Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
Latest News: Arsenal draw 3-3 with Liverpool, goals came from Ramsey and Giroud (x2) - match thoughts to come!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Arsenal suffer first leg defeat to Monaco

It’s almost impossible to begin to think of what to start with when writing this. To put it simply though, it was the worst Arsenal performance I have seen in a very long time. To make matters worse, I was in the ground for this game and from the very beginning we didn't even look like a side that wanted to win the game. The whole match was littered with errors but we must give credit to Monaco who played very well. Arsene Wenger was tactically outdone by his ex-club who showed exactly why they've been in such solid form this season. We only breached their defence late on in a game that saw our defence more naive than I've ever seen them be.
Arsenal players stand dejected after another poor performance in the last 16 of the Champions League
Monaco came to the Emirates and set up brilliantly well, their midfield out did ours, they were sharp on the break and resilient at the back. If this sort of result had happened once you could forgive them but this error stricken game is something that has happened for numerous seasons now. We’re on the verge of crashing out of the Champions League last 16 for the fifth year running. Arsenal’s lack of progression is quite staggering, as is their inability to turn up in the big games. At the moment the victory over Manchester City seems a freak result, we played well but Manchester City didn't really trouble us. Something at the club desperately needs to change.

We went into this game being given the easiest draw we could've hoped for. We’d finally dodged the Barcelona and Bayern bullet that has so often seen us falter. AS Monaco would offer a different proposition but it was a challenge we fell desperately short of. None of our big players turned up and no one looked as though they believed they could win the tie, you could see it on the players faces. It was a desperate performance from a side that has actually been in pretty good form of late. The performance was as frustrating as it was disappointing and it was the naivety of the defence that cost us the game, not to mention Olivier Giroud’s shocking finishing.

I mentioned at the weekend how Giroud’s conversion rate had become higher this season, and how he was in good form. After the Monaco game on Wednesday night I have nothing but criticism for him. He missed a great chance in the first half before skying an open goal into the stands in the second. His night was summed up by being brought off on the hour mark to a chorus of boos. It’s hard to work out why the belief wasn't there, but you have to look to one man in the equation and that is Arsene Wenger. Until he goes I can’t see this club progressing much further than the FA Cup victory last season. A triumph that seems years back now. After the Man City game I thought the defence had learnt, and I know you have to be attacking at home but the amount of space we continuously gave Monaco's wide-men and central midfielders was ridiculous. Their midfield completely overran us and Kondogbia was at the heart of that. He scored a deflected effort to open the scoring and it was all downhill from then on.

The line-up Wenger played has worked to some degree in the past but it’s far too attacking and that was seen on Wednesday night. Coquelin seemed to get dragged into going towards the man too often and as a result their midfield players found pockets of space on regular occasions and were able to dictate the tempo. At the end of the day Coquelin does all the simple things right, but on a big Champions League night can he do it? From the looks of it the answer is no. The worrying thing to me is the lack of World Class players that were non-existent. Mesut Ozil was rarely in the game whilst Sanchez showed glimpses but on too rare occasions. I had genuinely forgotten they were even playing at points. Santi Cazorla was also poor in the middle of the park whilst Danny Welbeck offered little. 

It wasn't until Oxlade-Chamberlain came on that we had some urgency in attack. Up to that point there was nothing; no drive, no urgency, no impetus and most of the players looked disinterested. Chamberlain brought Arsenal back into the tie with a brilliant effort from outside the box but then gave the ball away as Arsenal conceded a farcical third in the dying moments. There was no defence and the substitute Carrasco ran in on goal and found the net via the far post. If you're looking for even more to moan about then Ospina's attempt at saving the ball was a pretty poor one. He seemed rooted to the spot rather than being ready for the shot to come in.

We were products of our downfall, and the defensive display was very alarming. Hector Bellerin had continued to give pacey winger Martial space down the left throughout most of the game and he was where the second goal came from. It was similar to Monaco’s third. Laurent Koscielny was the only defender back and they countered leaving Berbatov to fire home comfortably. Santi Cazorla’s reaction summed it up. He had raced back and was effectively last man as he tried to put the Bulgarian striker under pressure. As the ball rippled the net Cazorla proceeded to lean on the advertising hoarding with a face of frustration and dejection. It was an extremely sorry sight.

