Beastly Giroud Powers Arsenal into Fourth Round | Iwobi MOTM | Player Ratings

To use the football king of cliches, this was a game of two halves. What can we say about the first one? It was dire, the worst half of Arsenal football I have seen in a long while. We were disjointed throughout the team and collectively we had no fighting spirit whatsoever. Wenger left the normal leaders at home for  various reasons but there were plenty of players on the pitch who should have stood up and be counted: the likes of Ramsey, Ox, Giroud and Monreal were all not setting the example and were an insult to the shirt during those nasty first 45 minutes.

All our football pairs were not working as one, most notably the CB-pairing of Mustafi and Gabriel: it looked like they had never played together before and left our defence all over the place. The CB-FB pairings did not look much better and Ainsley had very little support from our right winger throughout the game. And then the midfield pairing of Rambo and Xhaka was disjointed, failing to dominate proceedings anywhere on the pitch. The Welsh wizzard had left his magic wand at home and the Swiss time master looked lost on the Deepdale pitch. Up-front, Ollie was isolated and our wingers, hard working Perez and day dreamer Ox, were not working close enough to him or provide him with the required service to hurt the Lilywhites. Iwobi looked lost like a jaguar on a float and all together we played absolute pants.

I was looking for leadership on the pitch: the one to three players in the spine who take initiative and set the tempo. Nobody did this but it was luckily  very different in the second half, after Wenger no doubt will have injected peppered carrots in 11 well-deserving Arsenals.

We were only one goal to the bad as a result of some woeful defending, but we all knew we were lucky not to be 2-0 or 3-0 behind. Preston had played with a high tempo and played some good football and they will be feeling quite sick to not have earned a replay at least.

With a higher tempo and a clear instruction for the midfielders to push up and dominate the opponents deep into their own half, the game changed immensely in the second half. We came out like a possessed team – the carrots had an immediate effect – and within a minute we scored the equaliser. Some very composed work by Iwobi around Preston’s ‘D’ led to a shooting opportunity for Ramsey just outside the box. The Welshman did not snatch at it but allowed himself to have a very soft touch in order to then unleash the venom in his right foot with devastating effect. It was a beautiful and powerful shot which left the keeper with no chance – Ramsey’s first goal of the season and boy did he, and we, need it.

After that, we kept up the tempo and played much more like a team. We did not create too many good chances but we also kept our opponents from causing us any danger. And then the Lilywhites started wilting and the Gunners came into the golden last ten minutes of the game phase – as Lewis Hamilton would call it: Hammer Time.

The boys increased the tempo and the attackers were now working with and for Giroud to give us the breakthrough. It was wonderful to see Welbeck joining the attack during this period and I reckon he made a difference straightaway. Rambo pumped one into the box and Ollie managed to direct the ball to Perez. Lucas was crowded out by defenders with his back towards the goal near the byline, but he managed to find his new mate Ollie with the deftest of back-heels. Ollie smelled his chance and a very, very powerful left leg got the ball over defender and goalkeeper by sheer willpower to win the match.

Image result for manowar band images

Giroud knows how much the away supporters love him and he scored that goal right in front of 6000 warm and happy Gunners. The goal meant so much to him and this time he did not celebrate with the copy of his scorpion kick but by thumping his Arsenal-logo-embroidered heart with the force of an insane Manowar warlord. He may not have the slickness and athleticism of our Gunner-Gods of Henry or Bergkamp, but what Ollie has done for us in the last few weeks is simply outstanding. For me he is very close to playing himself into my favourite Gunners team of all time. Beauty of spirit goes a long way.

PLAYER RATINGS

Ospina: 8 – calm, focussed, safe pair of hands.

Ainsley MN: 7 – too many times unsupported, but oozed calm and control for his age

Mustafi: 6 – more willpower than experience on show, not calm enough

Gabriel: 6 – same as Mustafi

Nacho: 6 – same as Mustafi

Rambo: 5 – fist half 2, second half 8 average = 5. Time to become a Manowar warrior…

Xhaka: 5 – looked lost but better second half. Not sure whether Rambo partnership works

Iwobi: 8 – never gave up trying, much better 2nd half due to Wenger’s team adjustments. MOTM

Ox: 4 – no more excuses for Alex

Perez: 7 – struggled at times but better 2nd half and what an assist!

Giroud: 8 – see above.

By TotalArsenal.

Theo near perfect, Alexis beats the drum, Ozil goes Bergkampesque on birthday: player ratings/ review

A great win that enabled us to level with MC and surpass the Spuddies in just two games. The Swans gave us a tough second half, much helped by the harsh sending off of Xhaka, but the boys showed great resilience to hold on.

The defence did not look good with both Mustafi and Monreal our weakest points and guilty for many a chance we gave away. The KosMus partnership is not as solid as first thought but of course this can be fixed. Nacho was skinned time and again but was also not much helped by his DM partners. Stevie has some work to do with our back four.

But in attack Arsenal were breathtaking. The Swans defence was taking apart time and again by four dimensional football in which creators and finishers metamorphosed continuously and space to score goals was found with great ease. Three goals to the good guys is what gave us the points yesterday and long may our clockwork red and white scoring machine continue.

Player Ratings:

Cech: 8. Presence in goal. Our President between the sticks turns opponents’ legs to jelly and heads in a spin.

Nacho: 5. A game to forget. Pulled all over the place and left team very vulnerable.

Koz: 9. The King was on fire once again. He spared the blushes of his nearest defensive colleagues time and again.

Mustafi: 6. Needed to defend tighter to Koz especially after Nacho got skinned from our left a few times.

Bellerin: 8. Another solid game and an asset both in defence and attack.

Cazorla: 6. His defensive limitations showed once more but still supports our attack well.

Xhaka: 5. Perhaps tired from the international games but not a good performance. Gave ball away for first goal by Swans and attempt to get a card for the team backfired, however harshly it was. There is so much class in Granit that I can assure you he will bounce back.

Das Ozil, birthday boy: 9. Sublime, Bergkampesque goal. Lovely movement and maximisation of space and time with the ball caressing his feet like a devoted puppy.

Iwobi: 7.5. Team player with bags of class and overview, but Nacho was left a bit too unprotected at times.

Alexis: 9. Team player who beats the drum in attack for us. Lovely assist for Ozil’s sky rocket in the roof of the net. Just for all the dirty work alone you got to love him.

Theo: 9.9. In the right place at the right time time and again. Scored first two, crucial goals and was close to scoring three more. ‘Only’ two went in but to focus on that is not having a clue what attacking football is about. This system suits him so well.

By TotalArsenal.

 

 

Player Ratings: BFG and Koz Rule, Ozil Leads, Theo and Ollie Deliver

Evening fine, fellow Gooners. Great win at THOF and we’ll do a review tomorrow. But for now the player ratings.

Cech: 8: unflappable and a big calming factor on the excellent CBs in front of him. Did his presence put De Bruyne off when approaching the goal at a decent angle at 0-0?

