If Arsenal Want To Win The Title, They Must Accommodate Giroud (w/ Player Ratings)

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[ Credit: joshjdss @ Flickr ]

What. A. Game.

If you wanted a football match to launch a Premier League season then this was it. It had everything, end to end football, some stunning goals, late comebacks – great for the neutral I’m sure but not great for Arsenal fans or Arsene Wenger with only 20 minutes to go!

Arsenal had the perfect start with new signing Alexandre Lacazette scoring with 2 minutes of the game gone. Then Arsenal, did an Arsenal. Leicester scored twice to take the lead which in no part came from defensive naivety from a make-shift back three. With Mertesacker, Koscielny and Mustafi out injured or suspended, we played Rob Holding (to be fair has been excellent for us), Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac. With the back three flanked by Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, at times we struggled and it will be interesting to see who our first choice back five is when everyone is fit.

Rob Holding struggled and Arsene Wenger eluded to it in his post-match press conference, which I feel is a bit unfair as he didn’t have an experienced central defender helping him out.

We conceded two goals from set-prices and another from a situation where Granit Xhaka gave the ball away, which on the night was quite a lot. Our midfield struggled and Leicester successfully stifled the influence of Xhaka and Elneny, with Mesut Özil trying his best but ultimately unable to exert his usual influence on the game.

In attack Arsenal looked good, considering Leicester had 10 men behind the ball and credit to them, the opposition looked very good indeed and similar to the Leicester of two years ago. Vardy looked razor sharp and you forgot how quick he really is but he gave our back three all kinds of problems last night. Albrighton, perhaps a player who doesn’t get all the plaudits has one hell of a delivery and his cross lead to the first Leicester goal.

Lacazette put in a decent shift but was pretty much up against 3/4 players all night, and was unlucky not score another when Giroud laid the ball off and he showed quick feet, only to be denied by a great save from Schmeichel. Danny Welbeck did well and scored after a nice lay off from Kolasinac and of course then there are the super-subs, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud.

With 20 minutes to go, Arsene Wenger brought on Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud for Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck. Arsenal then had a back four which included a winger and three full backs in Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin. And to their credit, Arsenal went for it and it all paid off in the end.

A Mesut Özil corner found its way to Granit Xhaka, who found Aaron Ramsey at the back post. His first touch was excellent and he smashed the ball into the net with a powerful toe-poke.

Arsenal had Leicester on the ropes at this point and a lovely through ball from Ramsey found Giroud who played the ball back to Lacazette. The Frenchman weaved his way past 3 players before lashing a shot towards the roof of the next, before Schmeichel tipped it over the bar.

From the resulting corner from Xhaka, Giroud scored a simply stunning header – only a goal he could score – which bounced off the underside of the bar and over the line.

The comeback was complete and Olivier Giroud showed how vital he is to Arsenal’s season. Without him, we could have (and probably would have) dropped points and all the negativity around the club would have reared it’s ugly head. But as it stands, Arsenal are top of the league with an opening day win and have maximum points.

We all know what it’s like in the Premier League these days and dropping any points at all is a massive setback if you aspire to win the title.

Olivier Giroud gives Arsenal something no-one else can, and it’s vital that Arsene Wenger can find a place for him in our starting eleven. When he came on, his link up play with Alexandre Lacazette was excellent and that is something which could push us on to greater heights.

Player Ratings:

Petr Cech: 6/10

Did well to deny Jamie Vardy on a couple of occasions – firstly after coming off his line quickly to stop a through ball and then a quick dive at the feet of the pacy striker when the game was carefully poised at 4-3. Probably could have done better on a couple of the goals Leicester did score, but had a make-shift defence in front of him.

Rob Holding: 5/10

Had a night to forgot, poor lad. Gave everything and you cannot fault his effort but struggled against an experienced and cunning strikers in Vardy and Okazaki. Probably should have closed down Fuchs much quicker to deny the first Vardy goal and overall had a tough evening.

Nacho Monreal: 6/10

You’re asking a player who isn’t a central defender to command the back line with a young Rob Holding and a new signing who is also more of a full back in Sead Kolasinac. Did as well as he could but was asked to play out of position – if he’s in the back three he’s usually the left sided defender alongside two central defenders. Played the ball out of the back well but struggled against the Leicester attacks and we were too open at the back.

Sead Kolasinac: 7/10

A bit of a strange debut – struggled defensively (which is a bit of a problem if you’re playing as a central defender) but strangely did really well going forward. Played incisive and positive passes forward, and was unselfish when through on goal and showed real composure to lay the ball off to Danny Welbeck for our first equaliser. Involved in most things and gave it everything – so overall a positive start for the Tank.

