Our game against Crystal Palace was a predictable one:
- They parked the bus as expected
- We played calm and disciplined in the first half, yet tiring them out in the process
- We upped the tempo and intensity in the second half
- Subsequently found the gaps and finished them off (with a small wobble between the two goals, though)
- They were happy with a small loss
- Both went their merry ways: Arsenal TotL and Palace continue their relentless relegation battle.
Mourinho can complain about 19th century football by West Ham the other day – whatever that means – it is up to the big teams to crack open the panzer-positioning of the less fortunate/visionary teams. Wenger showed again how it should be done: patience, movement, crisp passing and occupying the ‘central tanks’ – CBs and DMs – constantly, so cracks can be found.
I felt we missed Jack a lot in the first half as he is a young master in both finding the cracks with his passing and entering them with his clever runs – with or without the ball – in these sort of games (especially when playing together with Ozil and Santi). For me, he has been our best player in January and hopefully he will be back soon.
During the first 45 minutes we did not get close enough to their box and played a tat too slow. But we did manage to work Palace really hard which will have used up a lot of their energy. Pulis has Palace working in an organised way now, and I was impressed with their discipline in the first half, as in sticking to the tactics and playing aggressively but not unfairly (although, how Jedinak escaped a yellow card for consistent fouling is beyond me).
Ox was finding his way during this half; and I don’t know what Wenger said to him during the break, but he played a lot better during the second one. In a 4-2-3-1 formation, the box to box player is so crucial in adding that extra thrust and dimension to our football, and ‘Ox-to-Ox’ did it brilliantly after the break. The second half was only a couple of minutes old, when Cazorla spotted AOC’s run into the box, whilst Giroud and Ozil occupied the defence. Our young Englishman controlled the ball with Bergkampesque feeling in his foot (as some TV commentators apparently called it), and finished off with composure and class: a brilliant goal.
Then we did what we tend to do a lot: not deal well with pressure higher up the pitch by our opponent, once they apply a change in tactics. I will not go into this too much as it will rekindle Saturday’s debate about my, and many a fellow Gooner, view, that we need to add defensive steel and organisation to our first team, now that Flamini ruled himself out for so many crucial games.
Both Arteta and Ox worked their socks off to readdress the balance, and they were helped well by other midfielders, but we lost our shape quite a bit. It made for an uncomfortable period in the second half in which CP could have even equalised. Szczesny came to the rescue with one of his typical ‘octopus’ saves, and then Ox-to-Ox put the game to bed with another fine team goal, completed by a cool, confident finish.
Giroud was rewarded for a lot of hard, thankless and often unspotted work throughout the match with a fine assist. He moved towards the midfield, away from the ‘D’, to create space and receive the ball with his back to the goal; a measured ball into the Ox’s running feet was enough to create a fine scoring opportunity, which the Englishman took with Henryesque calmness and confidence. What a fine second half attacking performance by our ‘new signing’! 😉
Northern or Southern Oilers to win?
So, we did what we had to do and are back where we belong: top of the league. Whether we stay there or not depends on tonight’s result between the oil-doped silverware buyers of the South and the North. The majority will want a draw in this game, as it will keep us top of the league. Some are even hoping for a Chavs win but this is the last thing we want right now.
Looking at the remainder of the games, the Southern Oilers have the easiest run of all three teams, and therefore the bigger the gap we can create between them and us now, the better. After tonight, of the ‘top teams’, they have Everton, Spuds and us at home and just Liverpool away. We have Liverpool, Spuds, Everton, and Chavs away, and Mansour City and Moyes United at home. Mansour City have Moyes United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton away still to come, which is a similar run in to us.
So a draw would be a good outcome and I would even prefer a home win. It would mean a gap between us and the Chavs of five points rather than four, which might turn out to be crucial in the end. Despite the fantastic attacking football by the Northern Oilers, they are, in my view, more vulnerable during the run in than the Southern ones. So for me, a home win, or a draw, are good outcomes, but an away win would be pretty disastrous.
Anyway, let’s prepare ourselves for Maureen’s 21st Century football show tonight! 😆
Written by: TotalArsenal.