Bellerin: 8: great defensively, with very good positioning and recovery. Citeh showed Hector Vector great respect with putting Delph at left midfield to stop his runs forward, but, as the game went on, he still managed to aid the attack as well.

BFG: 9: playing deep suits him so well. His reading of the game and positioning were exceptional, and so were his interceptions.

Koz: 9.5: exceptional performance for 90 minutes. Next to the calm organiser that is Mertesacker, Koz revels in cleaning up and bullying forwards. One of the best games I ever saw him play: phenomenal blocks, masterful in the air and a Hoover on the ground.

Nacho: 8.5: once again solid and great in supporting the attack. Monreal is naturally aggressive without being nasty, and his fitness levels are incredible.

Rambo: 8.5: superb in first half, forming a Great Wall with the Flame. We were rock solid for almost the entire game. He made some great runs forward in the second half, but lacked a cool head to finish off the game. Some his defensive interceptions were excellent, even though he was a bit at fault for Yaya’s simply perfect goal.

Flamini: 8: a solid defensive performance focused on eliminating Silva’s creative threat. Kept it simple and did all the dirty work with not a moment’s lack of concentration.

Campbell: 8: fabulous defensive support and great energy, always carrying an attacking threat. Like Rambo, he lacked a cool head to finish a couple of decent chances, but great team work.

Theo: 8.5: worked very hard all over the pitch, even though defending is not his strength. He produced a great Alexisesque goal to get us in front, and the big games often require such quality to come out of it victoriously. Theo delivered it!

Ozil: 9: great leadership of the team, two assists and always found space to get the ball and do something good with it. Defended all over the pitch as well.

Giroud: 9: at times our third DM defending from the front backwards and putting in some strong tackles. Scored the second goal, never stopped being a nuisance to the Citeh defence, fab holding play and some near assists.

A great performance by the whole team, but Koz’s nudges it for MOTM.

By TotalArsenal

Player Ratings: Ramsey b2b beast, Ozil directs, Giroud delivers,Theo bullies

An easy win for the boys due to a professional performance, an early goal from a penalty and a beautiful box box goal by Rolls Ramsey. We threatened to let them back in to the game in the second half but with confidence at a low at Villa Park, we were allowed to stroll through it till the end.

Player ratings

Cech: 7.5: did everything ok and kept it simple. Oozes calm and control. I pinch myself every game to reconfirm that Petr is actually a Gunner. What a signing and well done for equaling David James’ clean sheet record.

Belerin: 7: motored well and some good link up play with Campbell. Looks a bit tired when making attacking decisions but solid performance overall.

Koz and BFG: 7.5: good balance between control and aggression. Easy game for them.

Nacho: 7.5: motored well all game and solid defensively. Easy game.

Flamini: 7.5: solid without being spectacular, just the way we like it. Played a big part in Ramsey’s shining performance.

Ramsey: 8.5: motored all game with a great all round performance. His goal epitomised what he is all about: fine defensive tackle, bursting run and arriving in the box at the right time to slot home. He also made some Santiesque passes and offered defensive support constantly.

Ozil: 8: directed the game with ease and style. Great, unselfish assist for Ramsey’s all important second goal.

Campbell: 7.5: good all round performance and much better in defensive one to ones. Really involved in the game and kept it simple and effective.

Theo: 7.5: involved in both goals. He got us the penalty with showing good body strength and persistence, bullying Hutton to a very costly foul; and he also had the pre assist for Ramsey’s goal, a lovely, measured ball any midfielder would be proud of. Dropped off quite a bit in second half.

Giroud: 8: put himself about and never slackened. Took penalty well. Solid and mature.

By TotalArsenal

9 Dec ’15: A New Star is Born, Ollie’s First Hattrick, Mesut silences Athens! Match Review

Sweet Sixteen for the Sweet Sixteenth Time in succession!

Last night’s performance was not one of the best ones ever, but it certainly was close to it. Olympiakos are not strong enough an opponent to qualify last night’s victory as truly ‘great’. Nevertheless, it was a very fine, passionate and professional performance by Wenger’s men, and we have every right to be proud of them. Yesterday the Gunners completed the trilogy of our great escape: two splendid, hard-fought-for wins against Bayern and Dynamo Zagreb was followed by the demolition of the Greek champions in their own bastion; and it us not them who still have a chance to make it all the way to the final in Milan.

Wenger in zevende hemel na onvergetelijke avond

In previous encounters against the Greeks, we had already qualified for the next round of the CL, and we more than once treated the final CL group game against them as an opportunity to blood some youngsters and rehabilitate some of our (many) injured. This, combined with Olympiakos’ hostile environment and no necessity to win, often led to bad performances in which we left all three points in Athens.

This time round, we needed to score at least two goals but ideally three to make it through to the next round. We also had to make sure that they did not score, as we then really needed three or more goals to go through. Our tactics and focus for last night’s game were great and that made all the difference. You could clearly tell we were the team that qualified for the last sixteen in the CL fifteen times, and that our opponents had no experience in getting there. Olympiakos really struggled with how to approach the game as a win, draw, or even ‘a small loss’ would have been enough for them: too many options can easily lead to a lack of focus and team cohesion… and it clearly did last night for them.

We started a bit nervous, though. Olympiakos had come out to attack and get that all important goal that would force us to score at least three in order to go through. We were vulnerable in defence initially, especially on our RB side. Bellerin was often left exposed by his colleagues and Olympiakos forced through a few effective attacks from their left wing.

We did well enough not to concede a goal and especially Koz was superb in our defence from the start. After twenty minutes or so, we started to turn the game around. It started with a classic Arsenal attack, involving Giroud as our holding pivot in attack, Campbell as our winger who made an aggressive run and produced a perfect pull-back, and Flamini as our box to box midfielder arriving just in time to slot the ball into the net… a deflection and the bar prevented us from getting our first goal.

This fluent attack gave us confidence, and after it we never looked back. Soon Ozil found Rambo with a beautiful defence splitting pass on our left wing. Rambo had indicated were he wanted the ball with a quick hand wave and Ozil reacted super fast with a superbly measured ball. Aaron picked out his mate Giroud – a friendship that has needed no time to be rekindled – and Ollie made the best of not an easy header. The goalie should probably have done better but well done Ollie for being positive and make the goal keeper work. It paid off handsomely – the luck of the good-looking?

We held on to that score till half time without pressing too hard for the second. This was very impressive of the team; it showed their maturity and confidence that it would all come good. If the first goal did not have the purists purring, the second one surely would do it. Ozil played a quick high ball towards the box where Campbell was anticipating his pass. Joel had plenty to do with that Mesut ball, but he killed the ball in one go with his upper-leg superbly. He then meandered with the ball through the Olympiakos defence to spot, and then find with a precisely measured ball, the onrushing Giroud. Ollie could not miss this one and was rewarded for his involvement at the start of the attack and his great run into the box. But surely, the big plaudits should go to Joel for one of the finest non-Ozil assists we will see all season.