Hector Bellerin: 7/10

Up and down the right flank all night and gave 110%. Gave Arsenal width which was needed to stretch the Leicester back line but did leave the poor Rob Holding exposed defensively at times which caused Arsenal big problems.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7/10

Bright and incisive, Oxlade-Chamberlain always took on the Leicester defence and caused the visiting team problems – and was unlucky when he lashed a left-footed effort just over the bar in the first half. Very positive play from him and you wonder if left wing back will be his permanent position.

Granit Xhaka: 6/10

Provided two assists on the night which proved decisive but was generally poor all night – giving the ball away on so many occasions and lost possession for Leicester’s second goal. Struggled to link up with Elneny with any meaningful influence but did better when Aaron Ramsey came on.

Mohammad Elneny: 5/10

Was out of his depth which was disappointing after a good performance against Chelsea last week. Wasn’t helped by Leicester sitting so deep so had no space to really help the team. Moved the ball on well but couldn’t seem to penetrate the Leicester midfield.

Mesut Özil: 5/10

Had a poor night for me. Didn’t look himself at all and seemed to me as if he wasn’t fully fit. Not and influential as we know he can be and his performance showed why there is no interest from any big clubs in signing him. Too peripheral and floats in and out of games far too often. At half time I wanted Arsene Wenger to bring him off and bring on Olivier Giroud.

Danny Welbeck: 7/10

Tried time and time again to make something happen and was full of running for the cause. Didn’t have much space at all to do anything but scored the vital equaliser and had a few moments where he got through their defence and was unlucky not to score.

Alexandre Lacazette: 7/10

Made a dream start with a goal after 2 minutes and showed some good touches. Tough to judge his performance as Leicester had a 10 man defence and could have been the hero at 3-3 when his fancy footwork in the box almost resulting in a goal. Overall a positive debut with a goal and win, and you can’t really ask for any more than that.

Aaron Ramsey: 8/10

Came on and was decisive, positive and lead the team forward. Excellent goal and excellent influence when he came on.

Olivier Giroud: 8/10

Getting a reputation for being a super-sub, but he really is super. Gave Leicester City all kinds of problems and scored a simply stunning header which only he can. Football is all about fine margins and I dare say without him in our squad, we would struggle badly this season.

Theo Walcott: 4/10

Made no meaningful contribution and not sure if he even touched the ball?

It’s Time For Arsene Wenger To F*cking Leave!!

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have always been one of the few AKB’s left amongst the Arsenal supporters. I believed that he was the right man to take us forward, especially after years of financial difficulties – but now enough is enough.

I tweeted before the game that there are only 3 things certain in life: Death, Taxes and Arsenal losing at Stamford Bridge. And I even said to myself I wasn’t going to watch the match as I knew exactly what was going to happen. But as most of you know supporting Arsenal is a religion and is something you can’t just turn off and on with a flick of a switch. So even knowing what would unfold this afternoon, I watched the game.

The game ended 3-1 and that’s not a surprise. Arsenal were second best all afternoon and again, that wasn’t a surprise. I hate playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge because mentally we just bottle it. We approach the game with no fight, no determination and most importantly no belief. Why is that? It all stems from the manager.

I don’t know why Arsene Wenger keeps making the same mistakes. The only time we won there was when they had the incompetent Andre Villas Boas in charge and Van Persie scored a hat trick to give us a 5-3 win. Apart from that, the only win I remember was in The Invincible season when Vieira and Edu scored in a 2-1 victory.

Don’t get me wrong, the refereeing once again was a complete joke. The opening goal was a clear foul – Alonso pretty much pole axed Bellerin before heading into the net. In any other game thats a foul but there seems to be a trend of awful refereeing decision going against us recently.

After that we couldn’t really get into the game but despite this, we still make some decent chances to nick an equaliser. Gabriel had the best chance but his header went straight down the keepers throat.

But as it stands, after the defeat against Watford midweek, we are now 12 points behind. Once again, in early February we’re well out of the title race.

So now our only chance of silverware this season is either in the Champions League (are you having a laugh?) or the FA Cup. Ah well, at least we can try and finish 4th again.

Look, I love Arsene Wenger. That man has done more than any other to grow and build a football club that is self-sustainable and has one of the best stadiums not just in England but the world. And while the man has given us unprecedented success – he ideas and football beliefs are just outdated.

The best defence usually wins the league yet that’s an area he doesn’t believe he needs to teach. He inherited a side with one of the best defences the country has ever seen and did recruit well, signing Lauren, Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure, as well as bringing Ashley Cole through the ranks. But after that it’s been nothing but stop gaps. And Arsene was fortunate with The Invincibles defence, as Ashley Cole off to Crystal Palace before Silvinho had his passport problems, Lauren was originally a right sided midfielder and Kolo Toure was groomed into the roll by Martin Keown.

