….well not until todays games have completed anyway…I am a bit of stickler for the Top of The League shouting, like in Tennis where a player gets a break of serve, its not really a break of serve until he holds his next service game, the same goes for being top of the League, we are not really top of the league until everyone has finished their games this weekend…by 4pm today hopefully we are top of the league. Ok Doomer bit over…..and back to yesterday’s game.
This was never going to be an easy task, with the “could go top” match previews hanging over the head of the Arsenal players coupled with the after effects of the midweek Bayern performance, the media were surely sharpening their keyboards to write once again that when put in a position of pressure we failed. Well that may have been what the media wanted, but thankfully the players and manager didn’t give them the ammunition.
We started brightly enough, pressing Everton in their third of the pitch and not allowing Howard, Jagielka or Stones time on the ball to pick out Lukaku and build from there, or play through their midfield, this meant we were winning back possession regularly enough and dominating the game. The team looked up for it, Giroud leading the pressing from the front but also helping to move the ball around the attacking midfielders giving a good platform to build on. In fact Giroud did a very good job of re igniting the Theo v Giroud debate which Theo looked like he had settled in recent weeks.
As the half wore on we were not really creating much in front of goal, and although Giroud was giving us that platform there were times where it appeared that Ozil, Santi and Alexis couldn’t perhaps find the pass they would have had Theo been leading the line.
We created a few opportunities but not really any clear cut chances, that was until Ozil found himself in time and space, Giroud made a good run having initially laid the ball off and pointed to where he wanted it, Ozil didn’t need asking twice and put the ball perfectly into the box, tempting Howard off his line and giving Ollie the simple task of helping it on in to the open net.
Within 16 seconds of the restart (as shown on MotD) Arsenal pressed Everton back in to their own half and after good work from Ollie, Alexis got fouled and we had a free kick in a dangerous area. Santi delivered an even better cross than his one against Bayern on Tuesday night and Koscielny found himself with a simple header into an again empty net because Howard had again vacated his line. I am not sure there are many players like Santi in the English Premier League, on Tuesday he delivered a bending cross from deep with his left foot, and yesterday he provided the same with his right foot. We are very lucky to have him. The fans responded in full voice and the Emirates sounded like a fun place to be.
Unfortunately as is often the Arsenal way we managed to conspire to make the game difficult for ourselves, with a few minutes of the first half remaining Ox found himself with the ball on the edge of Everton’s area, Hector available to his right and players closing, if he had managed to get a shot off first time then we would not have been chasing back towards our own goal five seconds later, instead Ox chose to shoot after a couple of touches in to a mass of Everton bodies when there were better options on, the ball broke to Delofeu who managed remarkably to stay on his feet for twenty or so yards before releasing Barkley, Koscielny had been dragged wide by Lukaku and Ox and Hector were in hot pursuit, they both probably had a chance to take the booking but allowed Barkley to continue, he took a speculative shot which would not have troubled Cech until it took a big deflection off of Gabriel and drifted into the gaping net. Some have drawn comparisons between the two incidents, saying that Barkley’s attempt was the same as Ox’s but because his resulted in a goal he was applauded whilst Ox was criticised, the difference in my opinion was the options, Barkley really had no other options and most of his team mates were safely behind him, therefore he bought a ticket to the lottery and won, Ox had options, plenty of them and at 2-0 up there was no need to try and force a third before half time.
This gave Everton a lift and made the game closer than it needed to be for the second half, Arsenal continued to play their football, as did Everton which made for a really enjoyable game of football, in truth either team could have scored the next goal, and both had opportunities to do so, Grioud denied by the bar, Ozil by the post and Lukaku by the post, Delofeu was was also denied by a good block by Cech with Kozzer and Nacho in close attendance.
The game ended with Arsenal fans cheering every tackle and interception to the rafters and the final whistle was greeted with a mixture of celebration and relief.
Given the recent run of games, the opponent and the energy expended on Tuesday night, this was a very good result, if we are top of the league by the end of today does not impact that, its more fuel to the fire of belief spreading around the Emirates and the Arsenal blogosphere and fandom, lets hope it continues to roll on.
Man of the match is tricky one for me, Coquelin, Ozil, Giroud and Santi all in with a good shout. For me Giroud edged it, by way of explanation i liked his workrate and his distribution and his finishing, in the face of the criticism he has faced since the start of the season I think he deserves recognition.
Gooner in Exile