Nicklas Bendtner scored a priceless late goal for Arsenal that kept us top of the League when all seemed lost. The Gunners had struggled to break down a resilient Cardiff side but the players never gave up as Bendtner hammered the ball home from point blank range with two minutes remaining. Theo Walcott then scored two minutes later to ensure we got off to a winning start in 2014. The Emirates stadium was absolutely rocking as we stayed top of the table by a point. Before the game Arsenal were plagued with injuries. Ramsey, Ozil, Gibbs and Giroud all missed the game whilst Walcott, Wilshere, Rosicky, Monreal and Vermaelen all had to face late fitness tests but thankfully made it. Due to Giroud not playing Podolski got up a chance upfront with Cazorla out wide and Wilshere behind the striker. Monreal came in for Gibbs whilst Flamini started beside Arteta in midfield.
The other goal was to come from my man of the match, Theo Walcott. When he actually got at the full back he caused all sorts of problems and there were several moments in the game where he had chances to get in behind and score. He did indeed do that for his goal. Jack Wilshere flicked the ball round the corner and Walcott delicately chipped the ball over Marshall for his 5th goal in as many games. He really has been a revelation since his return from injury. Talking of Jack Wilshere though, he excelled in the central attacking role. With the likes of Ozil and Ramsey out, we needed some penetration through the middle and that's what he gave us. Wenger seems to think that his best role is more deep lying but from what I've seen he looks better as a 'number 10', as his number suggests. He didn't create as many chances as you would've liked him to, but he put in a great shift and spread the ball about well, dictating the game to his liking.
We were extremely limited going forward though and it wasn't surprising to see the goal come so late. Podolski was given his first start since injury and was played as a centre forward. However he didn't have much of an impact. He made hardly any runs which meant the wide-men and midfielders were limited as to where they could put the ball. We weren't necessarily missing Giroud, we were missing a striker, and that's what we of course got in Bendtner. Typical that he got injured.
Back to the positives and another mention has to go to the defence. Koscielny and Mertesacker looked to have carried their 2013 form into 2014 and this season we simply haven't been conceding silly goals to the smaller sides. A thing that in turn, means we're top of the league. We now have the best defensive record in the league having conceded just 18 goals and now just 1 in our last 7 games at the Emirates. Wojciech Szczesny made a great save late on to maintain the clean-sheet and showed his concentration despite having to do hardly anything throughout most parts of the game.
We desperately need to get all our players back as soon as possible now. We have Spurs in the FA Cup on Saturday and I'm praying that we have Giroud and Ozil back. Giroud because of our lack of options upfront and Ozil because of our lack of creativity and movement going forward against Newcastle and Cardiff.
The teams line-ups:
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Flamini(65), Walcott, Wilshere, Cazorla, Podolski(65).
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen(90), Jenkinson, Rosicky(65), Ryo, Gnabry, Bendtner(65)(90).
Cardiff: Marshall, McNaughton, Caulker, Turner, John, Medel(61), Kim, Whittingham, Noone, Mutch(67), Campbell(79).
Subs: Lewis, Hudson, Gunnarsson(61), Cowie(67), Smith, Maynard(79), Cornelius.
My man of the match: Theo Walcott.
Referee: Jon Moss.
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