By Walter Broeckx
A few changes to the team that started in our last two defeats away to Everton and Manchester City. We got a few injured after that match like Oxlade-Chamberlain who wasn’t in the team today.
Up front we saw Giroud make his return and this of course results in Alexis dropping to the left flank. No Walcott in the starting line up or even on the bench so this will mean that he is either injured or had some Christmas- turkey digestive problems, or just sick in other words. Iwobi starting at the right flank.
At left back we also had no Monreal so this means that Gibbs would start at left back in this match.
On the bench we had the usual players but also Reine-Adelaide.
Team at the start: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Xhaka, Alexis, Ozil, Iwobi, Giroud.
On the beach: Ospina, Holding, Monreal, Elneny, Ramsey, Reine-Adelaide, Lucas
Arsenal with most of the ball in the opening 5 minutes but WBA not leaving any open space at the back for the moment. Arsenal not coming to a shot after a well worked attack from within the penalty area and then a shot from distance from Xhaka goes wide. An attempted shot from Özil is blocked by a defender after a low cross from Gibbs. Gabriel escapes a yellow card after brubgubg diwb a WBA player who wanted to go on a counter attack. Giroud tries to curl a ball after again good work from Gibbs on the left flank but it goes well wide. Bellerin was found on the right flank but his cross can’t find an Arsenal player. Well spotted from Xhaka that pass. A shot from Alexis goes wide and so 0-0 after 15 minutes.
Alexis sends Özil away and when the ball looked to be going out he managed to make a corner out of it with a lovely turn. A cross from Gibbs is cleared with a backheel for a corner in front of Iwobi. WBA get a corner and the usual (unpunished) routine of blocking the keeper is performed. Well it is punished at the second attempt. The attacker only had eye for running in to the keeper. Girou almost through but a last ditch tackle can clear the ball for WBA. Arsenal try to break down the WBA-wall but 10 players in and around their penalty area is difficult to go around. Arsenal banging the wall but not finding a hole so still 0-0 after 60 minutes.
Alexis with a run in the centre but the keeper can push his shot away and then Iwobi with a shot but it goes over. Rondon then suddenly in some space but it was clearly offside and Cech saved the effort anyway. A lovely ball voer the top then and Giroud lays it off to Alexis who misses it but not sure if anyone gave an offside or not. But that should have been put over the line at least. Iwobi with a shooting chance but as usual too many defenders in the line of fire. Alexis with a cross to Xhaka but he just couldn’t reach the ball. Giroud goes in the book for showing dissent when the assistant calls him back after a push. That is stupid Olivier. Iwobi thought about having a cracking shot but again a defender in the way. The ref not really being helpful when Arsenal try to use their body in the challenges by calling the fouls and giving WBA a break. 0-0 after 45 minutes.
Yacob blocks Giroud and the ref gives the foul against Giroud… and then again the ref sees him make a foul. A ref on a mission? Iwobi with a shot that is saved by the keeper and again at the rebound from Alexis. Corner to Arsenal and Alexis hits the post. That was unlucky after he had to turn from some space. Alexis with another shot then but again the keeper with a great save for a corner. Giroud heads the final ball in the arms of the keeper after that corner. Gibbs with a header but the keeper can save it comfortably. Giroud with a low effort but the keeper can save again with his foot this time. Still 0-0 after 60 minutes.
The passing has to be dead precise in such matches and there is always a WBA body in the way. Gibbs clashes with Yacob and both players stay on the floor injured. Gibbs overran the ball and tried to make up for it and got a yellow card for his foul. No argument there. The combinations in the penalty area still not precise enough and that is not difficult with so many bodies out there. Lucas and Monreal prepare themselves to come on for Gibbs and Iwobi, while WBA get a few corners and Cech under pressure loses the ball but Yacob misses the first and only chance for WBA. After the corners Monreal and Lucas are on the field after 70 minutes. Each time WBA get the chance they go down and look to be seriously injured. Ref points at his watch… we will see if he really will add that lost time. Meanwhile Ramsey also prepares to come on in the place of Coquelin. after 72 minutes. And still 0-0 after 75 minutes.
A low cross from Lucas cannot be put over the line by Giroud. Some mixe up in the WBA penalty area but so confusing the ball ends up for the keeper who can pick it up. A shot from distance from Xhaka goes over. As usual when Alexis jumps for a high ball the refs give it against him. Wether he ducks himself or the other player ducks away: it’s always Alexis who is penalized. Lucas with a cross but Bellerin heads it over from 6 meters out. Foster gets a yellow card for his time wasting after 82 minutes. Foster continues his time wasting and the ref turns his back to it. That’s also a way of dealing with it one could say…. And then finally…. after 86 minutes. Özil to Bellerin who give it back to Özil, a cross and Giroud beats his defender and head it over the keeper with a looping header. GOAL!!! 1-0 to the Arsenal after 87 minutes.
Arsenal attack and the cross from Bellerin is headed back to Ramsey whose shot is blocked by the keeper. Alexis then with a shot but diverted by a defender for a corner. Bellerin with a low shot but the keeper saves it. Good pressure from Giroud forces Foster to miskick his clearance and Arsenal win the ball back. Lucas to Alexis but shot is too predictable to beat the keeper. Özil frees Ramsey but he takes too much time to beat Foster and then his cross to Giroud is not good enough. Arsenal having enough chances to make 2-3 goals in those final 6 minutes.
Arsenal win this match after having to break the wall, the bus station, the whole concrete bunker from Pulis that he had put in front of Arsenal.
Our 8 Arsenal Belgium members who are in London and for some the trip was almost a nightmare could celebrate at the end. Well done boys!