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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

I'm sick of this boring Arsenal bull****!!!

There was nothing boring about the side that won these
Right, I've had enough of this "boring" business. I'll leave aside Mourinho's nonsense quote about 10 years without a Title being boring - that explains why Stamford Bridge was falling down for the best part of 50 years. I'll also leave aside the fact that Chelsea Football Club sees itself more offended by Arsenal fans singing "boring, boring Chelsea" than it was by clear evidence that their support is still badly infiltrated by overt racists. What I won't leave aside is this utter b******s that Chelsea's current style of play is no different to that which George Graham employed as Arsenal boss.
I've actually seen so called Arsenal fans, at least one of them a multi-published author of very entertaining historical works based on Arsenal (I'm talking to you, Jon Spurling), claim that we were more than happy at the way George's Arsenal won their Football League Championships in 1989 and 1991. Have you ever heard so much nonsense? Let me say at this point that, if George's team had won the league playing that way, I wouldn't care less. If I was a Chelsea fan now I wouldn't care less. They're going to win the Premier League. You can't argue with that. The media, who espouse their desire to see entertaining football however, should be doing more to criticise Mourinho for his style of play rather than trying to use the Arsenal fans reaction on Sunday to make the point - don't forget that "boring, boring Arsenal" was a myth created by the press many years ago. Chelsea are a team with great players, or so we keep being told, yet they are currently playing no football. Eden Hazard (ridiculously) is going to win both player of the year awards - how can that be in a side that doesn't entertain? Frankly there is no need for Mourinho to be bothered, aside from the fact that he has been sacked from Chelsea before for not entertaining Roman Abramovich enough with the football on the pitch. The fact is, however, that George Graham's teams that ended up as Champions were brilliant to watch. Don't let some prats wishing to re-write history tell you any different, whether they're Arsenal fans or not. Things changed after 1992, I will grant you that (none of us cared when the League Cup, FA Cup and Cup Winners Cup came home), but not the sides that won Division One.
Let's dispel this business about George's teams being defensive or purely long-ball. In the seasons of success between 1986 and 1992 George used midfield players and wingers like Steve Williams, Paul Davis, David Rocastle, Michael Thomas, Brian Marwood, Anders Limpar, Paul Merson and Kevin Richardson. In attack we had Niall Quinn, Martin Hayes, Charlie Nicholas, Alan Smith, Merson (again), Kevin Campbell and Ian Wright. We also had top class attacking full-backs in Kenny Sansom, Viv Anderson, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon. Don't let anyone tell you that we were boring with footballers like that on the pitch. Was Anfield 89 boring? Where we were similar to the current Chelsea side was that we had fine goalkeepers and a well organised defence, marshalled by an exceptionally gifted centre-back and captain. The difference is that our defence allowed the midfield and attack to go and get goals. Yes, Chelsea are the second highest scorers in the division, but they are now content to get by doing just enough. It's good for them, and fair play to them, but it's awful to watch for everyone else. Of course, the press don't want to get on the wrong side of good old Jose as he might stop talking to them.
The worst thing about this Chelsea side is that they are the best in the country at the moment. That makes it even worse that they are playing the way they have done. They will probably go out and spank 5 or 6 goals past Leicester tonight because Mourinho has been pulled up lively by the reaction to Sunday. But it won't change the fact that their success is tarnished by a lack of ambitious play on the pitch. Could you ever have imagined the dominant Liverpool or Manchester United or Arsenal sides since the 1970s ever going in to a game with a rival and playing like that? Manchester City did it at Arsenal a couple of years back and Mancini got dogs abuse for it in the media - but they didn't like Mancini so that was alright as far as they were concerned. As I said above, you can't argue with what Mourinho is doing because it's a results business, but don't ever make out he wins Titles in the way George Graham did. And if you want to know just how good Arsenal were in 1988-89 watch this full season review from Youtube.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The reason Cesc Fabregas isn't an Arsenal player now?

Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal

I have little malice towards Cesc Fabregas. To me he is one of the finest footballers I've ever seen in an Arsenal shirt. If I was picking my greatest team of Arsenal players that I've been privileged enough to watch then it is a very close call between him and Emmanuel Petit to partner Vieira in midfield. Cesc was a prodigy, a player I knew was destined for the very top from the night I watched him make his Arsenal debut in the League Cup. Very few players exist who can pick a pass the way he can. For me, with his willingness to do the less glamorous side of the job too, he is a better player than Mesut Ozil. I couldn't be too upset at him when he left for Barcelona. We all knew it would happen one day, though the way he forced his transfer left a bitter taste. That Arsenal got so little money for him was down to Wenger and the other senior Arsenal figures that accepted such a low transfer fee for a player of his ability. I also knew that if he ever left Barcelona again then he would end up back in Arsenal's midfield - we had first refusal and surely only an idiot would turn down the chance to sign Cesc Fabregas. When he didn't end up at Arsenal after all then Arsene Wenger became that idiot. I couldn't blame Fabregas when it was clear Arsenal had decided against buying him back on the cheap. I was angry that he decided to go to a Mourinho managed Chelsea, or any other English club, given the way he had always talked about Arsenal after he had left us. At the same time there was a part of me that couldn't blame him even for that, simply because Arsene had snubbed him. Until recently I held Arsene Wenger entirely responsible for the fact that Cesc was winning Chelsea the Premier League (forget Eden Hazard - he's not Cesc's, nor Alexis', class).
So what has changed my opinion on laying the blame at Arsene Wenger's door? The reason has actually been with me since the away game at Crystal Palace when my Dad got talking to some fairly well connected friends in the away end. Now is the time to share it. I should say at this point that these people are not "in the know" types, but I would trust what they say given the people whom they know within the Club itself. I don't have "sources" and I don't do gossip. I don't say that this is the real reason why Cesc is not an Arsenal player right now, but it is the most plausible explanation I have yet heard as to why Arsene turned him down last year. 
Most people will know that Cesc Fabregas is represented by Darren Dein, the son of the man who for many is the missing piece at Arsenal - David Dein. Regular readers will know what I think about David Dein and not a lot of it is favourable. Darren Dein, a supposed Arsenal fan from the ultimate family of Arsenal fans, has represented a number of Arsenal players in recent years. Each of these individuals have one thing in common - they all exploited Arsenal to gain a transfer elsewhere. Each of them was considered a vital player at that time. Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry, Alex Song, Robin Van Persie, the list goes on. Now Arsene is well known to be a great friend of David Dein. However, he is perhaps not quite so comfortable in the company of Darren Dein. The story goes that Cesc, on being told that Barcelona were selling him, came cap in hand to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. At this point Arsene said that yes, he would have him back, under one condition - he must ditch Darren Dein as his agent. Arsene has become fed-up of Dein and the way he has stabbed Wenger in the back with his most high profile players. I'm not aware of any current Arsenal player represented by Dein (though I'm sure someone will point out that I am wrong). When presented with this ultimatum Cesc Fabregas decided he loved Darren Dein a little bit more than he loved Arsenal. He refused to cut his ties with Dein. Arsene Wenger, rightly in my opinion, stuck to his guns and turned down the chance to sign Fabregas. To spite Arsene and Arsenal he decided, with Dein's help, to join Chelsea instead.
As I said above, I don't say that this story is true, but I trust the people who told it. Moreover, it is a credible reason as to why he will be wearing blue on Sunday and not red shirts with white sleeves. It will be awful seeing him at Arsenal and playing for that lot, but the disruption Dein has caused over the years was something Arsene Wenger didn't want returning to his Arsenal dressing room and I think, over all, that has to have been the right decision.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

