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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Ox upsets Everton's cart - WEM-BER-LEE!!!!!!!!!!!

"She wore, she wore.."

That was brilliant. From start to finish I thought Arsenal were fantastic today. Every player on the pitch was giving it maximum effort, epitomised by Ozil winning an unlikely battle of strength inside his own penalty area early on. That moment brought many of us to our feet to acknowledge that the man was genuinely trying. Then he got a goal too! I hear that clown Chiles said on ITV that a 4-1 win flattered Arsenal. I've always known he was a cretin but that was quite an incredible statement. Arsenal were so dominant that 4-1 was the least we deserved on the day. Arsenal were magnificent.
The spark for me today was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. His pace and power was too much for Everton. He kept swapping wings with an equally impressive Santi Cazorla (was it the fourth goal that started with him tackling someone in our penalty area?) and Baines and Coleman had no answer. I have to say that I've always doubted Baines defensively. He is clearly incredibly dangerous going forward as he can cross the ball as well as any winger, while his set-piece delivery is probably the best in the country. However, he reminded me today of Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker in that he is constantly out of position. When he was in the right place he simply didn't know how to stop his man from running at him. If Roy Hodgson was watching then I hope he noted the dominant display of the bloke playing at left-back for Arsenal this afternoon as Kieran Gibbs looked different class.
Back to the Ox and he ran the show. With the ball at his feet he moved with pace and power. His passing was incisive and, on the occasions that he made an error, he was the one chasing back and making tremendous tackles in the defensive areas. He was awarded Arsenal Player of the Month for February before the game and I reckon he might be in pole position now for the March award as well. Leaving Ox out at Stoke last week was a terrible mistake and it's one I hope won't be repeated. I couldn't believe it when he was subbed today as I thought the better move would have been to bring on Rosicky in the centre in place of Arteta. As it was the Manager undoubtedly got things right as Tomas was involved in the goals that followed.
One of the most encouraging things today was the willingness of Arsenal players to actually take a shot at goal. The Everton goalkeeper was dodgy in the extreme throughout the match (though made a couple of very decent saves from Ox and Cazorla in between the madness). Arsenal had more conviction with the ball today than they have for a while. To so completely outplay a very good side showed that they have something about them still. It sets us up well for the next few weeks. If there was a disappointment then it was our woeful delivery from wide. Sagna's generally much improved crossing was back its very worst this afternoon and we failed to make anything out of a long succession of corners. Arsenal must realise that a set-piece properly put together is a chance to score a cheap goal - God knows we concede enough from them.
There was no doubt about the penalty. Gareth Barry can't resist the urge to foul people and so it was when Chamberlain got in the area. If Arteta's first penalty was good then his second was great. It is so rare these days to see a penalty have to be taken again. Yet again Mr Clattenburg managed, I'm sure, to get the TV cameras firmly pointed in his direction with that decision. Arteta certainly showed he has some bottle to put the second penalty in to the top corner like that. I suspect that, had the goalkeeper made the save while way off his line, the penalty wouldn't have been retaken again.
I wasn't surprised to see Yaya Sanogo play today. It's fair to say he struggled a bit. There was no shortage of effort from the youngster and he had some decent moments. However, by and large, the close attention of Distin completely stymied him. It was interesting to me that, when Giroud came on, Distin didn't go near him. Having marked Sanogo so tightly I don't understand why he didn't get close to our first-choice centre-forward. Maybe Giroud is too strong for him. Distin might also have simply run out of steam. As it was I thought Giroud was superb when he came on and he added another dimension to our play. His two goals added a deserved gloss to Arsenal's day and made for a comfortable and enjoyable last ten minutes or so.
One final word and it's about the Everton fans. It seems, as with the fans of Liverpool, you can take the people out of Merseyside but you can't take Merseyside out of the people. Having moaned at their reduced allocation (caused by the setting off of smoke bombs at the Premier League game before Christmas) a number of them chose to behave badly. There were more smoke bombs (at least four straight after their equaliser) and, just like Liverpool, somebody stole the football when they were losing. Right at the end the coppers actually had to come in to the ground to stop the trouble that was starting to kick-off over in the far side of the Clock End. It's a shame they couldn't behave as I've always thought Everton's fans had a decent bit of dignity and pride. Never mind.
So now we're off to Wembley. I'd rather be playing a semi-final at Villa Park or Elland Road or Anfield or Hillsborough (not Old Trafford) but it's Wembley and that's it. I suspect we'll draw Man City, unless Dave Whelan has another of his dreams come true (did you know he broke a leg in the Cup Final? Never mentions it). Going to Wembley is always exciting, whatever you go there for. I'd have liked a bit more cup-tie atmosphere today and a bit more fervent singing of the Wembley songs (another reason why proper neutral grounds were good for the semi-finals) but we're there and right now that's what matters. I might have to invest in a yellow ribbon for the wife with a bit of luck.

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