The incompetency of the defence was beyond belief. Why on earth where we chucking everyone forward in the first leg? It was beyond ridiculous and it’s hard to describe exactly how I felt as I walked out the ground. That third goal has all but put the game to bed. We’ll have to go to Monaco and score three to go through. That’s three against a team that rarely concede. I had an ounce of belief after the Ox’s goal but that third from Carrasco destroyed the fans, and will also have destroyed the player’s morale.

Dimitar Berbatov said after the game that Monaco wanted it more, and he couldn't have been more right. No Arsenal player looked in the game. Everton is at the weekend and I’m expecting a huge response. These are the months where our season has been known to slip. Please don't let it happen again Arsenal!

The team’s line-ups:

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin(68), Cazorla(81), Welbeck, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud(60).
Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel, Chambers, Monreal, Rosicky(81), Oxlade-Chamberlain(68), Walcott(60).

Monaco: Subasic, Toure, Tavares, Abdennour, Echiejile, Santos, Kondogbia, Moutinho, Dirar(81), Martial(84), Berbatov(75).
Subs: Stekelenburg, Kurzawa(81), Diallo, Carvalho, Silva, Carrasco(75), Traore.

Referee: Deniz Aytekin (GER)

Attendance: 59,868

Monday, 23 February 2015

Arsenal return to top four with win over Palace

Arsenal's recent run of form, excluding a defeat to a team we shan't mention has been particularly good of late and the win over Palace on Saturday afternoon only reaffirmed our credentials in the race for the top four. This weekend was near perfect for the Gunners though as Cazorla and Giroud sealed a 2-1 win at Selhurst Park whilst Spurs, Manchester United and Southampton all dropped points. Although it wasn't the most important of London derbies we'll play this season it was still crucial that we got the win, but it wasn't perhaps as comfortable as first thought. We were pegged back late on but still managed to hold on to leap to third place in the table. Wenger named a slightly changed team from the win over Middlesbrough in the cup; Coquelin and Mertesacker returned to the starting line-up, as Chambers came in for Bellerin. Jack Wilshere was meanwhile back on the bench after 3 months out.
Olivier Giroud scored his 50th goal for the club in the win over Palace
The nature of the game was quite a weird one, especially the opening exchanges. The officials didn't have a great start and there seemed to be a few wrong decisions all over the place. Ozil should not have been offside at one point when he had proceeded to score, and then Coquelin should have been booked for a high foot. Monreal looked to have committed a foul down the left and the decision for the penalty with which our first goal came from was marginal. The original challenge from Souare looked to be right on the edge of the area but Welbeck fell into the area and the penalty was given. It was a debatable decision but nonetheless Santi Cazorla scored to keep his fine run going.

Crystal Palace have been in good form under Alan Pardew and against us they showed that. They did also show signs of their poor form at home this season. Both of which were shown in the ways that they attacked and defended. Palace have the players that can trouble teams and through Gayle and Zaha down the wings they had that. They didn't have the final ball though and that's why they rarely actually troubled Ospina. Bolasie came on late on and caused further problems, and he is where their late burst of pressure came from. He created a chance for Gayle who headed over and his delivery found Murray who hit the post with virtually the last phase of play in the match. Murray however had got one back a few minutes later.

It was a soft goal to concede though having failed to clear the ball. We had managed to clear a lot of balls away throughout the game and therefore it was disappointing not to get rid of the ball on this occasion. With all the bodies in there we should not have conceded but Murray popped up to find the net from short range. It was a very poor final few minutes, and after Wenger had put Gibbs and Gabriel on for his League debut we now had 6 defenders on the pitch. Because of that we should have been able to see the game out more comfortably than we did. Luckily Olivier Giroud had scored on the stroke of half time otherwise it would've been two points dropped.

