14 May 2013

Finally, a solid thumping

It's been since March 30th since we well and truly spanked a team, and it was a 4-1 score that time as well. Aside from the minor blip that was Mike Dean's gift to Wigan, we really did run rough-shod over Wigan in famous style. Even with Maloney's goal, the outcome never really felt like it was in doubt.

Interestingly, although we'll have our complaints on the Arteta's "foul" on Arteta, it was an opportunity Wigan had earned. To the 30th minute or so, we were pushing our possession up close to 60%, but by the time Maloney went down in the 45th (gravity must pull on him extra-hard), possession was even at 50% as Wigan pressed. Credit to them; even before Podolski's goal, they played positive football, in part knowing that they needed all three points but also in part to Martinez's approach. It's a credit to them and a shame that they're relegated as a result. Too bad there aren't a few points available to teams that try to play the game well. Having said that, Maloney fell pretty softly there, enough for the Emirates to rain down abuse on Mike Dean. Too bad they didn't get a legit goal, settling instead of a dubious at-best direct kick.

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Our attack was aggressive and sharp throughout most of the game, speckled a bit with missed chances. A quick look at who missed shows you how bright we were looking: Walcott charged down the right, pulled two defenders with him, and put in a short cross that Cazorla just wide. Gibbs put a shot just wide after a rebound from a Sagna shot. Koscielny just missed poking home a corner at the near post. Walcott netted but was rightly flagged offside. If any one of these had gone home, it would have been game over. The goals would come in the second half.

Our first half goal was a nice bit of work from Podolski, who drifted from the goal-line on Cazorla's corner, caught it on the short-hop at the six, and headed home. It was almost eerie how everyone cleared out for him. It was as if they were spots of grease and he was a drop of dish-soap. Bad simile, but you'll see what I mean in the highlights. Podolski was a revelation in the central role, netting twice and looking like a threat all night. Were it not for Cazorla's four assists, we might be tabbing Poldi as the MOTM. His second was a nifty piece of work as Cazorla headed forward for him to charge into the box, beating Robles to the ball and deftly flicking over him with the outside of his left. The lad has a nose for goal and how has 11 in the Prem. I'm not suggesting we've suddenly found an in-house answer to our striker needs, but an in-form Podolski is certainly a sharp arrow to have in the quiver.

Walcott had netted in the 63rd, slotting home a Cazorla cross, meaning that he has now scored in three consecutive appearances, each vital to securing points: two wins and a draw. I've been calling for and suggesting that he's on the verge of a break-through. I don't want to make too much of this recent run of form, but how sweet it would be to see him get to the next level. Today's goal nudges him into the top ten in the Prem, level with Fulham's Berbatov, West Brom's Lukaku, and Southampton's Lambert. If he can continue and build on a strong finish to the season, we might see ourselves mentioning him in more direct comparison to the likes of van Persie, Suarez, and Bale, 20-goal scorers all.

Of course, that's not all. Aaron Ramsey put the game on ice by collecting a delicious Cazorla pass down the sideline, carried it into the box, sized up Robles, and drilled it past him. 4-1. He was his usual consistent self, with 85% passing accuracy and  93 touches, and led the team with five tackles. It's nice to see him burnish those "boring" stats with a headline-worthy goal, and a sharp one at that.

Of course, Wigan's relegated, and that's too bad. I wish we could have found a way to let Wigan stay up and Sunderland get relegated as punishment for hiring Di Canio, but it just won't work out this year. So it goes. We're back in 3rd 4th (sorry, got a little too excited) as we into the the final weekend. Everyone plays at the same time Sunday, so no one gets any advantages. Of course, if anyone needed a rival's result as motivation at this point, they're fools. We'll face a banged-up but safe Newcastle and Spurs will face a potentially fiestier Sunderland under that putz Di Canio, but as long as we manage our affairs, we can ignore Spurs' result. Heck, it's even possible for us to wrest 3rd place from Chelsea. If we win by two and Chelsea loses or draws, we'll claim third on goal differential. After their Europa League final match on Wednesday, they'll face a stubborn, stubborn Everton squad playing its last game for Moyes. They'll be without Ramires after his second yellow against Villa, and they could still be without Hazard and Terry, who left the same game with injuries. Good times.