By Walter Broeckx
Seven changes to the starting line up. Some understandable… some not so. No Maitland-Niles to be seen and Lichtsteiner starting…. But who am I. I hope that Emery proves me and a lot of us wrong at the end of the match. The inclusion of Monreal is more understandable. Özil starts and captains the team.
Arsenal team: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Monreal, Kolasinac, Elneny, Guendouzi, Torreira, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
On the beach: Cech, Jenkinson, Mavropanos, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Nketiah
Sorry some problems with the stream starting to run so I only could follow from minute 4. Cardiff with a corner that was headed towards goal but it bounced away again. It looked to have hit a Cardiff player. Torreira with an inviting free kick but he can’t find an Arsenal head to put it in. A shot from Cardiff goes just wide when the striker could benefit from a lucky flick on the way. Cardiff doing most of the attacking and a header goes one meter over. 0-0 after 15 minutes.
A Cardiff player goes down under a shoulder challenge from Kolasinac and Dean rightfully waves nothing. Lacazette is tripped but tries to stay on his feet and gets a corner. Dean waves away both penalty appeals. Torreira heads the corner back in front of goal but Lacazette and Kolasinac (offside) can’t make contact. Guendouzi and then Lacazette both get kicked and at the second kick Dean gives a foul. The free kick is an easy catch for the keeper. Arsenal then with a long spell of possession in the Cardiff half but not really getting in the penalty area. Monreal gets a yellow card for making two fouls in a minute. The free kick is diverted for a corner by the Arsenal wall. 0-0 after 30 minutes.
Arsenal playing at a very slow tempo going forward and thus giving Cardiff all the time to regroup in front of their penalty area. Paterson gets a yellow card for kicking Lichtsteiner who cleared a ball. Özil to Lacazette who tries to give it back but a Cardiff defender can clear the ball. Cardiff with a few dangerous crosses from time to time but Arsenal can clear. Dean trying to get in the picture with a few decisions and giving some light free kicks against Arsenal. Leno is being blocked at every corner but Dean sees no foul. Lacazette is being kicked at the edge of the penalty area but Dean sees nothing. Arsenal with some late pressure but Cardiff can clear the ball. Replay confirm that Lacazette was clearly kicked at his achilles and that it should have been a penalty. Guendouzi protest when going off and gets a yellow card. Dean at his usual “best”. Still 0-0 after 45 minutes. Arsenal play to slow and with only 3 attacking minded players on the field that is maybe no surprise. Let us hope for a better second half.
Elneny was taken off and Iwobi came on after the interval. Well at least an attacking minded player more on the field. Dean calls Lacazette back for a handball only he saw. Guendouzi clearly pushed but Dean gives nothing. Guendouzi with a shot but it curles well wide. Mustafi is injured after an Arsenal corner as he landed badly with the weight of a Cardiff player on top of him. But he can continue after some treatment. It looked a bit like the Sokratis injury at first. My stream went down then so had to miss a bit. After 59 minutes Jenkinson came on for Lichtsteiner. Still 0-0 after 60 minutes.
Mustafi with a good blocking tackle to prevent a possible Cardiff chance. A tackle with a foot towards Guendouzi raises some tempers. It took Dean very, very long to blow the foul. But at least he also gave it and a yellow card against Arter. In fact it was the assistant who gave the foul. Kolasinac goes after a ball from Iwobi in the penalty area and is tripped by Mangia and Dean points to the penalty spot. Well if he hadn’t given it he would have some explanation to do. Aubameyang takes it and GOAL! 1-0 to The Arsenal after 66 minutes. A cool taken penalty.
Özil sends Iwobi away but his shot is stopped by the Cardiff keeper. That should have been the second goal. Dean continuing to give Cardiff the lightest of fouls in their favour. Well they look dangerous on those long free kicks so why not try to give them as many chances they can get. Lacazette attempting to find the far corner with a shot but it didn’t have enough curl on it. Cardiff trying to use the long throw weapon but Arsenal can clear. 1-0 after 75 minutes.
Ramsey comes on for Özil. Torreira with a shot from distance but a few meters wide. Lacazette is given a yellow card when he was fouled by the Cardiff player with his arm. Oh Dean. Leno has to stop a shot that was between the posts. Lacazette still angry I think from the yellow card then ran with the ball from the sideline halfway the Cardiff half and he only had one thing in mind and that was to score. And so he ran and ran and his low shot found the back of the net. GOAL!! 2-0 to The Arsenal after 84 minutes.
Lacazette with some nice footwork and then a good cross to Ramsey but his header went wide. A diverted shot leaves Leno stranded but the ball went wide and over for a corner. Guendouzi with a good interception and then he was kicked in the air. Dean gave an advantage but Arsenal played the ball out. Ralls got a well deserved yellow card. We are in the last minute of normal time.
5 minutes of added time will be given. Guendouzi seems good enough to carry on. A good movement between Lacazette, Iwobi and Kolasinac but the attack ends with a dissapointing cross in the arms of the keeper.
When Arsenal can’t clear a cross the ball falls to Mendez-Laing who curls a shot in at the far post. 2-1 after 93 minutes. Arsenal combine in the Cardiff penalty area but the shot from Aubameyang is saved by the keeper. Ramsey then has a shot but it is also blocked.
Arsenal win 2-1. I will keep it like that. I thank the players on the field for their hard work. But this wasn’t a really impressive performance.