Two nil and almost there. What should we do: barricade ourselves in front of Cech or go all out for the third goal? The team handled this very well: we did not expose ourselves much in defence and yet we kept attacking, although at a lower tempo. Another fine attack saw Nacho shooting the ball diagonally from the box that was stopped by an Olympiakos arm: penalty, and a great chance to put the game to bed. Up stepped man of the brace, Giroud, and he scored the pen with great calm and control to complete his first ever Arsenal hat-trick. 3-0 and game over: job done with 23 minutes to go. The defence held out without too much trouble and our fine attackers helped out nicely. At the same time, they were able to unwind and relax their muscles for our clash with the desperate-for-points Villains on Sunday.

This game was a great show of maturity and professionalism, and the much used cliché, teamwork. If you had written the dream-script for this game, you would have wanted a goal within the first thirty minutes and then two more in the next forty minutes, and a clean sheet of course. You would have wanted our stars to deliver and the rest to work hard; the whole team to play as one and to play with passion for the shirt; and you would also have really wanted a new star to be born: and last night, 9 December 2015, Joel Nathaniel Campbell Samuels, born 23 years ago in San Jose, Costa Rica, was reborn a Gunner in divine Athens. And Arsene and his men totally delivered the dream-script last night!

Here we come again Europe: in the last sixteen in the Champions League for the sixteenth time in succession!  Start booking your flights to Milan, fine fellow Gooners, cause I have a funny feeling we might make it all the way to the final this time round.

Ooh to, Ooh to be, Ooh to be a GOONER! 🙂

By TotalArsenal

For completeness, here are the player ratings again I published yesterday:

Cech: 8 | Not much to do for large parts of the game, but always in control and he just oozes calm and control. Had a couple of routine saves to make which he did faultless.

Nacho: 8.5 | Great going forward and mostly solid at the back. He collaborates so easily with fellow defenders, midfielders and attackers. The complete full back, with a great engine and passion.

Koz: 9 | Total Warrior, whose drive, reading of the game and interceptions are an inspiration to the entire team. Great partnership with BFG tonight.

BFG: 8.5 | Left us sometimes a bit exposed with his positioning, but very strong second half. Master in the air and some very good interceptions.

Bellerin: 7.5 | Struggling a bit to get his game going, both defensively and offensively, but improved a lot in second half. Hector Vector is missing Ramsey as his steady right wing partner.

Flamini: 8 | Solid shift with more defensive discipline than at the weekend. Unlucky not to score after a fine run into the box in the first half.

Rambo: 8.5 | Great all-round midfield play, linking up midfield with attack and defence brilliantly. Just kept on motoring, and great run and cross for the first goal.

Campbell: 8.5 | Needs to toughen up to win more defensive one to ones, but great attacking game with a sublime assist for Ollie’s second: what a calm in the storm he has, and what great vision and technical ability to pick out Ollie amongst all those defenders. Continued to have a great attacking drive and helped out in defence too.

Ozil: 9 | Superb pre-assist for the first goal, launching Ramsey with the perfect through ball: how did he see that one? Led the team in all areas, always making himself available and winning vital seconds for the team on the ball.

Theo: 7 | Very rusty with his passing and ball touches, but a constant menace with his runs, creating space for others and putting pressure on the Greek defence constantly.

Ollie: 10 | A master class of total CF play: harassed the opposition constantly, brilliant hold up play to allow the team to breath and link up with him, fine defensive cover during set pieces, great runs into the box, and a hat trick. He also had the cool head to slot the penalty in, after which the game was over.

 

 

Mesut/Alexis MOTM | Nacho Perfect | FlamCar in Control: Player Ratings | 8 Positives

Well that was just what the doctor ordered: high tempo, crisp passing, fine combination football and the stars of the show shining at their brightest! Not much time, but here are my eight positives of the game.

  1. Ozil and Sanchez’s energy and creativity were too much for Zagreb: three goals and one assist between them is a very good return for all the hard work. Seeing Ozil score almost twice with his head tells us a lot as well. He is making more runs into the box now to be at the end of a chance rather than only creating them, and that is just what we need currently, as we have been lacking goals from central midfield.
  2. Nacho was awesome, both in defence and in attack. A great assist for Sanchez’s first goal, but he could have had more. What a great wing-back we have in Monreal.
  3. Giroud worked hard to create space and chances for others. He did not score this time round, but he carries so much goal-threat that defenders have to stay with him, and this opened them up for sharp-shooter, Alexis and smooth operator, Ozil.
  4. The Flam-Car DM pivot worked well tonight: they bossed the midfield defensively and made good contributions offensively. Santi offered a lot creativity and pushed the team on from the back: he had a really good game.
  5. Campbell had a great assist and had some good spells, especially at the start of the game. Like the Ox, he tends to drift in and out of the game – the very opposite of the continuously driven Alexis – but he produced the goods when it mattered.
  6. Bellerin had great drive once again and as a result we could use the whole width of the pitch. We were really strong from the wings today and this is due to the creativity, drive and speed of the full backs and our ‘midwingers’ Alexis and Campbell.
  7. A clean sheet was very welcome, even though our defending was not always top notch. Something to build on now, and I hope Arsene will play the same back four and Cech against Norwich.
  8. The return of Ramsey was very welcome. He clearly looked rusty but coming on with no pressure and just being able to ease himself back into the first team will have done him good. In hindsight, I am glad Wenger did not start him.

Man of the match was SanOzil: both Sanchez and Ozil were magnificent and it would be wrong to choose between them on tonight’s performances.

Ratings (1-10):

Cech: 8 | Solid close save at the end of the game/ calm and in control.

Bellerin: 7.5 | Very driven going forward, one or two defensive mishaps

BFG: 7 | Calm and controlled, kept it simple and effective

Koz: 7.5 | Full of drive and healthy aggression – best game in a while

Nacho: 8.5 | Great runs and balls into the box – solid at the back too

Flam: 7.5 | Solid and confident – allowed others to play and good interceptions when we lost the ball

Cazorla: 8 | Good partnership with Flamini and a creative force all over the pitch

Ozil: 9 | Great on the pitch leadership and he made the team dance with his fine runs, fabulous control of the ball and passes – scored the all-important first goal

Alexis: 9 | Two goals and a fine assist – never gave up fighting and his link up play with Ozil was a joy to watch

Giroud: 7.5 | No goals or assist but did a lot of dirty work today to create space and opportunities for others

Campbell: 7.5 | Periods of great drive and creativity in which he takes the game to the opponent – need to become more consistent, but fine, fine through-ball for Sanchez’s second goal

By TotalArsenal.

Newcastle v Arsenal match review + player ratings and MotM

NEWCASTLE v ARSENAL

Theo Walcott

Brief summary:

Arsenal started very brightly, and with some very slick one touch passes, they moved the ball about with great authority. But as often happens, very little in the way of clear openings.

Krull was a bit slow to clear and Rosicky forced a poor kick and Arsenal were again passing the ball around in the final third. In the 7th minute Walcott got body checked by Tiote when on a one-two run at goal, but the ref ‘did not see it’, but it should have been a yellow card for Tiote.

