Match Report: Arenal 2 – 0 Hull City Tigers

Premier League:  4th December 2013

By Zedie

imagesF3Y72E1FThe weekend was good to us, so coming into the midweek game with a 4 point cushion to maintain at a minimum was a priority and with the season defining swagger Arsenal have displayed thus far, most people were wondering just how many we could score today.

Pretty much every Gooner across the land was relatively relaxed about this tie, until some troll posted the team sheet naming St. Nicklas Bendtner as the spearhead to our attacking threat.

Once Sky Sports confirmed it, the laughs turned to dread as one of the most maligned players ever to grace the read and white stepped out onto the pitch.  You could sense the anticipated despair of him fumbling around, killing any build up we could muster filling the Emirates. Fans, bloggers, haters, that random bloke at work who knows bugger all about football prepared sighs and disappointed head shakes, while waiting for the inevitable flop to end all flops.

And so goes the Sods Law, as the 2nd minute saw some excellent play from the Arsenal defence work the ball out to Aaron Ramsey, who stabbed a perfectly weighted pass to the feet of Corporal Jenkinson, who then took his cue and fizzed in an inch perfect cross onto Bendtner’s head. The ball glances in, the keeper unable to move, the crowd roars. Simultaneously, the inside voices of every Gooner murmured “WHAT?!”.

The goal only served to boost the already brimming confidence of this team that is absolutely purring at the moment, with football so sharp, so cutting, you could easily forgive the Hull players for feeling like that bloke that stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square.  Only this time, the tank column couldn’t be arsed to hang about.

The first half was peppered with sumptuous interplay and ghost like movement that just had Hull chasing fresh air. Laurent Koscielny had a great chance on 25 minutes, his shot snatched and well off in the end. Aaron Ramsey stung the hands of the Hull keeper with a vicious low drive to the right that was only diverted by McGregor by the slightest of touches.

The first half was all Arsenal, as we poured forward with wave after wave of silky play. There was a five minute spell when Hull attempted to get a foothold in our half (must have been a nice change of scenery, as they hadn’t seen it for the first 40 odd minutes) culminating in tame attack through the centre left channel, just into our third of the pitch. The defence ate it up, the ball was recycled out to Santi Cazorla who played a fantastic ball down the opposing inside right channel to Bendtner. Nicklas collected it and floated an inch perfect cross to the on rushing Mesut Ozil, who just couldn’t get the final direction on it to guide the header home.

Yet again, within 2 minutes of the half starting up, we had scored. We started at full pelt again, the ball being worked down the left wing to Monreal, who just kept the ball in play. Nacho Monreal gave the ball to Ozil, who completed the triangle to Ramsey while keeping his run into the box going. Ramsey showed good strength to hold off the closing defender and popped a perfect pass that dissected the defence and hit the now free Ozil in the box, with nothing left to do but roll the ball past the powerless McGregor.

It was a goal of pure beauty, summed up by my scribbled notes that simply said “Dirty goal”.

That was pretty much it for Hull, who regressed into themselves much like your testicles would on a freezing cold winters day. Still, play continued, with Bendtner having a glorious chance at around the 55 minute mark, when Ozil dropped a great corner into the danger zone. Bendtner got ahead of his marker with strength, met the ball well, and squeezed a great header inches wide.

Still the onslaught continued, with the magical Cazorla having an excellent pop on 61 minutes.

At this point, the defence were pretty under worked, but what they were called upon to do, they did so well that Sagbo must have been questioning if professional football was a mistake and whether his job in the post office was still open. The closest Sagbo got to the ball was chasing down a half decent pass, only for the on rushing Szczesny to slide in first. So solid was our defensive display, that Sagbo didn’t even get a chance to put his foot on the ball, instead making contact with the big man’s head. Still, our Szczesny has taken out far better players with the lump on his shoulders, ask Gareth Bale.

