The Arsenal Goals Trust
What a chance Arsenal now have to challenge for the Premier League this season. They have earned it through their own endeavours, and against many odds. Is it a strong Premier League? No. Is it maybe a more competitive Premier League? Most definitely. And while the TV companies and the written press make excuses on behalf of certain other clubs regarding injuries they conveniently ignore that Arsenal are on their current run without Alexis, Coquelin and Cazorla. Arsenal also haven't spent massive money in the last transfer window for no apparent improvement as others have. We haven't achieved anything this season just yet, but the players (and the Manager) have put is in a better position than any of the other clubs deemed capable of winning the Title. For me it's between us, Man City and Tottenham at this stage. Disrespectful to Leicester? Maybe. Realistic? Probably.
I would have taken a draw before kick-off last night. The important thing was to not lose and allow what amounts to a six-point swing in favour of Manchester City. To go out there and win a big game when it really matters shows that this Arsenal team (this Arsenal squad) is a far stronger and more impressive proposition than in the past. A lot of this is down to the influence that Mesut Ozil is now having on the team. I make no apology for the slagging I've given him over the last couple of years - he has deserved it. His current form shows that he has been messing us around for most of his time at Arsenal. However, right now he is the best player in the Premier League and he is spearheading Arsenal's charge at the top of the table. I can't be doing with the "told you so" nonsense from people who refused to see his faults in the past as I never said he wasn't a top player. My problem was that he was just not doing his best for us and being the player we spent £42m on. Now that he is doing that I am more than happy to revel in his form and give him all the credit he is due. Starting with the FA Cup Final last season he has been tremendous and has shown that he is World Class. To hear Jamie Carragher on TV last night saying he'd rather have David Silva, and then being destroyed post-match by a smiling Thierry Henry, showed that Robbie Savage isn't the only dipstick paid to talk football.
Arsenal played a similar sort of game last night that they did at City earlier in the year. Maybe we didn't press the ball quite as well, but we were content to let them have possession. It seemed that De Bruyne's missed chance was the catalyst for Arsenal to decide to go at them a little bit and within two minutes we were ahead. What a goal by Theo Walcott. I have cried out since he was 17 for Theo to play from the left as he has the ability to score Thierry Henry type goals (that is not me comparing Theo to Thierry, by the way) and he proved it last night. I see Ozil is credited with the "assist" for the goal but for once his pass had nothing to do with the scoring. It was a truly brilliant strike by Theo and unstoppable for the dandruff man in goal for City. Having soaked up the pressure reasonably comfortably it must have knocked City for six to then concede from our first shot at goal.
It is rare for us to be clinical in front of goal (as the second-half showed) but to score two goals from our first two shots on target was exceptional. I was really pleased for Giroud as he seems to have got the monkey off his back of scoring in big games. The pass from Ozil was perfect for Olivier to hit the ball first-time through Hart's legs. A second goal on the stroke of half-time was huge for Arsenal.
I thought we played some outstanding football in the second-half and created some great chances. Ramsey could have had a couple, as could the outstanding (again) Joel Campbell as Arsenal's pace and movement was simply too much for City's expensively assembled midfield and defence. City's main tactic throughout the game was to kick, pull and barge the Arsenal players. It summed up Mr Marriner that he failed to punish what was an obvious tactical ploy from City, not befitting of a top side - it really did look like a Pulis or Allardyce inspired kicking at times. Then there was the diving from Sterling (£50m!) and Yaya Toure that also went unpunished. If City had ended up getting a result, following the wonderful goal from Toure, it would have been an injustice. City did have a half-chance or two at 2-1, but so did Arsenal. Having watched it calmly on TV last last night they didn't actually threaten once Calum Chambers came on as Arsenal held on to the ball quite well and Giroud simply dominated Otamendi and Mangala. Per Mertesacker was an absolute rock in the defence and Flamini outstanding in front of the back-four. The calmness of Petr Cech, which is reflected in his defence, was also clear to see towards the end.
Going in to Christmas I couldn't be much happier with Arsenal. December has been good so far. Champions League progress added confidence to the side and the league results have been exceptional. You could sense the crowd know we have that chance, such was the atmosphere towards the end of the game. It's up to us to keep that going for the rest of the season and leave the rest of it to the players and the Manager. We all know what we could do with in January and I really hope Arsene does too and goes out and does it. If we can get through the next three matches with six or seven points (nine is the dream scenario, obviously) then it is game on for the second half of the season.