It took a great pass from Cabaye to Debouchy, who got first run on Gibbs to bring Newcastle into life, but that cross was cleared comfortably enough. Much of our attack was going down the left wing as either Rosicky or Wilshere were working that side with Gibbs. However that proved to be a weakness for Arsenal as Debouchy was able to exploit the space behind, with Gibbs playing catch up. Both Sissoko and Remy had some joy down that wing in the first half, but mostly each side cancelled each other out when it came to scoring opportunities.

In the 9th minute, Rosicky had had a great strike on target, but straight at Krull’s midriff. On the 20 minute mark Arsenal won their first corner after another bright piece of slick passing, but was finally cut out as Walcott ran to the byline. Nothing resulted from the corner though. Giroud got booked, rightly, for tripping Tiote, rightly, as Tiote was breaking forwards, but injured himself when it appeared he tweaked his other ankle on the following run through. Meanwhile, Cazorla was still on the ground from the previous tackle where they had won possession, but no foul was given?

Newcastle finished the half with a flourish after a Cabaye attempt was touched over by a fully stretched Szczesney. From the corner a few dodgy moments, but finally the ball was cleared. 

So honours even, and the half-time score remained at 0-0.

The second half started much the way the first had been. Some occasional nice bits of play which eventually led to one misplaced one and the resulting lost possession, and this from both sides. It looked like neither side would break this pattern, and it was Newcastle who turned to Ben Arfa for the first substitution, although Arsenal had Podolski, Gnabry and Jenkinson warming up.

There were a few more tackles going than in the first half, and Tiote escaped a booking for doing what Giroud had done in the first period. Then came the free kick which Walcott sent a beautiful aimed ball in from about 35 yards out from just left of centre. It was a not too high curler that was on target, but one that Krull would probably have saved. However, Giroud made a perfect run across his defender, and from the camera shot from behind the goal you could see Krull saw him coming and went fractionally to his right, expecting Giro’s header to go across him. Instead it was a little glancing header to his left that meant his previous movement the other way left him so that neither outstretched leg and hand could prevent the goal. Fair play to Giroud, because in the last few matches such a touch might have easily gone agonisingly wide, but he kept faith and was duly rewarded.

That seemed to spark Newcastle into the more physical stuff that got them some joy in the first half. It was Cabaye who got annoyed at Rosicky who just pushed him away. No card on this occasion, but when Rosicky tried to nip possession of him a few minutes later, Cabaye made an agonising cry of pain, although the replay clearly showed that it was Cabaye’s shin that hit Rosicky in the calf. No surprise that Rosicky waved that one away too. But when the much bigger Tiote came up to remonstrate, Rosicky looked him in the eye and told him ‘to go forth and multiply’, in the abbreviated form. The ref booked him, it appeared on the topping up procedure, rather than the tackle itself.

It was a late tackle on Gibbs on the sideline that seemed to catch him on the top of the foot. Not dissimilar to the one that caused all his metatarsal problems a few seasons back. However, I noticed on the next Newcastle attack Gibbs had a definite limp. Whilst I don’t think it is too serious, a crunch toe may be? So it was no surprise that he was subbed by Ateteta, although the Arsenal fans were caught a little bewildered. As indeed was the defence. Flamini thought Sagna would come across to left back and he would go to right back position. Instead, Flamini dropped in at left back, given the absence of Vermaelen from the bench. This confusion arose again with Jenks coming on for Walcott, and played ahead of Sagna. Later on, after Newcastle had brought on all of their subs, Bendtner also came on to give Giroud a well deserved rest.

In between these actions there was a bit of goalmouth activity at both ends. A delightful chip pass by Cazorla for Walcott inside the box; he lobbed the onrushing Krull perfectly, only for Debouchy to clear with a top class piece of defending, heading from under the crossbar to clear it. It came back out to Walcott, whose second shot Krull saved, but he too only pushed it out to Giroud. He hit it with his right foot back across goal and it was cleared. To be fair to Giroud, the ball came at him quickly from only a couple of yards and he was in no position to turn his body around to make it a shot from wide of the post, and even less time to get it on his left foot.

At the other end, a sharp ball into the Arsenal nearly ended badly. The target for the cross was dealt with by Sagna’s low header to Mertersacker, but Szczesney had made the decision to come for it, but would not have made it had Sagna left it to him. In the confusion that followed Sagna taking his own goalkeeper, the ball was cleared.

In another instance, Szczesney came to make a routine clearance, kicking the ball out of his hands, saw Remy closing him down, changed his mind at the last second from clearing up the middle, to going to his left. He did not get the height, but did get Remy full in the face. Luckily for him, the rebound went wide. He was visibly furious with himself … but it may cost him his place in the next game?

With all the subs that Newcastle brought on being of an attacking nature, it was a bit desperate in the last few minutes. Even Krull came up when they had a couple of corners. Which led to a couple of Arsenal possible replies. Cazorla had a cheeky 90 yards pop at goal of the season from the near touchline. Alas, it only went about 60 yards and was easily stopped by the retreating Krull.

The second one involved Bendtner, who managed to get a throw in off the only defender back, with Krull still struggling to get back in goal. Bendtner moves to the middle of the pitch, screaming at Jenkinson to do the throw in, as a quick ball in would have had Bendtner one-on-one with the keeper. But Jenks was not thinking that quickly, and by the time he got the ball, turned around, the moment was lost.

Finally, for the third time Krull went forward for a corner, deep into injury time, instead of hanging deep for a far post knock back, he made for the middle, for Szczesney in fact, but a good solid punch saw the Gunners home.

We expected a tough match, and it was a tough match. Three points gratefully received.

We also had 53% possession, more shots on target(thanks to Ben Arfa?), Newcastle made more fouls but we got 3 yellow cards. The referee Lee Probert lived up to his pre-billing then?

 

Thought and reflections:

In the opening few minutes I thought our midfield had recaptured that enterprising play that saw off teams early on in the season. The trio of Rosicky, Wilshere and Flamini seemed to understand the role of one of the remaining at the back. The fluid inter-positioning and quick passing got Newcastle completely confused. However, they had enough quality players, like Cabaye with his passing range, Debouchy both in defence and attack, Tiote, like him or loathe him, he does a solid job? So it was no surprise that they got back into the game. Arsenal, overall, had the better chances, so the win was not undeserved, even if they had to fight for it.

 

Player by player performances:

SZCZESNEY: Two potentially dangerous errors, two equally great saves. That sort of sums up his game? It has been a demanding run of games, but he will be very pleased with the clean sheet.

MERTERSACKER: Yet another commanding performance. No highlights, just a solid professional day at the office.

KOSCIELNEY: His normally imperious defending was only marred by a sloppy pass that went straight to an attacker. That returned, resulting in him having to make a customary last ditch tackle. unfortunately that ball squirmed out to a Newcastle player, but the danger was cleared. That episode should not take too much off his overall performance, or the excellent partnership with Per Mertersacker.