What did she wear? Back to Wembley in May

Tragic for Reading, magic for Arsenal

One day Arsenal will turn up for an FA Cup tie at the new Wembley stadium. We've had four of them there so far and have been awful in every one. It is a mark of how far below Premier League standard Reading are that Arsenal merited the win despite being truly awful on the day. That isn't to say that we couldn't much have argued had Reading won the game because we were so poor. But when, until that horrendous moment, their goalkeeper was the best player on the pitch you know you were still better than they were.
I said in the preview that if we played with our high pressing game we would have too much for Reading. For some reason it just wasn't in evidence. We weren't harrying their players in possession and making them give the ball up to us. When we got it we were slow and back to the obsessive sideways and backwards passing. I can not understand what possesses players like Cazorla and Ozil and Ramsey etc to want to play the ball to their centre-halves with such regularity. It was as though we'd gone back in time about six months to when we were playing some of the worst football of the Wenger era. Who in their right mind would want to see Per Mertesacker on the ball so much? With all that attacking talent nobody wanted to go forward. Danny Welbeck was making plenty of runs but the ball kept going in the opposite direction. Similarly we refused to give width to the play as the pass inside became increasingly more familiar. To say it was frustrating watching Arsenal yesterday would be an understatement.
When we got the goal it was the one moment of truly class football we played all day. Shock horror it came from a forward pass. And what a pass. In the first-half I thought Mesut Ozil was our best player by a long way. The pass he played to Alexis for that goal gets better every time I watch it. He had nine opposition players between himself and goal and yet he picked a beautiful chipped pass in to the path of the sprinting Chilean. Then there was that first-touch from Alexis, the drag back to send the defender totally the wrong way, and the calm finish. It was a World Class goal from a combination that cost Arsenal £70m. That kind of move is why you pay that kind of money. True quality costs cash. Remember Denilson and Bendtner?
At half-time, 1-0 up, I was looking for a fast start. Get another and it would be game over, and a matter of how many we would win by. Then, five minutes in to the second-half, we got a goal-kick. Szczesny picked the ball up and strolled slowly to the opposite side of his six-yard box and took an age to take it. We were time-wasting instead of going after the killer goals. There was obviously an attitude of "this lot are rubbish, we'll take the 1-0" about the way Arsenal were playing. It was utterly ridiculous. What were they thinking? Who told them to play with that attitude? Mertesacker told us on Thursday that they knew how they'd have to play, and yet this is what we got. Yet again it was empty words not backed up by the actions on the day. It was no surprise when Reading equalised and even less of a surprise to see Szczesny throwing it in the back of his own net. He should never have been playing in the first place, simple as that.
You'd have thought that might have been the wake-up shout we'd been looking for but we just kept playing the square rubbish. And for all that we were awful we had chances, a few of them from set-pieces. Gabriel drew a magnificent save from Federici and then missed a sitter. The introduction of Giroud made a huge difference against centre-backs who seemed determined to swap shirts with him from the moment he came on. If the officials had been doing their job we'd have had about three penalties just for fouls on Giroud. Mr Atkinson was his usual awful self in charge yesterday. The man is simply not capable of officiating at any level of football. We went on, of course, to see Ramsey miss a totally open goal having seen Federici save his first effort. I'm not quite sure why Ramsey was still on the pitch. For me, and everyone sitting where I was at Wembley, it should have been him who went off for Giroud with Welbeck moving to the wing. I just don't see why or how Ramsey gets in this side. For me we have Welbeck, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Rosicky and Gnabry who should all play ahead of him on the right. If he looks to be in the middle then Wilshere, Cazorla, Rosicky and Arteta are all a better bet simply because they all work harder and tackle, quite apart from using the ball so much more intelligently.
Finally we managed to grab a winning goal. There is no doubt it was a terrible moment for Adam Federici and it is hard not to feel sorry for him. Having said that, I saw a Tweet this morning from Harlow Steve reminding us all that nobody felt sorry for Szczesny against Birmingham in 2011. I'm also not having it that his mistake meant we were lucky to win. We saw the Reading goalkeeper make a lot of saves to keep his side in the game. Shortly before we got the winner he had got away with one as a shot from Ramsey squeezed through his hands and up over the bar. Giroud would go on to hit the post as well. It's a shame for Federici as that error will forever haunt a very good goalkeeper. It was also a shame for the Reading fans who, apart from the young idiots throwing bottles at us from the podium level in to the Wembley car-park, were a credit to their club - another Royals fan apologised for the bottles, while we were also wished good luck for the final as we got in the car. I think it's worth saying that Alexis didn't play particularly close to his best yesterday, but scoring two goals is the mark of quality. Gary said in the car coming home that Henry and Bergkamp often didn't play all that well, but you'd come away from games knowing they'd scored or made the winning goals. Class is what we are talking about, and it told yesterday when it mattered.
And so we face Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final. I'm surprised that it isn't Liverpool. The media are gutted that it isn't Liverpool as they so wanted to hype up the glorious farewell of Steven Gerrard. The Villa fans can have their moments but going to Wembley on 30th May will be a far more enjoyable experience in the absence of the scousers and their particular brand of scummery. We can look forward to it now and hope that, at last, our players turn up and play properly at Wembley. There is no way they will get away with it again if they don't.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Arsenal v Reading FA Cup semi-final preview

