05 December 2013

Arsenal 2-0 Hull: Bendtner, I owe you an apology...

...of sorts. Like many Gooners, I've heaped abuse on the man, much of it richly deserved. Why, as recently as my last post before the match, I scorned him by saying that Hull's aerial weakness is a problem "that even Nicklas Bendtner (should he get the nod over Giroud) should be ready to exploit". Imagine my bemusement when, barely ninety seconds in, none other than Bendtner himself puts us ahead with a finely headed goal, his first Prem goal in nearly three years. He could've made it his second at the 14th minute when McGregor coughed out a rebound from an Özil shot, but he was caught flat-footed (no fault of his own, really). From that point on, he'd proven his worth, if only for the day, as we were able to ride out the rest of the match in fine fashion. Giroud? Rested. Three points? Claimed.

Let's pause for a minute to give credit where credit's due: me I did, after all, get nine of eleven starters named.  I called for Vermaelen in Koscielny and missed that, and slotted Walcott in on the wing only for Rosický to appear there instead of playing center-mid. Not too shabby. I also got the final scoreline right in my match preview. Okay, okay, I did also suggest a 3-0 final score, so I'm guilty of trying to have it both ways, but, as is my habit, I'm sweeping that under the rug for now. I trust you'll do the same.

More pertinently, it is worth pointing out that Bendtner's goal came from some nifty action along Hull's left flank, as Rosický, along the sideline, played a back-pass to Ramsey who one-touched toward the endline for Jenkinson to cross into the box. Bendtner, bless his chonmage-ed cranium, nodded home. The traffic went all one way for most of the match, will Hull showing little threat on the counter, mustering only seven shots to our 20, putting only two on target. Szczesny claims yet another clean-sheet, but as I'm sure he'll be the first to tell you, it's largely because of the dominating performance in front of him.

We did dominate possession to the tune of 67% and the ball spent most of its time in Hull's defensive half, which is no surprise. If there's a nit to be picked, it's that we didn't run away from them as perhaps we "should' have, as Liverpool did in their 5-1 thrashing of Norwich. Nit-picking. It's always on offer but rarely worth pursuing.  Hull rarely threatened, nor did they look inclined to. Had it not been for Bendtner's goal, one might have thought that they would be content to park the bus and hope for a point. It was not to be. In fact, they came way flattered a bit as we had a few chances that could have led to a rout.

Huh. Just sayin'.
Aside from Bendtner's miss in the 14th minute (again, not a criticism as the rebound caught him wrong-footed), Aaron 'effin Ramsey had a fine shot saved in the 31st minute, denying him a 14th goal on the season. Pause to appreciate that statistic. Last season, we were contented, perhaps ecstatic, that we had a someone tally 21 goals—on the season. Here it is, the first match of December, and we already have a man who's two-thirds of the way there. We've just barely passed the one-thirds mark. Chew on that, Piers Morgan.

On the subject of Ramsey, let's step back for a minute to enjoy the sublime pleasure of his assist. Working in tight space just after the half, he and Özil executed a tidy little give-and-go for the second goal. Credit Ramsey with the deft, no-look pass to Özil, who had little to do other than slotting home past a helpless McGregor.

Sorted.

Hull look like they'll stick around the Prem for a bit, and I always root for the promoted clubs but for the times we clash with them. We arguably posed their most-difficult fixture to date, and, by Steve Bruce's own admission, they were fortunate to avoid an "embarrassing evening" and were able to keep it respectable.

So it goes. We took care of business, which is more than Man U can say, losing at home to Everton. Southampton also lost at home to Aston Villa, and our other rivals eked out victories of varying degrees of quality. We'll host a stubborn Everton side fresh off that victory at Old Trafford, but we'll go into the match with four clean sheets and nine goals scored in our last four matches. Not bad. Not bad at all.