Back to business and Mathieu Flamini reminded everyone he was still on the pitch with a quite fantastic challenge on the ball, to snuff out a possible Hull passing opportunity, by diving in and smashing the ball out of play. Early reports indicate that two stewards were slightly injured by the ball, but the structural integrity of the Emirates seemed to be ok.

The 72nd minute saw the unlikely hero in Bendtner leave the field along with Thomas Rosicky, to a warm reception, having been replaced by Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshire.

The tempo dropped off slightly, with Hull creeping forward into our territory more often, but predominantly being shut the hell out by the rock solid defence. Laurent Koscielny had one of his finer games today, the guy won pretty much everything, neither Sagbo or Gedo had a proper sniff with him around.

Mikel Arteta came on for Aaron Ramsey; the man who can do no wrong at the moment, on 79 minutes and the pace dropped off further, with the team knowing the damage had been done. There was still time for an excellent pass from Jack Wilshire through to Ozil, who was denied his brace by a solid last ditch tackle by Liam Rosenoir.

There was a muted penalty shout from Jack Wilshire, who collected the ball in the box after a bit of a scramble and neatly flicked the ball over his and the forward facing defenders head. Jack’s instant turn was met by the chest of the defender and he went down. To be fair, the defender pretty much always gets the benefit of the doubt in those situations and this was no different.

With chants of “There’s only one Arsene Wenger” ringing out, the Arsenal collected another 3 points.

We needed to win this game and with Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City all winning respectively.  Its an important 3 points that keeps us ahead of the chasing pack, who themselves are starting to break away from the mid table teams such as Spurs and Manchester United, who yet again dropped vital points.

This win gives us the ideal cushion to face gruelling run of matches that will help define exactly just how far we can go in the league this time round.

Player Ratings

Sczcesny: 7 – Didn’t have much to do, but what he did do, he did well. One careless mistake that could have cost us, other than that, solid.

Jenkinson: 8 – Solid defensively, great cross to set up Bendtner for the opening. Generally played very well, especially for someone coming back from a lengthy spell on the bench.

Mertesacker: 7 – Not much to do, what he was involved in was done quietly and efficiently.

Koscielny: 8 – The busier of the two CBs, fantastic display throughout. Absolutely bullied both Sagbo and Gedo, sensed Merts lack of pace at times and covered well in advance with minimal fuss. Cant really ask for more from a centre back.

Monreal: 8 – Quality display, got up and down well, good both attacking and defensively today. Read plays before the passing player had executed.

Flamini: 7 – Relatively quiet, but again, helped retain the ball when required and kept shape of those around him very well. Slotted into FB when required. Huge clearance alone nearly pushed his score to an 8.

Ramsey: 9 – Will be accepted as a world class player by the end of this season. Aaron put on a real display today. One excellent pre-assist, one perfect assist, great shooting, the link up play was fantastic.

Rosicky: 8 – Seems to be getting back to his best. His short passing, first touch and movement of the ball today was fantastic. Was involved in many slick passages of play.

Cazorla: 8 – Excellent performance. He was everywhere, the passing was slick, dribbling was on point, he’s slowly getting back to the form we know, although he could do we locating his shooting boots sooner rather than later. His fitness is creeping back in just enough time for the next 3 fixtures.

Bendtner: 7 – What can I say? Fantastic goal, he worked hard, chased down, tackled back, worked for the team. Was noticeably tired by the 60th minute, but all you can ask for is effort and he gave it today. Hat off to you St Nick.

Ozil: 9 – Masterclass today. Some of the passing was just too much to process. Worked tirelessly, great runs all over the pitch with and without the ball, great interplay, didn’t shirk heading opportunities, took some heavy challenges but hardly complained. Ran his socks off. Bravo.

Walcott: 6 – Not able to do much, still needs time to regain his touch and fitness. Hull sat so deep even after the 2 goals, it was hard to get in behind, but when he did, he looked very rusty. Hoped for more.

Wilshire: 7 – Great cameo when he came on. Direct running caused some problems, played a few nice passes. Not enough time to achieve more.

Arteta: 6 – Not enough time to affect game.

Gooner Ramble

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