SAGNA: He had yet another tough day. For the fourth time in a row he has come up trumps. Why he is not worth a decent new contract is anybody’s guess, but performances like these put him in a strong bargaining position? Rarely put a foot wrong, got forward when he could and handled all that Newcastle could muster. Top class from Mr Reliable!

GIBBS: Mixed fortunes for Gibbs. Got forward really well, got some decent crosses in, and was involved in all the early play. Defensively he was not so sure footed. Even in position, Debuchy seemed to have his measure, but often it was the quality of the passing that meant Gibbs was playing behind the runner. His injury late on will probably give him a well earned break. For the amount of running he has done in the last for games it is understandable that a little sharpness was missing?

FLAMINI: He worked across the middle of the park like a sheepdog rounding up the flock. In fact, nipping at the heels go him a booking, but overall a solid game. Very few chances came Newcastle’s way via him. In a game where he specialises in rolled up sleeves, he does not disappoint.

WILSHERE: Definitely one of his better games. He was part of most of our attacking moves going forward in the first half, and was defensively responsible dropping back if Flamini was going forward. Faded a little in the second half, but that was partly due to Newcastle pressure. noticeably did not get uptight or argue in the ref’s face. Solid game, and will do him no harm if he can repeat this next time.

ROSICKY: Oh, a TTM from me Tomas Top Man. Ran the pitch like a man possessed. Never gave up fighting for the ball. His ‘F* Off!’ to Tiote was priceless. If we could bottle his spirit and drip feed it to some nameless others we would not need new players, just a padded cell for them to calm down in. Without him in the side we would not be ToTL right now.

MOTM no question …

CAZORLA: I know many will share my disappointment that Santi could follow up his previous superb game performance. However, for me, it tends reinforces my own opinion of this being another ‘Arshavin-esque’ situation. He needs to be the hub where things evolve from, and his game disappears somewhat when he is a part of another’s creation. I am not meaning he is not a team player, far from it. But when he plays for the team, as he did in the second half, when clearly told to support Gibbs more in defence, he did so. But at the cost of his creativity, where he can bring others into the game. In the first half we saw glimpses of it. In the previous game, when Ozil faded he came into his own. Here, he not only had to contend with Rosicky with ‘Duracell’, but also Wilshere being in the spaces he can operate much better in … when allowed to? I feel this will be an ongoing problem, and not one easily resolved?

GIROUD: The Hero. The Villain. But whatever your view, you simply cannot deny that Giro is the ultimate team worker. The most important thing though, is the players understand the latter to a man. He works his socks off in every game, and even this one, on the back of some slim pickings, near misses, soft chances not taken, he was still in there, putting every last ounce of effort in.

So boy did he deserve his goal today?

Whether he can kick on from here, or take a short break, like Ozil, until the Villa game, remains to be seen. The second half of the season is going to be equally tough, so if I were him I would take a ‘chill out’ break if it is offered.

WALCOTT: He too was not as effective in this game as he was against West Ham. I think that was mostly down to better defending. He did not have the space to work in, when he did early on and he got fouled and that might have put him off his game? But when he was in space passes did not reach for one reason or another. However, he will be remembered for that one piece of magic that gave him the assist for the goal. You often hear commentators say ‘…it only needed a slight touch and ..’? Well this one got it, and did it make everybody in the Arsenal camp relieved?

His other chance to double the score was very cleverly saved by a goal line clearance, and he rebound shot was pushed aside by the keeper. But I think overall he can be happy he made the difference?

Finally, to those who think we should go for Berbatov, I say if you want the team to play with 10 men and somebody up front, then ask the players who they want?

Mertersacker says ‘We need to buy the RIGHT players to help win the title’ … I agree.

Written by: Gerry

Managing Expectations: Player Ratings against WBA with weighting allowance

Unaccustomed as I am to writing long wordy stuff on things Arsenal, I thought I would dip my toe in the water that is known as ‘blogsphere’.

So the purpose of this blog is a slightly different take on rating individual performance from the Wednesday night game against West Brom in the Capital One Cup. Or as us ‘oldies’ know it as, the League Cup.

So to explain the rating system – SHOCK HORROR – Yes, there is a numerical rating for each player, but with a weighting allowance for other factors. Unfortunately, I am the sole arbiter of points given, so it opens up at least one avenue for disagreement?

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Ratings from a scale of 0-10 is the basic starting point. The target of all players should be to achieve a 75% score of their individual band. So, for example, take Per Mertersacker: he is a top class player, in form, fit from recent games, so his target is 7.5 points just to play up to the level he is already at. If he has brought something extra to his game, then he will get plus points over that. 7.5 points is what we, as fans, and presumably the manager too, expects.

That is the key: Our Expectation of an upcoming performance, which usually exceeds what the reality may be?

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How I reduce the expectation level will become clear – I should warn this is a work in progress, so feel free to suggest improvements, or criticise as you see fit. I will do my best to ignore, opps reply to such irritations err suggestions in the fullness of time. …. Now where did I find that smiley with two fingers by his nose, it may come in handy 😀

So, shall we begin?

FABIANKSKI ;-Final score. 8.1

Expectation level reduced slightly for lack of recent match practice: 6.8

Performance during the game he made important saves, particularly the one late on, as he gets a bonus for keeping concentration for 120 minutes. No fault on the goal scored. He did not get much joy out of the penalty shoot out, although guessing the right way on their last one may have brought about the error?

MERTERSACKER: Final score :- 8.5

Expectation level high: 7.5

Performance: He made many clearances throughout the match, and only one error that but that was cleared. An absolute rock!

VERMAELIN: Final score :- 7.6

Expectancy level reduced, back after injury, and only two sub appearances prior. 7.0

Performance: His good clearances over the 90 minutes, were matched by two free kicks he gave away. The second one resulted in the ball hitting the crossbar from the free kick. However, he picks up points for effort in extra time, and for giving Reid a mouthful for his late tackle on Miyaichi in that period.

MONREAL: Final score: :- 8.1

Expectation level slightly reduce for lack of match play, and when he has played he was doubling up with Gibbs: 7.3

Performance: He had a solid game. Got a booking (for the team -cliche), and generally supported young Miyaichi down the left. Was still going at the end of 120 minutes, and his crowning glory was to put away the winning penalty. Despite their goal coming back in from their right flank, it was Monreal who went out attempt a block, so no blame on him.

JENKINSON: Final score :- 7.9

Expectation level reduced, partly from not playing much, and that he is not yet a top class player: 7.0

Performance: Strong presence throughout. Supported the attack at every opportunity. Super crosses put in that were a whisker away from connecting a head for certain goal. Weaknesses came when beaten down the line, and allowing cross into our box. Strangely, he was also ‘in the vicinity’ when they scored. What drew him over there I am not sure, but he did not move when the ball came in to an unmarked player less than 2 yards away? He was facing goal, and there was somebody on the line looking out, but if push came to shove, I would say Jenks was nearer. His redeeming feature was the 80 yard dash to get back in position when an attack he was involved in broke down, this in the dying minutes off extra-time. Fit, that is!