Olivier Giroud has been in a rich vein of form recently and is starting to score on a consistent basis; he now has 8 in his last 11 whilst the one against Palace was his 50th in Arsenal colours. It was perhaps one of the most simple out of the 50 though, pouncing on a save from Speroni to fire into an empty net. It's particularly good to see him converting chances at a regular rate compared to previous seasons where he's been frustrating in front of goal.

Danny Welbeck was the man whose shot was saved and he made himself busy all game, winning the penalty too. I had originally wanted Theo Walcott to start, and although he looks more threatening in front of goal, Welbeck proved me wrong in terms of his performance against Palace. I criticised him a little after last week's win but what he lacks in composure he makes up for in his running and work rate. He's full of vim and that is very encouraging to see as along with Sanchez, he produces the full backs with a lot of support.

It's worth also touching on the performance of Mesut Ozil. He's been talked about a lot recently, and for all the right reasons. His form has been exceptional and although he didn't score or assist he showed what he could do with the new found strength he has; ushering the ball out of play and even winning a header which came off the bar. He also lead a brilliant break away which we were unlucky not to score from. He flicked the ball over the defender before finding Sanchez who fired inches wide of the target.

It was a good win to continue the momentum we have and of course for our bid for Champions League football next season. Our next game is in fact in that competition as we face Monaco at the Emirates in the first leg of our last 16 tie with them on Wednesday.

The team's line-ups:

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Zaha, Ledley(79), Mutch, Puncheon, Gayle(79), Campbell(57).
Subs: Hennessey, Hangeland, Kelly, Jedinak, Bolasie(57), Murray(79), Ameobi(79).

Arsenal: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Welbeck(76), Ozil(76), Sanchez(89), Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel(89), Gibbs(76), Bellerin, Wilshere, Rosicky(76), Walcott.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
Attendance: 24,721.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Arsenal through with comfortable win over Boro

Arsenal are through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup after a double from Olivier Giroud sealed a 2-0 win at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon. We were in action against a Middlesbrough side who had gone to the Etihad and beaten Manchester City in the last round so we had every right to be wary of potentially another shock. However, we managed to brush aside any threat from the Championship side as Arsenal put in a comfortable display to remain in the hunt for a successive FA Cup. We will of course have to face Man United though, as the draw was made the day after and I am writing this a little later than usual. Nonetheless it was a performance that sees our brilliant home form continue. Wojciech Szczesny was back in goal for the win as Gabriel made his debut in a team that was vastly changed from Leicester in midweek. Chambers, Gibbs, Flamini and Welbeck all came back into the team as Cazorla captained the side.
Giroud's brace took Arsenal through to the quarter-finals
It was always going to be a game that Arsenal dominated, but after the two goals we scored the same thing that usually happens with this Arsenal side happened; we sat off. It occured against Hull in round three and again against Leicester in the week. The difference from the week was that Middlesbrough weren't able to put as much pressure on us. However, the fact that we do have to withstand so much late pressure against many sides remains an issue and it's something that clearly needs addressing. Some may argue that we don't score enough goals, but it is important that we keep our leads, Anderlecht in the Champions League is an example of that. Against the smaller teams we do need to score more goals though, especially at home. A 2-0 win over a side that had beaten City in the last round is nothing to complain about but the feeling of the game petering out was rather disappointing as Giroud killed the game off with two goals in as many minutes. Both of his goals were of real quality though.

Santi Cazorla ran the game from a deeper position again and that's the position we could start to see him occupy more often with Ramsey and Wilshere injured, and with the return of Ozil and Walcott. However, Cazorla played a big part in Giroud's first goal. Such was Arsenal's dominance and ability to keep the ball that every member of the team touched the ball before it found the back of the net. The Gunners were devastating in and around the penalty area as Cazorla played a lovely ball out to Gibbs who then picked out Giroud who diverted the ball home. It was refreshing to see us score goals of such quality, but with relative ease. The second goal was exemplary of that. The Middlesbrough defence switched off from a corner as Sanchez's delivery found Giroud at the near post and he was able to volley home brilliantly.

