Bournemouth at Dean Court and tickets for away fans were as rare as rocking horse effluent. Saturday’s results for Leicester and the spuds added weight to the feeling that this fixture was a mighty crucial one if the Gunners were going to get our season back on track and have any serious hopes of a tilt at the title.
Second-guessing the manager is always difficult and the announcement of the line-up for the day always elicits murmurs of dissatisfaction or approval from the tactical experts amongst our fans. Gabriel kept his place alongside Kos, The Ox was preferred to Joel and Mr Levulinic Acid kept his place as pointer-in-chief. Some were quick to diss the club about Elneny not featuring again but the subsequent news of the birth of his child does provide some perspective perhaps.
Predictions of an apocalyptic storm were also a little premature as the worst of the bad weather was due to hit later in the day. This was good for The Arsenal as poor weather often levels the playing field and it becomes difficult for real quality to shine.
The game began tentatively for us when Gabriel got wrong side and Petr Cech was forced to sweep up the danger. In the 8th minute Flamini nearly ruined our chances by jumping into a tackle. Lee Mason would have had no hesitation in sending him off. Luckily for us, we had a friend in Kevin and he, quite rightly in my opinion, deemed the challenge a yellow as Mathieu clearly got his feet to the ball long before the Bournemouth player got anywhere near. I wouldn’t go as far as Arsene when he said it should have been a free kick to us, though.
Our first big chance fell to the left foot of Alexis from a curling ball from Rambo. Unfortunately he just couldn’t keep the ball under the bar.
Our first league goal since Anfield was a joy to behold. A teasing, floated highball into the box from Aaron was met with a superb header back across the box from Ollie, followed by a gorgeous thump from Mesut with his right foot. What a marvellous feeling it is celebrating a goal of such beauty!
The away boys were still singing the new Mesut song when the ball broke to Rambo on the edge of the D. He fed The Ox whose laser-guided strike cannoned in off the foot of the far post. There were 88 seconds between the goals. It only takes a second to score a goal and only 88 to give Gooners worldwide that floaty feeling that maybe this could be our day for a welcome change.
Consolidation was required and I can’t remember too much more from us on the attacking front for the rest of the first half. Gabriel got the wrong side of Pugh again after 30 minutes and Hector’s speed came into its own with another brilliant last second tackle. Nacho was caught unaware of the position of the player outside him just before halftime but Petr continued to confirm what a magnificent buy he was by snuffing out the danger in an instant.
The second half began slowly but was enlivened by a Sanchez fizzer which the keeper did well to get a hand to. Giroud managed to get a firm header from a Mesut corner but his effort was too straight to be too dangerous. Then came a superb run from Alexis around the outside of the Bournemouth left full back and only required a tap in. As RA commented, Giroud did look a little as though he was ‘scratching his a*se’ instead of busting a gut to get into a more dangerous position. I noticed in the Leicester v City game that Okazaki always tries to get in front of the defender at the near post whenever an early cross is about to be fired in. Arsenal, beware.
Much of the second half was taken up with speculative long range pot shots from the Cherries which would have looked more at home in the Six Nations matches. Gabriel grew into the game (as Rocky pointed out) and, along with Kos, looked more and more assured in the second half. I also think GIE is right that Gabriel’s pace will be really useful against Leicester’s counter attacks next weekend. (Guaranteed now that the BFG will play!)
Our final chance fell to Ramsey on the break in the last minute of the 90 and it was annoying he couldn’t seem to control the ball long enough to either beat the keeper or set up Giroud with a tap in. Petr Cech yet again showed his class with a double save in the final minute of the 3 extra. The first Bournemouth shot was fired in from 12 yards and saved with his left leg, his view partially obstructed by an outrushing Kos, and the second was made at full stretch from a longer range drive low down to his near post. What a purchase the man was!
Conclusion and Questions
A vital 3 points and, having overcome the inertia of our poor run, the start of some upward momentum, hopefully.
Will Gabriel continue to play in place of the teutonic telegraph pole?
Will Le Coq achieve the required sharpness to displace the Flamster?
Can the Chuckle brothers find some real form for the run-in?
Cech – Another clean sheet – I wonder what his final record will be set at? – 9
Bellerin – his magnificent recovery tackle soon after we went two up was important – 8
Koscielny – I always feel reassured when he’s playing – 8
Gabriel – slow start but game time improved his play immeasurably – 7
Monreal – Not one of his marauding performances but competent – 7
Ramsey – MOTM according to the TV, better first half than second and instrumental in the goals – 8
Flamini – Please stop leaving the ground with both feet, Mathieu. Thank heaven we still have him in the squad, though – 7
Ozil – “We’ve got Ozil, Mesut Ozil, I just don’t think you understand” – 9
The Ox – Super goal, tried hard, yet to find his best form – 7
Giroud – Great assist for the first, some fine layoffs – 8
Alexis – it’s so nice having the livewire back in the team – 8
I thought Le Coq looked a little rusty and can see why the Flamster is still getting a game. There’s no substitute for match sharpness. Likewise for Gibbo (though with much less time on the pitch yesterday, admittedly) – I’m not sure either knew exactly what their role was when they came on.
Written by chas