ARTETA: Final score :- 7.3

Expectation level reduced due to return from injury. No game time coming into this either: 6.8

Performance: Solid performance from Arteta, and built purely on his experience. He let his fellow DM do the advanced running, but still covered a lot of ground. The game was quite cagey in the first half,  and this allowed him to play within himself, between bouts of action. The second half saw him probe a little further forwards to help the attacker/advanced midfielders. It was during this period where he got booked, for a foul on Sessegnon -(Nobody seemed to like him, Monreal decked him as well. (Mind, it serves the little tow-rag right for doing a sly one on Gnabry, flattening him by the centre circle, out of the officials view.). Overall, his quiet, simple stuff outweighed faults in passes and general rustiness. His game ended at the start of extra time, taking no chances, if the damage is not already done, on his calf muscle?

HAYDEN: Final score :- 6.4

Expectation, as with of all the debutants here, has to be brought down to a serious lower level than the above, but Hayden was at least in a position where he is comfortable playing. However, Premiership rivals add to that task, plus he has had little time playing: 6.0

Performance: Even with low expectation, he was not good in the first half. Add to that a bad tackle, for which he loses out twice; One for the nature of the tackle, two-footed, off the ground lunge which could so easily been a leg breaker, as he careered into Mulumbu’s standing leg. In fact the only thing that saved him was that he did not go in studs first. It was shin/instep to ankle, and so presumably taken as not malicious, and he lost the other point here because even so it could have been a red one? This in only the 32nd minute, 10 yards inside their half! You can expect some mistakes  from these players stepping up, but that was just stupid. On the plus side, whatever was said at half time had an effect, because he came out and played a solid game, putting himself in great positions, almost Flamini-esque at times. He also tried some long passes which were close to being perfect. Overall, I can only give him a marginal improvement over expectation, whereas with just the second half score, he would be sailing into the Arteta score area. Shame?

MIYAICHI: Final score :- 7.0

Expectation:: Lowered for lack of recent activity, only late substitutions with the first team: 6.3

Performance: A bit Jekyll and Hide. Some outstanding pace to get past experienced defenders, but the final ball seem to elude him too many times. Definitely a work in progress, and one that will get better with more exposure. He worked very hard up and down the wing, getting back to help the defense. This in a normal 90 minutes would be some achievement, but to try and keep going for a 120 minutes says a lot for his commitment and desire? I just hope he is not called upon for the next couple of games though, as he will need full recovery time to get over this effort.

GNABRY: Final score :- 7.1

Expectation: Quite high for an 18 year old, but realistically set lower for the task he had: 6.6

Performance: So much expected on the back of the hour he played on Sunday. The circumstances here were vastly different. No Ozil to provide pinpoint passes. No back up from quality midfielders. Out there trying to create things, but for every good thing there was a sloppy pass, a dead end run, a bundle of the ball. So did he shine? No. Did he put maximum effort into it, most definitely Yes! It was a big test to build on his previous game, and to go another hour beyond what he would normally do, before being taken off, took its toll. Mentally tired as well as physically, so by the time the penalties came around, his bolt was shot. When he took the penalty it was of someone who looked like he just wanted to get it done with, quickly. He will learn from that? So despite it not being his best game, he still comes out on the right side for sheer effort.

EISFELD: Final score :- 7.2

Expectation: Lowered by lack of activity in the first team squad, his debut in the starting line up, and to an extent, the role he needed to play: 6.0

Performance: First half, abysmal, headless chicken, lost … these are just a few words that come to mind. However, I come back to the last point I made above, ‘the role he needed to play’. If you ask Lucas Podolski to play ‘creative midfielder’, he would probably do okay, but not at the Cazorla level. Tomas Eisfeld is the future Podolski, imo. Now I can understand Arsene Wenger want to teach him to use the football intelligence he has to create for other, because he knows how and where the perfect ball should be played. I am not sure this was though, the ideal time for practical learning? Now whatever got said to him at half time, must have been along the lines of ‘get further forward’? Having had a near miss, and generally got more involved in play, it was till a bit tame. On the point of being substituted in fact, seconds before he scored a magnificent goal. It came from a perfect assist, but the finish was top drawer. The commentator said ‘That is what he is in the team for’. I beg to differ. That is what he can do for the team, but the job he was given was something else. It brought his a stay of execution, before being subbed for Akpom.

BENDTNER: Final score :- 8.0

Expectation: Lowered more than the usual because of other factors. He has not played for a long time, coming off an injury lay-off (amongst other things?), returning to the club he slagged off when he first got loaned out, and the need for it to go right? All piled big pressure on how he played. 6.0:

Performance: I have to say it looked very similar to early Giroud (as in ‘an early Picasso’ – I hardly touch the blue stuff now), and for very good reason. This forward line had been thrown together to make what they could out of it, or never darken the manager’s door again. So it was never going to be perfect, with knockdown balls invariably not finding their target, and very little to build on in a scoring sense, NB23 battled away throughout. lack of full fitness told when clear through on goal that could have saved the penalty drama. But again, when called upon to be the ultimate professional, he slotted away the first penalty with consummate ease. Form is variable, class is permanent, isn’t that what they say? There is little doubt in my mind that Bendtner, for all his flaws and weaknesses, can build on this performance and be a valuable player in the near future. What is not in doubt, is that his assist was ‘peach perfect’, and he comes out of this with a major plus. He gets bonus points on three counts: His assist; His work in defense; His shootout penalty.

The subs:

AKPOM: Final score :- 7.5

Expectation: Starting or coming on late are never easy to compare. I am taking the view that it can be harder get the feel of the game, so harder to put in high performance, at the end of a match. As it was a draw at both the start and when the subs came on, you cannot say they were facing a different task?. All three players in this bracket I am giving a similar low point of expectation. All three are making their first team debuts. and little or no time playing at this level: 5.8

Performance: So much to like about this brief showing. He had 11 minutes (including stoppage time), and the extra time, followed by a successful penalty. There is nothing showy or flashy about Akpom. He does what he does with style of and old pro. He gets up from a foul tackle, glances at the perpetrator, and moves on. No histrionics with the ref, pointing out the number of fouls. Just not him. He has quick close control, an eye for a pass, one that should have been an exquisite assist, when being the middle of a trio who got the ball from defense, to having Bendtner one on one with the ‘keeper in a blink of the eye. His efforts in taking the ball forwards probably did more to see out the extra time successfully, as when he came on West Brom were very much in the ascendancy. He was not successful with everything he tried, but the good was very good. Bonus points for the ‘assist’, the attitude he showed, the certainty in which he took his penalty, a decisive one, as it drew us level, and his chest thumping joy at being able to do it, and in style. He got the fans believing at that point, which put further pressure on the next one up.. Star player in the making.