Olivier Giroud's performances this season have been very good and it's very frustrating that he spent most of the first half of the season out with injury. Since his return in mid-December our form has picked up and we've looked like a better team because of having him as a focal point. The Frenchman has a very good return this campaign, scoring 10 goals in 18 games - long may his form continue!

Alongside Cazorla, Ozil put in another great display. The German didn't assist or score any this time round but you can see that his confidence is high. His performances since returning from injury have been excellent and he's trying things that he wasn't necessarily doing in his first season at the club. He's showing more of an urge to have a shot on goal. This was evident against Leicester in the fact that his shot ended up in Walcott's goal but a few times against Boro he showed his willingness to drive forward a little more and have a shot or play a telling pass. With him, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud and Sanchez firing on all cylinders we will be a very dangerous side.

Sanchez has looked a little off the gas since his minor injury in the past couple of weeks. Against Leicester he picked up a knock and therefore had a quiet game. I was quite surprised that he started against Middlesbrough considering the vast amount of options we have in that role. Unsurprisingly he wasn't at his marvelous best again and that was because of his injury. There were moments where we saw his spark but it may take him a few more games to find his ever fluent best.

One of the players that plays in a similar role to Sanchez on the pitch is Danny Welbeck. His summer arrival was met with optimism and criticism. A lot of people thought he would score more goals than he has done, and his injury wasn't really timed well as he missed quite a few games at the beginning of 2015. With Walcott's return to the side he really needs to start performing better than he is. He was rather non-existent against Middlesbrough and against Spurs the weekend before he was in similar sort of form.

The game against Middlesbrough gave us our first look at new Brazilian defender Gabriel. His debut was a very efficient one and there looks to be a lot of potential for him and Koscielny at the back. He looked solid and seemed to fit the bill of a ball playing defender. He made one or two crucial tackles and took a yellow for the team at one point when Boro could have been through. Overall the defence looked more comfortable compared to our previous game and so they should have done. The visitors didn't cause any trouble and I'm struggling to remember Szczesny making a strenuous save. Chambers staked his claim at right back whilst Gibbs looked very good going forward. Monreal's defensive game has been excellent of late and both of them offer very good options at left back.

Next up is a trip to Crystal Palace, a potentially tough away game as Alan Pardew has them playing well since he took them. After that, is the first leg of our Champions League tie with Monaco.

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Cazorla, Welbeck(71), Ozil, Sanchez(71), Giroud(82).
Subs: Martinez, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin, Rosicky(71), Walcott(71), Akpom(82).

Middlesbrough: Mejias, Fredericks, Gibson, Omeruo, Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter, Tomlin(53), Bamford(53), Adomah, Kike.
Subs: Husband, Woodgate, Ripley, Whitehead, Reach(53), Nsue, Vossen(53).

My man of the match: Olivier Giroud.

Referee: Mike Dean.
Attendance: 59,823.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Arsenal scrape win over relegation threatened Leicester

After a demoralising defeat to North London rivals Spurs at the weekend, it was important for Arsenal to get back to winning ways. A home game against Leicester, who are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League was exactly the game we needed in order to bounce back. We did indeed return to winning ways as Koscielny and Walcott scored in a 2-1 victory. It was far from comfortable and Leicester were the better side in the second half. The Gunners were brilliant in the first half and had the visitors taken some of the brilliant chances they had, it may well have been a very different game. The Gunners were far from their best and it was an extremely poor performance against a side that we should've comfortably beaten considering the two team's positions in the League. Nevertheless, the win brought us back into the top four with Man United to play tonight, and Tottenham's defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.
Theo Walcott was on hand to score Arsenal's second
Both sides came into this game needing a win, Arsenal for the sake of a top four place, and Leicester in terms of their battle for survival. Indeed it was Arsenal who came out on top despite the visitors best attempts to frustrate. They set up with five at the back, which made it hard to break them down in the first half. Our struggles to break them down were only exacerbated by Alexis Sanchez who picked up a knock and consequently was substituted later on in the second half. The Chilean was miles off his game and that made our play in the final third slower than we would've liked. However, we did go into the break with a 2-0 lead, after the Leicester defence switched off on two occasions.