Back to Wembley again
So we go back to Wembley again tomorrow for another FA Cup semi-final. As with last year we find ourselves up against a side from the division below us. Without a doubt this in-form Arsenal side should smash Reading tomorrow. But we should have smashed Wigan at this stage last year. Nothing in football is straightforward, and definitely not in the FA Cup. If Arsenal think for one second that all they need to do is arrive at Wembley then they will get the nastiest shock of all. Reading are struggling near the bottom of the Championship but nothing can be taken for granted. Arsenal need to play at the same level, and with the same intensity, that they did at Old Trafford in the previous round. If our players do that then the result will take care of itself.
It's well worn territory but the fact we are going to Wembley tomorrow is a joke. Seeing your side play at Wembley is always special, regardless of the occasion. But for a semi-final, unless we are playing against Tottenham, it is a pointless exercise. The idea of reaching a Wembley final is the thing that excites people, not a semi-final. Perhaps for smaller clubs like Reading that might not be quite the case, but we really should be going to either Chelsea or Tottenham tomorrow to play this semi-final. As ever I am excited and looking forward to walking down Wembley Way tomorrow, there is nothing to beat it, but it's not quite the same is it?
We know that Arsene Wenger will be bringing in Szczesny tomorrow. The Pole hasn't played a game of football since the last round. He is hardly going to be match sharp. I don't like the idea of a "cup keeper" in the first place. I know Arsene does it primarily to ensure his back-up goalkeeper gets to play occasionally, but there is a reason why they are the back-up. I don't necessarily think Ospina is the answer in goal for Arsenal, and I'm not certain he's a better goalkeeper than Szczesny over all. However, Ospina is the current first-choice and Szczesny has had numerous chances only to make the same kind of mistakes time and again. It irks me that Ospina won't be in goal tomorrow, particularly as Szczesny has had no matches to get himself properly in the groove. Against a side like Reading it shouldn't cost us, but that is not to say that it won't.
In the back four it will be interesting to see how Wenger goes about things. I can see Gibbs coming in for Monreal and I don't really see that as too much of a problem. Monreal has been exceptionally good this season and deserves to be holding his place, but as far as I'm concerned  Gibbs is still a better player, and he is certainly a lot faster across the ground. I can't see the centre-backs being split up so there will be no place in the starting XI for Gabriel. The interesting thing will be whether or not Debuchy is considered fit enough to replace Bellerin. My guess would be that Debuchy is more likely to earn a place on the bench in place of Calum Chambers, perhaps (though I don't see the point in having  Gabriel, Debuchy and either of the left-backs on the bench at the same time).
Midfield should basically pick itself. Unless players are pointlessly rested then I see no change from the last two matches, but I am not a fan of Aaron Ramsey on the wing. I'd rather we played Theo out there. In an ideal scenario, from the available players, Ramsey would be alongside Coquelin with Cazorla out wide but Santi has been far too good to be moved from the centre.
Up front I wouldn't be surprised to see Welbeck come in for Giroud. Danny played in the last round, obviously, and Giroud had a poor game last weekend following a wonderful run of form. I think the extra pace of Welbeck can unsettle defenders from a lower level, whereas the physical aspect of Giroud's game may not be beyond less talented footballers. That isn't to say Giroud hasn't got enough skill or ability to beat them, of course he has, but pace and work rate will really upset Reading on the day.
So the yellow ribbons should all be on display tomorrow for The Arsenal going to Wembley. Sadly my car won't be decked out in the red and white as normal as the blasted thing is currently out of commission, so I'm indebted to Gary for giving me and Liam a lift. We'll be in convoy with the rest of the family and hopefully at Wembley in plenty of time to soak up some pre-match atmosphere. I'll be posting photos on the Instagram page at some point tomorrow. Depending on what time I get home I may be able to get something written late tomorrow night. Here's hoping that whatever I write, and whenever I write it, is something very positive in celebration of reaching another FA Cup Final.
As another taster I was interviewed for Reading FC's page at Vital Football. You can read the interview by following this link. In the meantime get yourself a bit of this to be in the mood for Wembley!
What did she wear?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Jack is back!

