It was a nice afternoon spoiled only with David Moyes’ endless inability to do anything positive for Arsenal this season. Gooners and Mikel Arteta’s dentist can be very pleased with what we saw at KC Stadium today. After a rather lackluster period in the league we have managed to earn two victories against two physical teams. Also, it was the first time since the North London Derby that we kept a clean sheet.
Here are the key pointers from the game:
1.Aaron Ramsey is really, really back.
Ramsey’s cameos against Everton and West Ham showed us what we missed since Boxing Day. In his first league start after the injury he was brilliant – a goal and two assists to his name says it all. He was as sharp as always and offered options for Cazorla and Özil. Rambo drew the first blood today (yes, it’s another one of my lame puns – so shoot me!) and made things easier for us.
2.Özil is back too.
Of all the injuries that we have suffered this season, Özil’s against Bayern has been the most stupid one as it was totally avoidable – he simply shouldn’t have played in the first place as we were two goals behind from the first leg. He felt pain in the second minute of the game but didn’t come off before half-time. Nobody can say he would have changed the outcome of the games that we didn’t win but our attacking game missed his incredible passing a lot.
He did pretty well during his hour of football today and was unlucky not to be given a penalty in the 11th minute. His passes through the defence and especially link-up with Cazorla is the main reason why we can have high hopes for next season.
3.Lukas Podolski is on fire.
The German winger-second striker had a great week. Four goals in two matches and each one was a text-book example of composure and finishing skills. Whether it’s going to be enough to stay in London is a different thing. Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Özil are usually mentioned among the notable absentees this season but Podolski has also missed almost four months of the season which makes his goal-tally even more impressive.
4.Wojciech Szczesny earned himself a clean sheet for Easter.
Our cheeky Pole between the sticks hasn’t been in form for a while but today’s performance and a clean sheet should inject some confidence into him.
5.What opponents have to do to get a red card against Arsenal and Mikel Arteta?
The Spaniard lost his tooth today and was subjected to dangerous play again. Obi Mikel and Ross Barkley both got away with assaults that are punishable with red cards this season but it seems that referees won’t give a red card for a foul on Arteta unless he gets dismembered. Except a referee would probably issue a yellow card to Arteta for diving!
For the sake of football, for the sake of the health of Arsenal players and for the sake of health for Gooners world-wide, Arsenal Football Club must take some sort of official protest against PGMOL and their contract killers on the pitch!
6.Olivier Giroud has looked more lively this week.
The big Frenchman didn’t score against Hull but he did look more comfortable with the presence of Ramsey and Özil in the team. All his weaknesses have been exposed this season but mostly when neither Ramsey nor Özil were on the pitch.
7.Hull City are a below average side but shouldn’t be under-estimated in FA Cup Final.
It would be stupid to say that the Tigers didn’t want to beat us today despite the fact they should hope we get a Champions’ League place. After all, the way they entered challenges suggested that they wanted to beat us in every meaning of that expression. However, apart from a few chances (Livermore’s post, Long’s shot over the bar, Huddlestone’s long-shot), they couldn’t create too much trouble for Szczesny.
Someone would say: “Great! They were poor attacking-wise and they will be even poorer in the final as Long and Jelavić are cup-tied.” I don’t think so. Tigers will be very motivated in the final as it will be once-in-a-century-opportunity to get a trophy and they will do everything to beat us. Let’s not forget our bitter experience against Birmingham City in the 2011 Carling Cup Final – we had beaten them twice in the league before we lost the final. Let’s not repeat the same mistake again after beating Hull City twice.
8.What the hell is happening with our hamstrings?
Thomas Vermaelen is another casualty in our war with the injury gods. They usually hit our players in the hamstring and that has happened for the umpteenth time this season.
9.That said, what would have happened if we hadn’t had so many injuries?
Last season we had four players with 10 goals or more: Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski. Only Olivier Giroud hasn’t had any serious problems with injuries this season.
Theo Walcott has missed 22 out of 35 games this season and will miss the remaining three matches as well. Theo was our top-scorer last season and had scored five goals before he got injured against the Spuds. We played against the leaders Liverpool three times this season – Walcott didn’t play in any of those.
Lukas Podolski has missed fourteen league games this season due to injury. He has scored a league goal about every 112 minutes which means he has scored 0,80 goals per full match.
Santi Cazorla has missed four games due to injury. Perhaps his link-up with Özil would have kicked on earlier if he had been available for his first matches in an Arsenal shirt or if he had been with the Gunners and not with Spain on the most pointless international competition in the history of football – Confederation Cup.
Of course, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was our best player in the preseason. He had managed an assist for our first league goal this season before his knee injury against Aston Villa took him away for nineteen matches or a whole half-season. He has been one of the best players since his return.
Aaron Ramsey has been our best player this season and has scored 14 goals in all competitions. Thirteen of those were scored before he got injured against West Ham on Boxing Day. He has missed fourteen league games this campaign including defeats against Liverpool (5:1), Stoke (1:0), Chelsea (6:0) and Everton (3:0).
Laurent Koscielny has been our best defender for over a year. He has missed five games this season due to injury (we won only one of those).
Mesut Özil has scored four goals and created nine more goals for his team-mates so far. He has missed nine games this season due to injury.
Jack Wilshere has missed eight games due to injury and it is very questionable whether he will make any more appearances this season. In the absence of Ramsey he could have provided a bit of pace and energy to our midfield.
Kieran Gibbs has missed six games due to injury. He was absent against Manchester City and Liverpool where we shipped eleven goals and Nacho Monreal was molested in both matches.
If Liverpool had played 22 matches without Sturridge, fourteen without Henderson, fourteen without Coutinho and nineteen without Sterling (and if they had been absent at the same time), I highly doubt they would have had a better season than, say, Aston Villa. Same goes with Manchester City without Agüero, Yaya Toure, Silva and Nasri, Chelsea without Hazard, Schürrle, Ramires and Willian, Everton without Mirallas, Barkley, Barry and Lukaku.
So, the next match is against Newcastle United. They have been very poor ever since they had realized they would neither make the Champions’ League nor fight against relegation. Their second half of the season has had a huge “DEAD RUBBER”-sign written all over it. We should beat them but as always it will require full concentration, focus and a professional approach. We are 270 minutes away from securing their 17th consecutive Champions’ League qualification. Let’s not screw this one up against the mediocre teams.