18 January 2014

Arsenal 2-0 Fulham: Cazorla's beautiful brace

Two beautiful second-half goals from a scintillating Santi Cazorla despatched Fulham, and the score might have even flattered the Cottagers a bit as there were goal-line clearances, brilliant saves, and dented woodwork as Arsenal peppered Stekelenburg all game. It was a stellar performance and one that comfortable keeps us in first for another few weeks (with FA Cup matches next weekend).

We'd been knocking on the door for most of the first half but couldn't quite knock it down until the 57th minute, when a nifty sequence saw Cazorla tip-toe along the top of the box, pass in to Giroud who flicked deeper into to Wilshere, whose cut-back pass found Cazorla curling in. He drilled shot from the penalty-spot into the top corner, with defenders and Stekelenburg helpelessly watching the ball ping around the box. It wasn't quite Norwich, but it was a thing of beauty all the same.

Five minutes later, it was Cazorla again, latching onto a poorly headed clearance and fizzing a shot from the top of the box, through Sidwell's legs (that tosser) and catching Stekelenburg moving right. It was a fine perfromance from the diminutive Spaniard, a welcome return to form after slogging through recent matches, and a suggestion that, with Walcott out and some uncertainty about that right flank, the left-flank will be an area to look to.

And it wasn't just Cazorla. When Podolski came on, he looked dangerously hungry and was unfortunate not to come away with a brace of his own. Coming on in the 70th minute for Gnabry, he almost immediately netted, drilling a pass from Wilshere, but an alert Stekelenburg managed to deflect it. Minutes later, Stekelenburg just barely got fingers to a thunderous shot, and Podolsk's shot hammered the post. It was a vital signal of Podolski's potential. Just as I was wondering if Cazorla's performance might further push Podolski further down the bench and away from the action, he announced that he wasn't going anywhere just, yet, thank you very much. He may not ever be a regular starter, but if he could content himself with a "super-sub" role, coming on in the 60th or 70th minute, be it for Cazorla or for Giroud, he might carve out an invaluable niche for himself.

Back to the match, it's not as if Fulham were without their moments. Darren Bent came on and nearly added to his tally of of five goals in his four appearances against Arsenal, running onto a cross in the box only for Szczesny to attempt the save, knocking into Bent who then chased it down but couldn't slot home into the empty net, due in part to Kos's last-ditch tackle. Kasami took a well-struck spot-kick just outside the box on our left-side, and Szczesny let it squirm through his hands only to collect just before the on-rushing Clint Dempsey slid in.

An that's all she wrote. Man City defeated Cardiff 4-1 to stay within a point, and we'll see what Chelsea does tomorrow when Man U, still without Rooney or van Persie.

'Til next time, thanks for your visit!