Back in time for more of this?
Since Jack Wilshere got injured at home to Manchester United, Arsenal's results have taken an upturn. Since Christmas they've been largely superb. Performances have generally got better as well, with the high point being the dismantling of Liverpool a couple of weeks ago. Given that Jack has long been considered the saviour by many of us this leads to an interesting question: are Arsenal better off without Jack Wilshere in the side? You could also ask, with the team playing as it is, where does Jack Wilshere get a place? And this isn't the first time that things have seemingly taken a positive turn once Jack was safely in the Abou Diaby wing of the training ground. To me it has to be a strange anomaly as Jack is genuinely that good. I don't believe, for one second, that Arsenal are better off without Jack Wilshere.
I've been able to watch both of the Arsenal Under 21's games this last week. I was at the stadium for the 4-1 hammering of Stoke City of last week, and I was pleased that the official website carried live coverage of the Reading game this week (one of the best things about Arsenal's short-lived TV channel was the live coverage of Reserves football). Jack showed some nice touches against Stoke but looked short of fitness. When he was on the ball he had the measure of less talented players (not all of them were younger than Jack as he's hardly a veteran himself). Off the ball you could have argued he looked disinterested, especially next to an all action display from the aforementioned Diaby. Clearly he wasn't close to a first-team return based on that Stoke outing.
Against Reading this week Jack looked a different player. In fact he looked a different player to the man who has played in the first-team in the last couple of seasons. One of the joys of watching Jack Wilshere in those Arsenal TV days was the way he used to run at the opposition and go past them. It created space for others and was genuinely exciting to watch. In his years playing mostly for the first-team that has gone from his game. He doesn't run at people and beat them anywhere near as often as he did as a kid. He is more likely to look for the pass and the one-two than to do what clearly comes naturally to him, and was the thing that made his name early on. Against Reading on Monday night all of that flair was back. Jack was the standout player on the pitch, just like he used to be. When he gets back in the first-team that is exactly how I want to see him play, whether he's playing the more reserved role currently occupied by Santi Cazorla, or if he's in for Mesut Ozil. Jack possesses the rare ability to take on defenders and commit them and beat them. With the way Arsenal play so intricately at times, particularly against an organised defence, that sort of player can make all the difference.
The difficult thing for Jack is how he gets back in to the team now. He's made three appearances at the lower level, and his running the other night told me he was a man wanting to show Arsene Wenger that he is ready. Clearly he won't be usurping anyone in the starting line-up any time soon, unless there are more new injuries. However, he has to be given a place on the bench. Jack Wilshere can change games. I don't see how the likes of Flamini can be retained among the substitutes now that Jack is back. His return, and hopefully his freshness, could be a real bonus as we get in to the final sprint. Starting at Wembley on Saturday I want to see Jack back with the Arsenal first-team.  
As we get towards Saturday I will be writing a proper preview piece at some time on Friday. I am also providing an Arsenal fans view for Reading's page on vitalfootball.co.uk - that is likely to be up at some point on Friday night, I think, so I will link to it from Twitter and Facebook as well as on this site.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

