By Walter Broeckx
Ah this is what it is all about: the green pitch and two teams of 11 players who try to win the match. Forget all the transfer boring moments on who we should buy, surely should not buy and who has lost it, who is too stubborn, who doesn’t want to spend. Football is about the things happening on the pitch.
We knew we were in for a massive game before kick off. Some results going a bit our way yesterday and today. Liverpool dropping points at WBA thanks to Kolo Touré gave already a good feeling. A win would put them 8 points behind before us visiting them next weekend. If we would be able to win there we would have opened a massive gap to the 4th placed team then. But first we had to win today and then we will see for next weekend.
A win would also mean that we would be 15 points in front of Manchester United. Has this ever happened before in the PL era? Come on historians check your data.
We might have been laughing all the week about Sam Allardyce and his parking the bus against Chelsea on Wednesday but I feared that given Crystal Palace is managed by Pulis we would see the same today. And so it did. They had two attackers on the pitch but Jerome wasn’t seen near Szczesny at all and the other striker Chamakh had a rather decent game I must say. Very lively during the whole match and working his socks off. Not that it brought a lot for Crystal Palace but some nice touches and even one time when Szczesny had to make a good block.
The two biggest chances came to Arsenal. A beautiful pass to Monreal but the Palace keeper was lucky that Monreal his attempt hit his leg and went in to a corner. On that corner you could see a very blatant foul on Giroud. Jedinak was like a bad Wenger coat wrapped all around Giroud and taking him down. Mr. Moss I have seen you do better decisions. I thought you didn’t like Giroud by the way. I know…he’s French…isn’t he?
But the tempo Arsenal played in the first half was too slow to cause much problems for the packed defense of Crystal Palace. A few attempts to go through the middle just failed and a free kick that was almost headed in backwards by Koscielny could just be saved by the Palace keeper. Not enough pace and not enough penetration was the verdict of the first half.
But we have seen this before. And somehow I felt confident that we would turn up our speed in the second half. Like we did against Fulham, Cardiff, Southampton,… In a way this team can produce sudden bursts of speed.
And so we did just that at the start of the second half. Cazorla driving the ball forward, the team moving to the right and the Palace defenders moving up that side only to leave a gap on our left flank and Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the gap, Cazorla saw the movement and delivered an inch perfect pass. A good control from The Ox and then a simple lob over the keeper to make it 1-0 after hardly two minutes of play in the second half.
We then needed a good Szczesny to save a point blank header from Jerome. A bit of passive defending from Arsenal at that moment. Not really what we are used to in most games. Arsenal was very well in control and Palace was just trying to keep the score as low as could at that moment. No real drive forward at first.
Arsenal just passed the ball around and tried not to waste too much energy. I must confess that I thought that the first player Wenger would take off would be The Ox. A good display for a player that has been out for so long and who gave us a few changes in rhythm during the game. But what do I know. Podolski came off after showing that he also doesn’t shy away from doing the defensive job minutes before.
So The Ox remained on the field and that was a good thing. Rosicky recovering the ball and playing it to the Ox who dragged it along himself around the Palace player in his neck to Giroud and then released himself and Giroud playing the ball in to his path. The Ox running towards goal and one movement getting a clear view of goal and his low shot went in. 2-0 and game over.
What followed was casual playing the time off the clock. A bit too casual at times. So Szczesny could feel a bit useful at times.
It was a vital win when we were under pressure and without even playing our best football we took another 3 points on board.
Back top of the league. The PL league table and the injury league table. And the good thing is that we don’t rely on one player to deliver the points. When Özil is marked too tight Cazorla steps up. When they both are marked too tightly another player can use the open space. This time it was Oxlade-Chamberlain to use it and to give us the 3 points.
And as this was the first start of the Ox since the opening day of the season…I could say that The Ox is like a new signing. Welcome (back) Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Unwards and upwards, let us hope for a good result for Arsenal in the Monday evening match between the money clubs. A draw would do me nicely to be honest.
- The Big 7 clubs, how much they spent and what good is it doing?
- What the media won’t tell you about football 5: Fifa lends money to Switzerland
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 4 – referee variations
- The final transfer rumours: 3 new names to make 66 players tipped for Arsenal
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 3 – referee home bias