It was a fine afternoon at Emirates as Arsenal gunned down the high-flying Middlesbrough. We took our job seriously and brushed the visitors aside. We were in charge, dangerous and hungry for more goals.
Perhaps the margin should have been larger but it’s a big victory as we are now just one win away from Wembley and three from retaining the trophy.
Here are the key points from the game.
1. Gabriel had a fine debut.
Most of the pre-match rambling was whether our winter signing will manage to gel with his new team-mates despite the language barrier. The Brazilian didn’t have a flawless debut but he looks like an uncompromising defender who won’t hesitate to take one for the team when the situation requires it, like today when he stopped a dangerous counter-attack with a foul that earned him first yellow card in English football. He’ll be a reinforcement and that’s something Laurent Koscielny’s tendons will celebrate.
2.Kieran Gibbs was an extra-winger today.
The English youngster replaced Nacho “Crouchy” Monreal in the starting eleven and did an excellent job, especially going forward. The Cazorla-Gibbs combination before Giroud’s opener looked brilliant like the famous Dennis Bergkamp-Fredrik Ljungberg connection from 2001-02.
3.Olivier Giroud’s game can be described as the “Amazing Brace”.
Yes, it’s one of my legendary puns… Anyway, while the first Giroud goal was more about team-work, the second was down to his brilliant reaction after Alexis’ corner. The shot that put the game to bed had it all – technique, cleverness, power.
4.Wojciech Szczesny kept a clean sheet.
It wouldn’t have been a special feat last term but given all the problems Chez has gone through this term, the fact he didn’t concede against Middlesbrough might mean a lot for his confidence.
5.Santi Cazorla was again at the heart of our success.
I’ve already mentioned a wonderful Santi pass for Gibbs before our first goal but the Spaniards performance was a dominant one again. He kept the ball under pressure and provided passes for his team-mates when needed. He was unfortunate not to put one of his left-footed strikes into the net, his free-kick at 0:0 was perfectly taken but Middlesbrough’s goalkeeper put in a top-drawer performance.
6.Mesut Özil looked very lively.
The German’s performance was excellent even if it lacked the final product. He was popping out here, there, everywhere to receive the ball to beat his marker with a silky touch and to fire a dangerous shot at goal. It’s obvious that he likes more to play down the middle more than on the wing.
7.Walcott and Welbeck can score more goals.
Theo’s finishing let him down today as he should have scored after the delightful Rosicky pass. His compatriot Danny didn’t have much luck in front of goal either despite some fine moves (like that back-heel for Alexis in the first half). They have dozens of goals in them, it’s just a matter of time when they’ll unleash them.
8.Santi, Rosicky, Özil, Alexis…who has more creation in the league than us?
Tomas Rosicky’s pass that went through the opponents’ defence like a knife through butter was a master-piece but the best thing is the Czech maestro is just one of our players who can create a goal out of nothing. I doubt if there is a club in the Premier League with so many creative players as Arsenal and we are still fifth in the league.
9.Alexis is all about the passion.
The Chilean was a surprise inclusion to the team after being a major doubt due to his knee injury. He still managed to put in another never-say-die-attitude performance and grabbed himself an assist on the way. He was unlucky not to score himself but his passion for football is second to none.
10.FA Cup will stay ours!
Arsenal, Manchester United (unless Preston North End pull out a major surprise), Liverpool, Aston Villa, Bradford, West Brom and Blackburn Rovers are teams that will enter the draw for the FA Cup quarterfinals. Personally, I’d like to avoid a visit to Tony Pulis’ West Brom (because of Pulis) and Liverpool (because they look much better now).
Manchester United away wouldn’t be the worst of the draws as I’m less frightened of their quality than from a possible scenario in which Liverpool and Manchester United are favoured on the pitch so that England gets a North-Western clubs’ FA Cup Final.
So, let’s hope we’ll get Bradford or Blackburn at home in the next round before our first trip to Wembley. We’ll have the Champions’ League matches (unlike Liverpool and Manchester United) in our congested schedule so the easiest possible route in the FA Cup would be more than welcomed.