When the performance doesn't matter

Coquelin - the main man again

At this stage of the season, with an outside chance of threatening Chelsea, the only important thing is the result. We are effectively playing a cup-tie every game from here on and the only thing Arsenal's players need to concern themselves with is progressing to the next round. At the same time, the more points we put on the board, the more quickly we can secure our place in the European Cup again for next season. This Arsenal team is on a great run and long may it continue.
The fact is that we played badly yesterday. For me it was as bad as we were in many games prior to Christmas. After a bright first ten minutes or so we went in to our shells, stopped playing the high pressing game, and got annoyingly slow in our build up. You know we're playing badly when Mertesacker is the man who sees more of the ball at his feet than anyone else. I can't even begin to understand what goes through the mind of an attacking and creative midfield player who wants to play passes back to his centre-half at every opportunity. However, thanks to that quick start we got the goal that won the game. Coquelin broke up a Burnley move around the halfway line and sprung us forward. Yes it ended up with a scrappy goal (though a fine finish from Aaron Ramsey) but it was the closing down of inferior opponents near their own defensive third that created the opportunity.
The players who impressed yesterday were few and far between. Following an early moment when Mertesacker's lack of speed was exposed I thought he had one of his best games of the season. For once he was aerially dominant and his reading of the play was at its best. I also thought Koscielny played well. His passing out from the back was poor, but at least he was attempting a forward pass which was more than could be said of certain star players. Nacho Monreal continued his superb form and was excellent on our left - before the game Sky highlighted how almost half of Burnley's attacking play comes down that side of the pitch but Nacho snuffed out everything that came his way. Ahead of the defence there wasn't much of note apart from the continually imperious Francis Coquelin. Since coming in to the side he has provided the balance and discipline in the defensive side of Arsenal's game that has been missing for so long. He makes tackles, covers well, and uses the ball sensibly. Coquelin seems to have understood his limitations with the ball at his feet and doesn't tend to try and be clever at any time. He also stays away from chasing through to the edge of the opposition box - that isn't his role and he knows that, which is something that sets him apart from Mathieu Flamini, for example. I also want to say a word in favour of David Ospina who did well yesterday - there seems no way back for Szczesny any time soon as long as the Colombian keeps playing well.
I admit that I was getting increasingly frustrated as the game went on yesterday. I know Burnley have had some good results of late, and have a very decent home record against the top sides. However, the first ten minutes showed that they couldn't live with our players when we played the game in the right way. By going deep in to the game at just 1-0 we were only one slip, or a Mike Dean decision, away from giving up the win. The square and backwards passing when we had the ball was excruciating to watch at times. Giroud seemed to be in one of his funny moods yesterday where he showed a lack of interest in the battling side of the game, and it was a breath of fresh air when Danny Welbeck came on and provided the pace that would finally stretch the Burnley defenders. In fact, once Welbeck came on we were never really pressured at all, except for when Ramsey got the ball and twice gave it away by trying to play like Messi within thirty yards of his own penalty area.
For all that I didn't enjoy our display, and how it must have been a truly awful game for any neutral watching on TV, I can be more than happy with the 1-0 win. If results go our way this afternoon then we can sit three points clear in second, and could potentially go in to our game with Chelsea within five or six points of them, with the games in hand wiped out. That really would make it interesting should we win against them. At the moment it's a distant dream, but the light is not yet extinguished. One other thing to note, assuming what I read earlier is correct - Fabregas and Matic are both one booking away from a two game ban. Imagine Chelsea having to play Man Utd and Arsenal without those two and Diego Costa...

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Ozil shows what a £40m player should do - Arsenal 4 - 1 Liverpool

At last!