OLSSON: Final score ;- 6.9

Eexpectation: Very low because he has not played at this level. He has never faced premiership opposition. It is a knockout Cup game away from home.: 5.6

Performance: Well he replaced Hayden in midfield, where he would normally ply his trade. But it has to be said it took him nearly all of the 8 or 9 minutes of normal time to get into the game. During the extra time period he took on the DM role very effectively. This was at a time when Arteta was starting to slow up, and WBA thought they could wrap it up. But Olsson was part of that magnificent mixture in defense that defied all odds. Whilst not being outstanding, he still contributed, and it is something he can build on if he gets further opportunities.

BELLERIN: Final score :- 7.8

Expectation: (From me, sky high, ha ha) Realistically, the same as the above, and for the same reasons: 5.6

Performance: He had the shortest time to impress. Replacing both man and position, the key defender in the amazing unbeaten since March run, one Miguel Arteta!

No, that has to be an error. Bellerin is a converted winger, now RB, and your asking him to play his debut match against Premiership opposition as a left sided defensive midfielder? Really?

What chance did Bellerin have to impress? Well Hector was the hero in my book. The first leg of that assist was a gem. He picked up a loose ball just outside our box, sprinted clear, pass to Akpom, who took it in his stride, and with a same movement pass that made the final leg which put Bendtner in the clear. But this was at the end of nearly 2 hours playing time for someone who had not had a competitive match in several months, so fitness told. It did not stop it being a great move though. As the game wore on Bellerin had a couple of shots at goal, and cleared one of the line at our end too. Some debut, but wait until they play him in his best position? No! Silly, RW.

Conclusions:

MOTM

PER MERTERSACKER – 8.5; Fabianski – 8.1; Monreal – 8.1 Bendtner – 8.0

Best Over Expectation

HECTOR BELLERIN – 7.8; Runner up; CHUBA AKPOM – 7.5

Well, I think that has covered the main aspects of the game from an individual players view. The whole team performed above my expectation. Not because it was a good match to watch, but because to get through a game like that you need character. Each and every one supplied a bit in their own way.

They fully earned that win. Congratulations.

Written by: Gerry.

Szczesny commands, Per & Kos top class, Giroud a cut above, Flamini the grinder: player ratings!

Togetherness has no price tag! With thanks to The Telegraph for photo
Togetherness has no price tag! With thanks to the Telegraph for photo

So 107 million pounds later we are still better than the spuds…Anyway straight to business, the player ratings.

Szczesny (8.0) – I have to say today he looked like the keeper we want to have between the sticks. Commanded his area expertly, fantastic communication with his defenders and made vital saves that made sure that three points remained at the Emirates. Top performance.

Gibbs (6.0) – By his standards he had an average game. Didn’t have much in him going forward and struggled a bit against Townsend. That said, he won his fair share of duels against him and slowly settled into the game as it wore on, especially with the introduction of Lamela. Finished the game strongly.

Per (7.5) – Powerful display by our BFG. Commanded the skies with his height, read the game well to make vital interceptions and most of all, controlled the game from the back. We now see why he has the armband albeit for now.

Kos (7.5) – As we have come to expect from the French man, top class display. Managed to keep Soldado out of the game and even managed to cover for Gibbs when he bombed forward or lost the ball. At the end, was at the heart of that fantastic Arsenal defence which stifled out the frustrated Spurs.

Jenkinson (6.5) – Was a surprise inclusion but he did put in a shift at right back. Showed good tackling but struggled a bit against the strength of Chadli in the opening stages. Settled as the game wore on.

Wilshere (5.0) – Was taken off before half time because he is ‘ill’ and it showed. Wasn’t his normal energetic self but did manage to carve out some decent chances. Hope he has a quick recovery over the international break.

Ramsey (7.5) – He really is coming of age. Energetic display all round, showing that right now no one is as committed to the cause as he is. Chased down every single ball and was always looking to instigate attacks. He needs to work on his final balls and decision making in the final third but other than that, wonderful performance.

Rosicky (6.5) – Put in a sublime performance, always looking to run at players and play dangerous balls behind the defence. Picked up a yellow card with a stupid challenge on Capoue though.

Cazorla (7.5) – Was his usual majestic self, always looking dangerous when on the ball. It is obvious that his technical ability was a class above everyone else. His movement was a bit subdued though, as a result of being played on the wing. Took two dangerous free kicks with the second one agonizingly close to making it 2-0.

Walcott (7.0) – His pace behind the defender was always a constant threat and this paid off when he swung in a low cross for Giroud to slot home. Would have piled more misery if it wasn’t for the outstanding Hugo Lloris.

Giroud (8.0) – Man of the match for me. Continued his goal scoring exploits making it 3 goals in 4 games with a wonderfully poked finish from Walcott’s cross that fooled everyone. Showed fantastic skill, composure and movement to score the goal. His work rate overall was amazing, despite the fact that we played a conservative game in the second half, making him a secluded figure upfront. Still won his aerial duels and chased down players. Needs to work on his pace on the ball. Sometimes his mind is sharp but his execution lets him down.

Flamini (6.5) – Looked like he lacks match fitness but still put in a decent performance. Made an interception that would have led to a goal chance if Ramsey hadn’t rushed his decision making. Received a yellow card for a crunching tackle on Paulinho.

Monreal (6.0) – Came on for Rosicky and should have put away a chance from a Walcott shot that was spilled towards him by Lloris. Otherwise was solid defensively and helped us see out the game.

Sagna N/A – Came on very late for Walcott. Didn’t have much time to influence the game though he made some important aerial clearances at the end to see out the result.

For me the most eye catching thing about our win was the collective team display. Everybody worked hard for each other tirelessly and gave nothing away.

It is always a good day when the Spurs kneel before our superiority. COYG!!!

Written by: Marcus

Santi dictates, Gibbs/Pod left side power, Theo gave us wings + Player Ratings

Santi Cazorla celebrates after scoring against Reading

Arsenal took a much-needed three points from last night’s match vs. Reading and hopefully it silences the criticism that has been plaguing the club as of late.  The 5-2 result was well deserved given the balance of play and it’s about time that we started performing to the high levels of expectation for a top club.  We completely dominated the first 60 minutes of play, and if it were not for some critical Federici saves, the score could have easily been 7-0.

Three of the five goals were produced from the left side of the pitch, with one other goal assisted by Gibbs on the left from a fantastic Theo cross.  Much of our early season success came from a dangerous left side that featured overlapping runs and fantastic link up play from Podolski and Gibbs.  Gibbs’ injury vs. West Ham directly coincided with the attack down the left flank breaking down.  Hopefully, the Gibbs-Podolski partnership continues to flourish consistently from here on out.

The left side was given more freedom to attack due to the speed threat of Theo down the middle; Reading’s defense was quite narrow and given our last clash with them in the Capital One Cup, they were right to be concerned.  Up front, our attack was finally given shape and we were treated to a classic, beautiful Arsenal display – fluid passing, direct runs, intelligent movement and relentless pressure from both flanks.  This was possible because Arsene finally switched his tactics and played a more mobile striker in Theo up front.  The front three were interchanging their positions with Podolski and Ox occasionally drifting centrally and Theo chasing down balls played into open space down the left and right.

