slow and the Eagles defended resolutely, but we also played at too low a tempo and often not close enough to each other. And when we did play a bit closer together, our triangles did often not work out, due to inaccurate passing and under-par first touches. However, the boys managed to get into the box a few times and got close to scoring with chances for the (still very rusty) Cazorla, Rambo and Giroud.
To be fair on Palace, they played well in the first half and created a few good chances themselves, as once again we allowed them to play football in the space in front of our ‘D’ and were opened up a bit too easily. Part of their strategy was to get easy free-kicks in put-the-ball-into-the-box areas, and Foy easily obliged to support this ploy. But we also were a bit naïve in giving away such free kicks too willingly, making it easy for the 13th man to have his influence on this game. Luckily, we defended most of these free-kicks (and corners) resolutely, which was a welcome sight.
0-0 was a fair score to go into the break with, and it was clear we had to up the tempo of our passing and make better runs into the danger area, if we were to get the three points from this game.
We did not have to wait long for a break. Gnabry, who plays with such an incredible maturity and composure for his age (born in 1995, the same year Dennis arrived at Highbury!), found himself in the box with the ball – after good, patient and incisive triangle-combination football by Arsenal – and he cut the ball back superbly, denying the onrushing Guedioura any opportunity to control his adrenaline surge before it was too late. As a result, the Algerian fouled the young German in the box and this time Foy could not get away with denying us a penalty (we could have had one in the first half).
Up steps our captain, and you kind of feel if he misses this one we will not win today. But his penalties are as sharp and immaculate as his haircut and bionic stare, and he makes it 1-0 to the good guys with an unstoppable effort.
The game can now truly begin, as Palace will need to come out of their defensive setting to get anything out of it. We press and play with a lot more swagger and it seems only a matter of time before we will score the all important second goal. But Foy was still part of the ploy and he grabbed his opportunity with both hands when Arteta and our former Moroccan Gunner collided about a Boeing 747 away from our goal. The gel-man tried to compensate a characteristically bad first touch (his feet have never been his strength) from what was a very promising through-ball with barging into Arteta: they both went to the floor and Foy sends our captain to the showers. It is easy to be resolute if you know what you are doing…. 😕
Arsenal now had to defend and Arsene made excellent substitutions with bringing on our best all-round midfielder Wilshere and safe pair of hands Nacho for the tired Cazorla and, the tactically sacrificed, Gnabry.
We have discussed the need to keep a clean sheet more regularly if we want to beat the Chavs (and others) to the title this season, and today we really needed it to clinch all three points. Up steps our Pole in goal; first denying a beautifully executed shot by Joel Ward with a full stretch, ever so slight fingertips-touch onto the crossbar; followed by a strong, one handed match winning save from Jedinak venomous volley from just outside the box. Szczesny remains a work in progress but today’s performance, for which he was given the MoTM award, will help him tremendously – and he needed it.
The team looked tired but ALL worked hard to fight for the three points. I loved the way Ozil picked up balls in and around our own box and kept it to win time and space, and what a fine, strong balance he has. Jack was able to keep the ball under pressure and move forward with it, not allowing the Eagles to sustain their attacks. Nacho did great work on the left wing, both defensively and in attack, and almost scored a Theo-esque goal late on.
I looked at Giroud and Rambo and they seemed exhausted; the game against Dortmund and the 10-men second half efforts against Palace clearly taking their toll. But they never gave up and dug very deep into their reserves, and this is what we should remember when either of them has a less effective game: these boys really care about Arsenal – the absolute opposite of mercenaries!
And it came as no surprise that the final word of this exhilarating game was for our finest work horses. Giroud collects the ball in midfield with his back to the opponent’s goal – who is currently better in the PL at doing this?…. – and passes to Rambo, who is still able to accelerate past a few Palace players into the box, and somehow finds the composure to produce a measured ball onto the head of the onrushing Frenchman, who places the ball just above Speroni’s left shoulder, leaving him no chance to save it: 2-0 to the mighty Gunners and game over.
A hard fought win, three points, ToTL, and more evidence that this team has real backbone: Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be A Gooner! – Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be A Goooner!
Bring on the Oilers! 🙂
Written by: TotalArsenal.