Arsene Wenger’s record of never losing a 3rd round FA Cup tie remains intact; I think the victory over Preston makes it a consistent 21 years which is pretty impressive but boy were we made to suffer for it – again. Surely we are due a game in which we score twice early, take control enabling us to get the sun loungers out, sit back, relax and pass the colourful cocktails with pretty little umbrellas around.
Well we may be due a game like that but that wasn’t how it started yesterday, no sir; we got a sneak preview of what life would be like without Ozil and Sanchez and it was not pretty; in fact, the first forty five minutes resembled a post apocalyptic waste land with aimless zombies running around in yellow shirts.
The first half was dreadful the only silver lining is that Preston failed to convert their second golden opportunity, the one where all he had to do was roll it across past Ospina for what would have been a tap in. That would have made it two nil and probably would have won them the game.
But they didn’t score a second and the mighty Arsenal came out after the break and showed once again what a great fighting spirit there is at THOF. Arsenal immediately upped the pace and upped the pressure and that paid off with Ramsey bringing us back on level terms with a powerful drive in what seemed like no time.
We huffed and puffed for another half an hour with few clear cut chances at either end before Johnny on the spot or should that be Giroud on the spot found a way to save our blushes. An excellent back heel from Perez arrived to the oncoming Giroud whose pure power found a way to get the ball past a confused goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Another exciting fight back only this time we won which just leaves me to put the cherry on the top of the cake. Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling. Welbeck returned and he could be a very, very important addition to our run in.
Ospina: Colombia’s finest always seems to give me the impression that he is weak in the air but thinking about that through the game I stated to realise that this is just an illusion as I can’t think of a time when he has let us down aerially, his shot stopping is excellent as is his distribution or it is certainly better than Cech’s anyway. 7
Maitland-Niles: I was looking forward to watching him play and he didn’t disappoint. Ok, I wasn’t expecting the air of a veteran and that certainly was not the case but his passing was extremely good and he grew in confidence as the game went on. 7
Mustafi: still shaking off the injury rust but getting back up to speed nevertheless. If we lost another midfielder he might be able to move up and play a Coquelin kind of role. 7
Gabriel: no doubting the man’s commitment, he cares about winning which is of course a good thing, also good is that he is getting game time to keep him up to speed but I expect him to return to the bench when Koscielny is fit. 7
Monreal: probably the guiltiest for the first goal and certainly the guiltiest for Preston’s golden opportunity to go two up; however, good going forward, always offering an outlet. 6
Xhaka: we got what probably was the first direct comparison with Ramsey and there was only one winner, with the Welshman head and shoulders better it makes me wonder where Granit will play if at all when one of the midfield berths has to go to someone who can defend, namely Coquelin. 6
Ramsey: Rambo missed a couple of chances that he should have converted but I view it this way: true he should have scored more but at least he was there to miss them, did you see Xhaka in those kind of positions, no you didn’t. He may have missed a couple of good chances but he did convert when we absolutely needed him to. Joint MOTM. 8
Iwobi: back to a more central role, the position he played so well in against Palace. The thing that I have thought has been holding him back is that he plays with a slightly too polite attitude; maturity was going to be the thing that changed this and we got a few glimpses of that in the form of a bit more grit. He was pushed on the side of the pitch, three weeks ago he wouldn’t have done anything but yesterday he pushed back. A very energetic and determined performance; gave the ball away a few too many times in the first half but still did enough good things to get my joint MOTM. 8
Oxlaide-Chamberlain: I thought the Ox was dreadful, poor passing, poor decision making, poor crossing, poor shooting, made one good recovery tackle in the second half behind Monreal. 4
Giroud: our matinee idol was at it again; he looked more confident than I have ever seen him; he knew he was right for that game and so it proved. But think about this, why is it that he scores more often than not late in the game? Because that is when he is most effective and this is also the reason I would still start him on the bench, let someone start the games who can cope with the way we play early on, someone with better close control and that way we might stop going behind so often. 7
Perez: Lucas Perez is a man, a grown man, an adult, a man who has been round the block and a person who can cope with tough situations, not surprising all this really when you consider that he moved to Ukraine to ply his trade and if that doesn’t put hair on your chest I don’t know what will. He is still finding his feet but he is getting better and better every game. Very unselfish in his play, love the comparison with Ljungberg. Still in the honey moon period with me and for that reason he gets a bit more favour but even so I would still start him as the number 9 ahead of Giroud. 7
An LB offering.