The first goal was to come from the boot of Laurent Koscielny. Mesut Ozil, the stand out performer on the night swung the ball in from the corner and the French defender was there with a free run to find the back of the net. The defending was sloppy from the visitors but for a defender it was a composed finish from Koscielny. Ozil was at the heart of the second goal too. The German let fly from outside the box and Schwarzer could only palm his swerving shot straight to Walcott. Theo then got ahead of the defender to fire home brilliantly. Both Walcott and Ozil have been in good form since returning from injury, particularly Ozil who is finally showing why we brought him to the club.

Ozil now has four assists and three goals since his return, a fantastic run of form and long may it continue. Most of his appearances since returning have been on the left wing, and since bulking up he's looked a lot more comfortable in that position compared to when he was weaker before his injury. He did however drift into more central roles in the first half of the game yesterday evening.

What was to happen in the second half was something that not many would've predicted. From this position we should have gone on to score a few more in a bid to boost the goal difference. However Nigel Pearson changed his game plan, and rightfully so. In the first half they were willing to play on the counter and soak up the pressure we put on them. In the second they looked to get at us. Mahrez down the right hand side had proved to be extremely dangerous, causing problems when he ran at both Mertesacker and Koscielny. Arsenal's rhythm from the first half had clearly been unsettled.

Our shape just completely disappeared and the defence seemed to panic whenever they got on the ball. The same problem occurred during Saturday's defeat to Spurs; we couldn't keep the ball. The team in the second half lacked balance and the defence left themselves wide open on too many occasions. Against a more clinical opponent we would've been punished. In a sense we were lucky to win. The goal with which we conceded from was extremely poor. We failed to clear our lines in the penalty area and as a result the ball landed to Kramaric who found the back of the net through a crowd of players.

The lackadaisical defending in front of David Ospina clearly unnerved him. In the games in which he kept clean-sheets he looked solid when called upon. I'm not saying bring Szczesny back but it's no coincidence that our keepers look shaky whenever the defence starts to panic. Ospina seemed to panic himself and came for balls he didn't have to. Szczesny is likely to start against Middlesborough in the FA Cup at the weekend but who starts in goal for our next league game could be interesting.

As can be seen the game was littered with negatives that should not have occurred against the opposition we were against. No disrespect to Leicester but they are bottom of the table and our performance should have been a lot better. I am perhaps making it out that we lost but we did win and it was hugely important to move back into the top four for the time being. Aaron Ramsey's injury just 10 minutes after he came on didn't help either. It seems that whenever we get players back new ones pick up injuries. Something clearly needs to be addressed because it keeps happening season after season.

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Walcott(73), Rosicky, Ozil, Sanchez(67).
Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel, Gibbs, Flamini(82), Ramsey(73)(82), Welbeck, Giroud(67).

Leicester: Schwarzer, Simpson, Morgan(80), Huth, Upson(59), Konchesky, Cambiasso, James, Mahrez, Schlupp(86), Kramaric.
Subs: Hamer, Wasilewski(59), Drinkwater, King, Albrighton, Ulloa(80), Nugent(86).

My man of the match: Mesut Ozil.

Referee: Mike Jones.
Attendance: 60,032.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Kane goals undo Arsenal in North London Derby

Some things never change. Well so it seems anyway. Arsenal went into this North London derby full of confidence. They'd beaten the champions in their own back yard, reached the last sixteen of the FA Cup and thrashed Villa last weekend. The Gunners were one of the most in form sides in the League but that counts for nothing in a derby. It appears the Man City game hasn't changed anything, and we were back to our usual selves in what was our biggest game of the season in many people's eyes. On paper this Arsenal side looks a lot better than this Spurs side but credit where it's due to Mauricio Pochettino who has got the best out of his players.
Mesut Ozil scored for the third game running
It wasn't the defence that necessarily let us down though. Although both goals from Harry Kane were pretty soft to concede it was the midfield's performance that let us down the most. We appeared incapable of keeping the ball and that ultimately led to our downfall. We rarely kept the ball for a period of two minutes or longer and created next to nothing. In truth, Spurs deserved to win, and that hurts to say. Arsenal's performance was quite bizarre though, despite never being in the game, we weren't troubled to a huge extent in terms of efforts on our goal. David Ospina was forced into making a few decent saves in the first half but despite a hefty amount of pressure put on the Arsenal defence, Spurs didn't create an awful lot to worry us. But then again, neither did we.