Player Ratings:

Szczesny (7.5) – The Pole’s continued to give us stability in goal and has done everything you can reasonably expect from a keeper.  He did well to outstretch himself and grab what could have been an easy goal for Reading off a corner.  None of the goals were his fault and were a direct result of defensive breakdowns.  However, it would have been nice to see Szczesny save 1 of the 2 goals.

Gibbs (8.5) – Fantastic display down the left hand side and helped give our attack shape.  Two assists, some scoring opportunities that were blocked and plenty of good crosses.  Constantly pushed forward offensively and was reliable coming back for his defensive duties.  The only reason I didn’t give him a higher rating was because of his errant pass to Wilshere that led to a goal that brought Reading back into the game.

Vermaelen (8.0) – Has looked much more reliable defensively this year and saved us early on in the game on a 2 v 1 by clearing Pogrebnyak’s pass across the front of the goal.  Would have liked to have seen him more involved offensively, but it was more a luxury than a necessity today.  Great game by our captain, took a gamble to intercept Gibbs’ errant pass before the first goal.

Mertesacker (7.0) – Broke up a few of Reading’s plays and ensures that we have adequate defensive cover.  However, he was guilty of ball watching and drifted away from marking Kebe, who eventually scored the 2nd goal.

Sagna (7.0) – His crosses have been ineffective all year and perhaps it was fortunate that he was not playing in as much of an advanced role yesterday.  Reading’s few scoring chances primarily came down the left side, a testament to both our domination in possession and to his defensive reliability.  Still, had a few turnovers from poor passes and I’ve come to expect more from what I believe is the best right back in the Premier League.

Arteta (8.5) – The engine that drives our team and it was evident that we missed him last week in our loss to BradfordCity.  Won ball possession back and instantly pressured Reading when we lost possession of the ball.  Always great with ball retention, followed his defensive responsibilities well and distributed the ball to our creative outlets as we’ve seen him do all season.  Really helped to settle our team down and conserved his energy to chase down attackers.

Wilshere (8.5) – You can tell that he’s the one who wants to make things happen for the squad.  He leads the team up field with his charging runs with the ball and he is always looking to add directness to our attack from the midfield.  His aggressive style helps keep the opposition in check, but it did lead to a yellow card.  He had an opportunity to score from a nice mid-air volley but the effort was met from an even better Federici save.  It was unfortunate that he slipped on the 1st goal, but the pass shouldn’t have been played that far away from him in the first place.  Jack really should have had at least one assist today, but personal accomplishments are not important when the team wins.

Cazorla (9.5) – 3 goals and 1 assist, well deserved ‘Man of the Match’ recognition and he really showed his world-class ability.  Recently, I’ve accused him of not being influential enough to take matters into his own hands to turn around games for our team, but yesterday he truly was the difference.  He was creating plenty of through ball scoring chances for Theo, made intelligent passes in the final third, always put himself in good positions to score and took plenty of chances that he may not have taken in past games.  The only thing keeping his rating from a perfect 10 was his defensive lapse early in the game when Pogrebnyak was on the receiving end of a nice give and go that almost led to a Reading goal when the game was 0-0.  In addition, later in the 78th minute, Santi tried to do it all by himself vs. 6 Reading players and turned the ball over in Reading’s 18-yard box.  As you can see, I really had to nitpick to find any flaws in his game yesterday.

Podolski (9.0) – A goal and 2 assists and it appears like Podolski has finally come back into form and reignited his partnership with Gibbs down the left flank.  He’s often accused of either disappearing or being non-existent in games, but today he put in a great performance for the full 90 minutes.  A couple erroneous passes at the edge of and within Reading’s 18-yard box brought down his rating slightly.

Walcott (8.5) – His pace is a nightmare for defenders and Reading gave him plenty of space to make intelligent runs into empty space.  His goal at the 80th minute destroyed any hope of a Reading comeback and despite starting as a striker, he was willing to move out wide and distributed some nice crosses into the middle of the pitch (he spotted Gibbs with a cross that eventually led to the third goal).  However, Theo missed a breakaway opportunity in the first half and he could have passed to a wide-open Podolski in the second half instead of taking a shot that was wide of the mark.

Oxlade-Chamberlain (7.5) – He really set the tempo of the game for us after his blazing run and attempt on goal that was deflected wide by Federici in the opening minutes.  Reading had difficulty coping with his pace all night and his ability to cut inside added another element of directness and unpredictability to our attack.  In fact, it was his decision to take the ball inside and pass it to Wilshere that eventually led to Cazorla’s hat trick, which involved classy, vintage Arsenal build-up play.  He did disappear for about half the match and was rightfully substituted in the second half.  He had a great opportunity to score his first PL goal this season but a spectacular sprawling Federici save met his header.

Ramsey, Giroud and Coquelin (Incomplete) – All were relatively late substitutes and did not have sufficient time to make an impact on the game.  I hate to pick on Ramsey after such a great team effort but our attack down the right side became non-existent once he stepped onto the pitch and we ended up passing backwards into our own end more.  Giroud missed a great opportunity to get onto the score sheet after sending a volley into Federici’s outstretched arms on a breakaway.  Coquelin made a nice run forward and held the play up well that eventually led to a Podolski give away, but that’s about all I noticed from him in his cameo appearance.

Despite Arsenal playing a game full of so many positives, there were still negatives to take away.  In typical Arsenal fashion, an inspiring first 60 minutes eventually led to 2 goals that gave life to a late Reading comeback.   It looked like a realistic possibility before Theo iced the game with a great finish at the 80th minute to make it 5-2.

We have lacked focus defensively for much of this season and have been punished late in games for conceding crucial goals (2nd leg vs. Schalke, Swansea, Fulham, Olympiacos); fortunately, today we amassed a significant lead to relieve some of the pressure if such a scenario were to occur again.  As noted earlier, Gibbs’ misplaced pass exposed us for the first goal and ball watching by Mertesacker led to the second goal.  Finally, zonal marking on corners looks like it’ll eventually do us in, and we were fortunate to only concede 3 today.

Going forward, questions still remain unanswered.  Can we replicate the same success at home?  Was today’s result a testament to our improved team play or us facing a very poor, lackluster Reading side?  Will this win be met with any level of consistency or will we once again be victims of an underwhelming performance next time out?  Not to sound too pessimistic after today’s glorious performance, but there’s been a disturbing trend of inconsistency that casts a shadow of doubt over the coming Wigan clash on Saturday.

Four times this season, we’ve managed to follow up encouraging wins with losses or ties: beat West Ham, then lost to Norwich/beat QPR, then lost to Utd/beat Tottenham, then tied Villa and Everton before losing to Swansea/beat WBA, then lost to Bradford on pens.

All in all, a great game where we dictated the pace of the game and the result should go a long way in building confidence for our squad.

Written by: The Gooner.