Cardiff v Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
Cardiff City Stadium
Kick off: November 30, 2013 3:00 PM BST
Cardiff have been given somewhat of a giant slayer tag this season, putting Man City to the sword and grabbing a point from a Manchester United side that I personally feel they were unlucky not to beat. Their home support is fantastic and a great example of the twelfth man in action.
For this reason, some were suggesting that Arsenal may slip up against the Welsh side. And while I never felt this game would be an easy one, I couldn’t see anything other than a win for Arsenal today.
With players beginning to come back from injury, and talk of certain players needing to be rested, there were a few question marks over the starting lineup. The only changes from the Marseille game were Arteta and Gibbs reclaiming their spots from Flamini and Monreal, after a minor injury and illness respectively. As well as Cazorla coming in for Thomas Rosicky.
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In the midweek game against Marseille it took Wilshere just thirty seconds to put Arsenal in front, and it looked for all the world like he was going to do it again today. Ramsey found Jack in space at the edge of the box with just over a minute gone, and the young English prodigy smashed an effort towards goal which I was almost certain was heading into the top corner. The ball rattled against the cross bar and bounced out however, Arsenal unlucky not to be leading already.
There were a few defensive errors in the first half, which we haven’t been seeing in our game as of late. Nothing we couldn’t deal with however, Mertesacker and Koscielny mopping up when needed. There was a scare for the Arsenal faithful when Sagna and Mertesacker clashed heads jumping for the same ball; the giant German coming off worse and requiring lengthy treatment. Cardiff attempted to take advantage of his momentary absence in defence, putting a good ball into the box. Campbell’s effort was headed wide though, and Per was soon back on the pitch with a change of shirt and no sign of an injury.
Giroud had a fantastic chance to put us in the lead, one on one with the keeper with plenty of time and space, he felt he was offside though and stopped with the ball at his feet. This hesitation allowed the defender to get back and deny the chance, and when Giroud realised there was no flag he was left with egg on his face, and a very angry manager.
Arsene wasn’t left angry for too long thankfully, in fact he was up and smiling on the half hour mark, when Ramsey put the ball into the back of the net at his old club to make it 1-0. The ball in from Özil was fantastic, whipped into the box with plenty of pace for the Welshman. Ramsey merely redirected the ball over the top of the keeper, and into the top corner. A great header and another goal for Aaron who just can’t stop scoring at the moment.
We went into half time one nil up, looking dominant and in control of the game, and came out the other side looking like it would be more of the same. Ramsey showed great feet in the box to drift past two Cardiff players and cut the ball back to Giroud, the Frenchman’s shot was cleared off the line however, and you could see it wasn’t his day.
We were almost made to rue our missed chances, Cardiff having a few dominant spells and creating some decent chances in the second half. Campbell climbing high above Gibbs, only to be denied by a fine Szczesny save. The Pole having to be alert to a number of Cardiff long shots.
Wilshere and Cazorla had been relatively quiet in the second half, but just when I felt it was time for them to be substituted, the two combined to create a great opportunity for the Spaniard. Quick passing between the duo put Santi in space in the box, but he couldn’t get he ball out from under his feet, and his eventual shot was tame and easily saved.
Szczesny was called into action several times in the second half, and it looked like it was going to be a tense end to the game with Arsenal still hanging on to their slender lead. Arsenal’s substitutes had something to say about that though.
A superb through ball by Özil was run onto by an unlikely source in the shape of Mathieu Flamini. The Frenchman burst into the box and lashed his shot past Marshall to give Arsenal a much more comfortable final few minutes. I was half expecting him to rip off his sleeves in celebration, but it seemed after recent controversy he was happy to just roll them up.
With Cardiff now having to commit men forward to try and salvage something, there was much more space for the newly fit Theo Walcott to run into. What started as an Odemwingie dive in our box, turned into a blistering Arsenal counter attack. Ramsey setting Walcott away down the right, the speedster unselfishly squaring the ball back to his Welsh team mate who smashed it in for his second of the night.
This win puts us seven points clear at the top, and another clean sheet illustrates again our defensive credentials. We have some tough games coming up in the Christmas period, so hopefully a few players are able to get a rest against Hull.
on how pleased he was with the result…
I’m very pleased because we had a good performance. Of course we scored three goals but, not only offensively, I think defensively we were quite sound as well. Our defenders had a very good game. Overall the concentration level in the team was very, very good. That was needed because we knew Cardiff can punish you in set-pieces with their strengths in the challenges and their drive with the crowd behind them. We had a mature performance and a focused one.
on the title race…
Let’s go a few more games. It’s still a bit early for me but what is good for us is that we can show consistency and that’s always a very good sign for a team. Every win makes you a bit stronger. If we can take care of the concentration level and the desire to improve then we will have a good chance.
on whether he would have believed Arsenal’s lead at the start of the season…
No I wouldn’t believe it, no. Because you remember that we lost the first game at home against Aston Villa and nobody could imagine the situation today. That’s why as well we have to keep a level of urgency that is good and a level of concentration because things change quickly and you can relax a little bit too much.
on whether Ramsey keeps surprising him…
Yeah he has developed and matured not only as a player but as a person as well. A few years ago we came here in a cup game and he had a very, very difficult game. And now it shows you how much he has developed as a person as well.
on the reaction of the Cardiff fans when Ramsey scored…
Fantastic. You would like to see that much more and I have a big respect for that. They are proud to be Welsh here.
on Olivier Giroud’s chance in the first half…
He said to me that the linesman took the flag up and down again but since somebody told me that he was offside in fact because [Mesut] Ozil touched the ball.
on whether Ramsey is as good as Bale…
I was a midfielder and I would have loved to have what he has. He can defend, he can attack, he can score goals – what more do you want? And he’s young – another quality that I have lost as well. That shows you that he can develop more when you look at his improvement in the last two years, why should he stop now? I think there’s a lot more to come and if he continues to play like that you have a good future with Wales.
on Ramsey not scoring many with his head…
He scored with a very convincing header. I haven’t seen him scoring headers like that.
on whether he bought Ramsey quite cheaply…
Look it was a good price at the time. We have to put that into perspective a little bit because the transfers have gone up in the last two or three years but when I bought him it was a good price.
on whether he would sell Ramsey for £50million…
No we don’t want to sell anybody. We just want to keep our team together. I suffered enough for years for having to sell the players and now we are in a stronger position financially so we are not out there to sell our best players.
on the pressure this win puts on the other teams…
I’m happy to have done the job here and watch the other games tomorrow but that’s all we can do – we do the job and prepare for the next game.
on the Hull game…
The difference between the teams now is not very big. As soon as you relax a bit or are not focused 100 per cent you drop points so that’s basically one of our targets is to go into the game every time with 100 per cent focus.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“An injury to Per is probably my biggest nightmare. Giroud and Sagna next. Then giant spiders.”
“Ooh, a set piece. We can do these now, remember?”
” ‘Arsenal aren’t a great defensive team, despite their record’ says Robson.
‘Sea isn’t actually wet, despite all that water’ says me.”
“I wonder what the odds were in August for Ramsey to win either of the Player of the Year awards?”
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Sagna Koscielny Mertesacker Gibbs
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