Arsene Wenger's team selection caused a little bit of a stir, but it wasn't his fault we lost the game. Big game player Tomas Rosicky didn't start, and neither did Theo Walcott. Instead Danny Welbeck started down the right hand side, possibly for his work rate in terms of defence but it was his first game back from injury. Theo on the other hand, had just started to come into form. Although Theo would have offered more going forward it was Welbeck that created our goal. He left Danny Rose for dead, a man with whom he had an ongoing conflict with throughout the game, before picking out Giroud inside the area. The Frenchman scuffed his effort and found Ozil who volleyed home. It was the German's third goal in as many games and he's been a real influence since returning from injury.

That goal however, was the only bright spark of Arsenal's miserable day. Aaron Ramsey hasn't been the same player we saw last season and it seems as though he desperately needs to get back to the basics. He tries to over complicate things as a result slows our play down, and often gets dispossessed quite easily. Francis Coquelin's new contract wasn't exactly celebrated in the best of ways either on what was a tough afternoon for him. He broke up the play nicely at times but him and Ramsey didn't do a good job of controlling the game at all. It hasn't been said many times this season, but we missed Mikel Arteta and his calming influence.

The best Arsenal player though is up for debate but in my opinion I thought that went to Nacho Monreal. He hasn't had the easiest of times this season but he displayed against Spurs why he's been starting over one of our most consistent players in recent times, Kieran Gibbs. He dealt with Erik Lamela brilliantly and didn't put a foot wrong all match. He made some important interceptions and was also useful in the air, an asset he seems to have gained since playing in central defence when Koscielny was out injured. Our other fullback endured a much tougher game. Spurs were keen to get down that left hand side and tended on overloading through Eriksen, Kane and Danny Rose who got forward on plenty of occasions. Bellerin had a great game against Villa but looked more out of his depth this time around. He was often caught being dragged across, which left space down the left hand side.

It goes to say that Arsenal looked a lot better when Tomas Rosicky was introduced on 67 minutes. Cazorla who hadn't had the best game by his high standards was taken off and Rosicky's drive offered us something going forward in the latter stages. He managed to take the pressure off the defence a little by keeping possession in the final third but nothing ever seemed to be on for Arsenal. Spurs' defence wasn't really tested and with four minutes left Kane scored the winner with a fantastic header. Koscielny didn't get tight enough to him and he was allowed the freedom of the penalty area to head home.

I would've taken a draw, especially after all the pressure we had soaked up until that point. It's important that we don't linger on this result and a home game against Leicester on Tuesday night will be a good chance to avenge the result yesterday. The race for the fop four is really hotting up, and we need all the points we can get right now.

The team's line-ups:

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dier, Vertonghen, Rose, Bentaleb, Mason(90), Dembele(75), Lamela(89), Eriksen, Kane.
Subs: Vorm, Fazio, Davies, Stambouli(89), Paulinho(90), Chadli(75), Soldado.

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin(89), Ramsey, Welbeck(78), Cazorla(67), Ozil, Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel, Gibbs, Flamini, Rosicky(67), Walcott(78), Akpom(89).

My man of the match: Nacho Monreal.

Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Attendance: 35,659.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Arsenal record resounding win over Villa

It’s been a long time since Arsenal last won this convincing; in fact you’ll have to flash back to over two years ago to find a result that last saw us win in the League by over three goals. However, yesterday afternoon the Gunners ran out comfortable victors against a laboured Aston Villa side. Giroud, Ozil, Walcott, Cazorla, and Bellerin were all on the score-sheet as Arsenal won 5-0 at the Emirates. What made the result more impressive was the fact that Alexis Sanchez wasn’t playing at all. With players back now though we needn’t worry as Ozil put in a performance of the highest quality. Theo Walcott was starting his first League game in over a year, whilst new signing Gabriel Paulista made the bench.
Mesut Ozil was the star as Arsenal comfortably beat Villa

Following on from wins over City and Brighton in the Cup, it was important Arsenal didn’t switch off against an Aston Villa side that beat them here at the Emirates last season. For that reason we had to be wary, but as expected they didn’t really cause a challenge. After this game, Paul Lambert’s side haven’t scored in over ten hours of Premier League football. The Villains weren’t helped that they came up against the most clinical Arsenal side all season. Mesut Ozil was at the forefront of everything that came through Arsenal despite playing in his unfavoured left midfield role.

The German’s flick into Giroud was matched with a dink over the keeper from the striker who scored his fifth goal in six games. That goal was made from a central region and since returning from injury Ozil has been a revelation. Giroud turned provider for the second as he set Ozil free before burying the chance comfortably. 2 in 2 games now for a man who was slated hugely towards the back end of last season. Consequently, both of his goals and assists in the League this season have come against Aston Villa. Giroud’s performance was meanwhile heavily impressive too and he’s playing himself into some real form after being injured for the majority of the first half of the campaign.

Santi Cazorla also had a very good game again. He didn’t feature against Brighton in the Cup, but his performance against City was of course outstanding. He continued in the same manner at home to Villa yesterday. He supplied two goals, including Theo Walcott who now has 2 in 2 after scoring last week-end too. He rolled the ball into Walcott who took the ball past the defender before slotting home for his first Emirates goal since Cardiff on New Year’s Day in 2014. Cazorla has become known for scoring a lot of penalties recently and against Villa it was no different. The quality of the penalty wasn’t perhaps as good as we’ve been used to but nonetheless it resulted in a goal. He slammed the ball straight at Guzan but he could only palm it into the net.

The Spaniard also supplied Hector Bellerin’s first goal for the club. Mathieu Debuchy’s injury problems this season have perhaps been a blessing in disguise because it’s allowed Bellerin to rise to prominence. Since that game against Dortmund in which he made his first start, he’s improved so much. His defensive side of his game is getting better game by game and he offers a lot going forward too. That was typified with the goal he scored as he placed a lovely shot into the far corner in the final few minutes. The boy from Barcelona certainly looks a hot prospect for the future.

At the moment it’s hard not to notice Francis Coquelin’s performances. He’s been the exact anchor man we’ve been looking for, and its prompted suggestions that we don’t require an addition to the defensive midfield department. Of course Bielik was signed but he’s for the future. For the time being, Coquelin deserves to be an ever present thorn in the side.

Another player that deserves an ever present role is David Ospina. He hasn’t made a single mistake since replacing Szczesny, whose errors against Southampton at the beginning of the year has cost him his place. He’s been relatively untroubled in the games he’s played in so far but played an important role against Aston Villa. His distribution is top class, and it set the Gunners away for the third goal. He also made an unbelievable save to deny a consolation goal with the last kick of the game; flying to his right hand side to deny Kieran Westwood.

Chuba Akpom also deserves a mention. He looked a threat when he came on against Brighton last weekend and was again dangerous yesterday. He won the penalty and could’ve had a goal late on but was denied by Guzan. His contract is up at the end of the season and it’s important we renew it before he enters negotiations with other clubs because he looks a top talent.

Next up is a much tougher test; the North London derby at White Hart Lane lies ahead, and we’ve proved that without Sanchez we can still look very good in attack whether or not he’s back.

The team’s line-ups:

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey(76), Cazorla, Walcott(70), Ozil, Giroud(70).
Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel, Chambers, Gibbs, Flamini(76), Rosicky(70), Akpom(70).

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Clark, Richardson, Sanchez(75), Cleverley(65), Delph, Gil, Weimann(65), Benteke.
Subs: Given, Baker, Cissokho, Westwood(75), Bacuna, Sinclair(65), Agbonlahor(65).

My man of the match: Mesut Ozil.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Attendance: 59,958.