After 13 years without even looking like we could sustain a genuine title challenge, enough is simply enough.

Mark Clattenburg Cost Arsenal The Game Tonight!

Arsenal lost for the first time since the opening day of the season in a game they didn’t deserve to lose – all because of that c*nt of a referee Mark Clattenburg.

Below par? Perhaps. Sluggish? Certainly. But Everton we in no way better than us tonight.

The problem with Clattenburg is that he is an attention seeker. He just LOVES the spotlight. The guy cannot help himself. He needs to be the centre of the universe and tonight he didn’t disappoint.

In a football match, the referee’s decisions matter. They dictate the tempo of the game and even the small decisions were awful. 

But he saved the best till last.

Deep into stoppage time, when Arsenal were turning the screw and pinning back Everton, the ball was blocked twice on the line. The ball ricocheted to Alexis Sanchez who was on the left side of the box. He clearly nicked the ball and then was blatantly taken out.

Stone wall penalty.

Even watching on TV in real time, I knew it was and penalty. It was one of those incidents you don’t need to see again, or from another angle in slow motion. It was a penalty every single day of the week.

And what does Clattenc*nt do? Wave play on obviously. 

We may not have played particularly well but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve decisions when they are clear as day. We had 2 shots saved of the line and a clear penalty decision waved away. 

A lot of anger has been sent towards Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal players but this time it’s not deserved. The defeat was down to one c*nt of a referee.

Magical Mesut Özil Seals All Three Points With Wonder Goal! (w/ Player Ratings)

What a finish to the game!

Arsenal went 2-0 down after only 15 minutes, and it looked like it would be a tough night for The Gunners. Arsene Wenger said Ludogorets would look to start strongly and so it proved, as they sucker punched Arsenal and we look shell shocked after the first part of the game.

Our defending looked suspect – for the first goal Ospina was found rooted to his line as Ludogorets sent in a freekick which was converted by Barbosa when really the Arsenal keeper should have come and claimed.

For their second, Kieran Gibbs (who was otherwise excellent) was left on his arse as Cafu’s cross found Keseru in the middle to tap in from close range.

Both goals avoidable and it seemed like the Arsenal of old were coming back to haunt us – that Arsenal who would be on a decent run but then switch off in a game they thought they would easily win and end up stupidly losing.

Fortunately, this season there seems to be some real steel and character amongst the ranks.

Only 5 minutes later Arsenal came up with the perfect response, as the majestic Mesut Özil sent in a cross – most likely intended for Giroud – ended up finding Granit Xhaka in the middle. The Swiss international swept the ball home with a cool finish to give Arsenal a way back into the game.

Aaron Ramsey, who struggled all night, sent in a cross just before half time which Olivier Giroud headed into the net to make things all square going into the break.

After that, there was a lot of sparring while both teams made some half chances.

But then, something magical happened.

On 87 minutes, Arsenal substitute Mohamed Elneny sent through Mesut Özil with a wonderful pass. The German genius saw the Ludogorets keeper fly out and without breaking a sweat flicked the ball over him. Two defenders proceeded to try and stop the midfield maestro but he put them both on their arses as he delivered a series of dummies which bamboozled the defenders and cooly slotted the ball home.

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Considering the game was level and a win was massively important, this goal is one of the best I’ve ever seen – and we’ve scored some wonderful goals. The confidence, ability and sheer audacity of the goal was ridiculous and I will (and have) watched the goal over and over again.

A goal of real beauty, deserving to win any football match.

Player Ratings:

David Ospina: 6/10
Struggled at times tonight and on another day, could have cost us dearly.

Carl Jenkinson: 7/10
Solid at the back and supported Ramsey whenever he could. Was a little rusty at times but played well and should be happy with his performance.

Laurent Koscielny: 8/10
Did well alongside Mustafi and looked to up the tempo whenever he could. Couldn’t be blamed for either goal and helped steady the ship once we went 2-0 down.

Shkodran Mustafi: 8/10
Another excellent performance from the German defender, Mustafi has settled well into the Arsenal team and didn’t make any mistakes tonight.

Kieran Gibbs: 8/10
Really taking advantage of Nacho Monreal’s absence and will give Arsene Wenger a real headache once the Spaniard returns. Linked up well with Sanchez on the left and never stopped running.

Francis Coquelin: 8/10
Our most composed midfielder on the night, Coquelin was excellent in keeping the ball moving and was solid in defence.

