By Dan Ferguson
In a typical New Year game played in wind and rain, we were treated to something extraordinary.
Genuinely thrilling, awe-inspiring, touching, unscripted.
I don’t want to make too much out of Giroud’s goal, because it could so easily have been cancelled out by a better Benteke far-post header, but it is the best I’ve seen by Arsenal for a long, long time.
If you need to see it again from all the angles, here’s a link. http://arsenalist.com/f/2016-17/arsenal-vs-crystal-palace/goaaal-what-a-goal-olivier-giroud-1-0.html (thanks to Arsenalist and Arseblog)
I just want to say this. How can people say that his instinct in some way cancelled his intention, and therefore the goal lacked as much kudos? What world do some people live in???
The game was largely as I predicted. Still thousands of empty seats, and a muted atmosphere. A really typical match in the making.
But Arsenal really were up for it. You could tell that they wanted to take the game to Palace and would do so relentlessly.
Possibly they had studied Palace and worked out that their ball-retention was pretty poor. The good players (Cabaye, Zaha, Benteke, Townsend) did OK. But three of those four were committed to doing a Big Sam defensive shift that both cancelled their effectiveness, yes probably kept the score down.
Arsenal have clicked again, and it was interesting to see the galvanising effect of a number 10 Iwobi. It won’t always work, but in my preview I pondered the absence of Ozil and we certainly got ‘an’ answer. It isn’t ‘the’ answer, but if it is food for thought, then we have eaten well.
The players looked like they didn’t know how to throw this game away. I’m sure the pundits and nay-sayers were talking up the wet pitch etc before Iwobi’s goal, and trying to suggest a contest. But it wasn’t really there.
We passed, tackled, created, fouled with measured precision. In all honesty, it should have been 6.
Now Arsenal go on to Bournemouth with their heads high. Eddie Howe’s team continue to defy expectations, but have been turned over more this season by teams around themselves. Their home record is fairly good and they’ve won 5 of their last 8 home games, but they ship goals. A lot of goals. It isn’t really in their game to park the bus.
Howe will try to get his team to go toe-to-toe with Arsenal and that is their problem. They cannot play flowing expansive football, and yet be compact and narrow without the ball.
So with a return to some form, and the assists and scoring records of Alexis and Giroud, I think Arsenal will have too much for Bournemouth and this time Alexis will bag a couple of goals. It will be his kind of game.
On another note, I’m glad that Spurs have hit form before they play Chelsea. I really hope they have the kind of game most Arsenal fans will pray for. Neutrals will want it to be a high-scoring contest and the best team winning. I hope there is enough spite and ‘professionalism’ in it to tie key players in suspensions for the next few games. Bah humbug and all that.
At the moment, I cannot see Chelsea and Liverpool dropping points with the same regularity as the teams immediately below them.
But at the same time, their extended squads are not as fine-tuned in terms of match time. Anything can happen still and it’s all to play for.
Have a great bank holiday, and though I’m off the sauce for January, I’m toasting Giroud because he deserves it. What a goal!