One of my biggest criticisms of Mesut Ozil has been that he doesn't do the things that excite a supporter. As a £40m player I want him to get me off my seat, to do something extraordinary. You can quote his stats for pass completion, or for the amount of ground he covers, but that means very little to me. David Batty ran all over the place and never gave the ball away, Mikel Arteta never gives the ball away, but they didn't cost £40m. I realise that comparison is probably slightly unfair on Ozil, but I use it to illustrate my point. There have been flashes of brilliance from Ozil such as his goal against Napoli last season, and the pass to Flamini to set up his goal at Cardiff. Those are the touches of genius that mark him out as a special player. A World Class player. We haven't seen enough of that since he arrived. Yesterday he showed how good he is. He showed why you pay that sort of money to bring in a top player.
The first piece of Ozil magic has been overlooked slightly because of the great play from Bellerin to put the ball in to the net. I should say at this point that I missed the game yesterday through work, and that I've only seen the highlights on Match Of The Day and on Arsenal Player. If you get the chance to see it again then please take the time to appreciate the pass from Ozil to Aaron Ramsey. That pass was so good as to have been worth paying to see the game on its own. There are not many players in the English game that could have picked that pass, with such precision, knowing that it was going to take out the entire Liverpool midfield and half of their defence. I can not speak highly enough of the quality involved in the execution of that 40 or 50 yard pass to feet. For Bellerin to then go on, beat a couple of men in the area, and curl the ball in to the corner was the icing on the cake. The improvement in the play of that young man since he started the game at Dortmund earlier this season is unbelievable.
The second Ozil genius moment was the second goal. Before we even get to the free-kick we need to appreciate the way he took control of a ball that was fired in to him, one touch to control and another as the ball rolled across him to keep it moving to the right. He was then clattered from behind, but it was his own skill that drew in the defender who just wasn't quick enough to deal with Ozil's ability on the ball. Then there is the free-kick itself. I can see that people might want to say Mignolet should have done better as he's supposed to be that side etc, but just look at the precision, and the whip that Ozil has on the ball. When I talk about £40m players needing to do things that excite and thrill the supporters then this is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. I've written Ozil off as a flop in English football. If he goes and proves me wrong now I'll be one very happy Gooner.
The third goal was another cracker, or course. And again there's an overlooked bit of quality even before Alexis smashed it in. Arsenal gained possession when Coquelin (how good is he?) pressured the ball and it came for Bellerin. He then smashed a pass towards Aaron Ramsey who controlled the ball and turned on it all in one move. It was something that few other British players could do because they lack technique. The ball was really hit hard at Ramsey, yet he was able to kill it to exactly where he wanted it to be. In doing so he opened up the pass that he found for Alexis. The little man simply stepped inside Kolo Toure and unleashed a Chilean missile that was past Mignolet before he could move. Arsenal's two most expensive ever signings were putting on the big show. Poor old Kolo, meanwhile, really started to look his age, whatever that might be. It's a shame to see an Arsenal great looking like that.
That three goal burst in eight minutes was amazing. In truth we could (should) have been a couple of goals up early on, and then pegged back as Liverpool missed a couple of chances. As it was we had pretty much put the game to bed before half-time. As is often the way with Arsenal the second-half was much quieter.
Liverpool got a goal back, of course, and that could have proved to be costly. I think the penalty decision was right. Some might argue that Sterling had lost control of the ball, or that he was going down before Bellerin got there, but I don't think you could complain. He caught Sterling late and that's that. If it had been at the other end and not been given we'd have going absolutely crazy about it. Having already been booked I can't really see why Bellerin stayed on the pitch - it was a yellow card foul in its own right, but Antony Taylor is probably the worst referee I've ever seen. Ospina ought to have saved the weak penalty from Henderson - having got a hand on it he should have been able to push it away from goal. I wonder if his lack of height prevented him getting enough on the ball.
Arsenal weren't finished of course. Can picked up a deserved second yellow for an awful foul on Danny Welbeck. Rodgers claiming that it was a slippery pitch was embarrassing. From there on the win was never in doubt. The move that ended with Santi Cazorla hitting the post was a joy. And then Olivier Giroud put the crowning glory on a great Arsenal display with a superb goal of his own. Giroud really has been superb this season. Having missed three months out with injury his goals tally is exceptional. Leaving aside the Monaco game (the most bizarre aberration considering his form) he has probably been the best centre-forward in the country since Christmas along with Harry Kane (who skippered that Mickey Mouse lot today!) He has also been scoring goals against the better teams which is something he seemed unable to do in the past. I hope he can keep it up.
All in all it was an Easter celebration to enjoy for us Gooners. Unfortunately for me I was unable to be there because of my job. It's rare to dispatch a big club in such a way as we did yesterday which makes me even more gutted to have missed it. Despite that, if Arsenal are winning then I'm more than happy, whether I'm there to see it or not. Hopefully a strong U21 team will take the field against Stoke on Tuesday for a game that I am going to be able to go to.