Granit Xhaka: 7/10
Had a mixed game, looking bright in spells but slightly uncomfortable in others. Took one for the team with his cynical booking (we need more of those) and took his goal really well.

Aaron Ramsey: 6/10
Only started his second game for Arsenal this season and it showed. Took too many touches on the ball which slowed down Arsenal’s tempo which frustrated players such as Özil and Sanchez. A good run out for the Welshman but not his best game.

Mesut Özil: 9/10
What can you say about this man. Mesut makes me happy, and I like being happy. Kept Arsenal moving forward and provided the assist from Xhaka’s vital goal in the first half. Was full of inventive passing and movement and then with 3 minutes of normal time remaining, scored THAT goal. If Messi had scored it, social media would be going mental right now.

Alexis Sanchez: 7/10
Made way for Olivier Giroud in the middle so was played on the left hand side. Did well at times, making things happen with his running and through balls but didn’t look great on the left. Arsene Wenger was probably hoping the Giroud-Alexis combination would have worked better.

Olivier Giroud: 7/10
Just back from injury, Giroud did well in spells and scored the equalising goal. 3 goals in 110 minutes is a good return and his form will be giving Arsene Wenger a real selection headache.

Gibbs & Giroud Give Wenger A Big Headache As Arsenal Show Great Mental Strength

Arsenal were the weekends early kick off and travelled to Sunderland for a game we were expected to win comfortably, and although it turned out like that in the end, it was far from straight forward.

Sunderland are one of those teams that always struggle and are always fighting against relegation. David Moyes is a manager I don’t rate and it seems as if he’s ran out of ideas at Sunderland. Arsenal would top the league for a few hours at least with a win, and for 60 minutes it looked like we were heading for a routine win. But Arsenal fans by now know that a routine win is never on the cards!

Alexis Sanchez scored the only goal of the first half – a fantastic diving header from an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross. The first 45 minutes were what you would expect – Sunderland are lacking in any kind of confidence and were more than happy to sit back, keep the lines tight and suffocate Arsenal – keeping themselves in the game so they could nick a goal. Arsenal had plenty of possession but it was difficult to get through. We had a couple of decent openings, the best when Mesut Özil floated a beautiful ball over the top, only for Oxlade-Chamberlain to flash wide. You would have thought he would have done a bit better with the chance, considering his hot streak.

As it stood, we went into the half time break 1-0 up, and that’s always a dangerous scoreline.

The after the hour it all sparked into life. Alexis Sanchez was singled out for rough treatment all game and when his burst of pace saw him pass the Sunderland defender he was brought down. I didn’t need to see a replay of the incident as it was a stone wall penalty and I said so at the time. Replays did show it was a clear penalty but Martin Atkinson (who had a poor game) waved play on. I was still screaming at the television when suddenly down the other end a mistake by Mustafi lead to Arsenal conceding a penalty.

No arguments about the decision, and Petr Cech couldn’t have done anything about it after being put in a difficult situation. What we could feel aggrieved by though was the awful decision not to award Sanchez a penalty for a clear foul in the box moments earlier.

Jermaine Defoe stepped up and levelled the game. You had that sinking feeling that Arsenal had shot themselves in the foot once again and would be leaving the Stadium of Light win a point instead of all three. But then Arsene brought on Olivier Giroud.

Alexis Sanchez is Arsenal’s main striker this season and Arsene has opted to go with pace on either side, with Mesut Özil just in behind pulling the strings. It is a system that has worked really well this season, and wide options include Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (as well as Lucas Perez before his unfortunate injury). This has left Olivier Giroud out in the cold (even though he’s been injured) but he really stepped up this afternoon!

He scored with his first touch, a lovely sweeping finish with his left foot from a Kieran Gibbs cross and then 5 minutes later he scored a trademark header from a Mesut Özil corner.

That put Arsenal in the driving seat and then Alexis Sanchez put the icing on the cake with another, giving Arsenal a 4-1 win in the process.

It was an excellent introduction from Olivier Giroud, and his impact on the game will certainly give Arsene Wenger a big headache. Although it could be argued that Olivier Giroud is Arsenal’s perfect Plan B – something we haven’t had at our disposal in a long long time.

And finally a word on Kieran Gibbs, who was fantastic today. Obviously he lost his place to Nacho Monreal a while ago but he’s kept his head down, worked hard and never moaned once about it. Then when he gets his chance he’s put in two excellent performances. It was his brilliant cross that Olivier Giroud scored the goal which put Arsenal back into the lead – and what an important goal that was.

From what I’ve seen Kieran Gibbs is a completely nice, down-to-earth guy and he really is a role model to young professionals. And clearly Gibbs has given Arsene something else to think about!