Arsenal continued their annual defence of the final Champions League place yesterday with a vital victory over Hull City.
I say vital because not only was a tricky fixture successfully negotiated and another three points collected, but the comprehensive scoreline will count for a lot on May 17th when the teams meet again in the FA Cup final. After watching us toil against Wigan, Steve Bruce and his men would’ve fancied their chances of an upset, but now they’ll be less confident. Losing by three goals with the game over after 54 minutes was a massive psychological blow and hopefully it will help to get us over the line at Wembley.
That being said, we were as usual crap for the opening half hour and if Hull had taken the lead their superiority deserved it could have been a very different outcome. Shane Long missed when clean through and Szczesny made one outstanding save and quite a few important punches and high catches as we weathered a lot of pressure. The gobby Pole showed why he is our number one and for me, he has to start at Wembley. People clamouring for Fabianski to be included just because he saved some penalties in the shootout seem to have forgotten him going walkabout in normal time when he hared out of his area and then had to scramble back. Luckily nothing came of it and it was swept under the carpet. Fabianski has improved a lot, but he still has that rash element to his game and is not as good as Szczesny. Simple as that. That’s why Szczesny is our number one and Fabianski will be looking for a mediocre Premiership club in the summer as Mannone did before him. Play your best team at Wembley Arsene and end this bloody trophy drought to shut those annoying Chelsea/Spurs fans up.
That’s how you finish boys
Back to the game, which changed when Arsenal showed their class on 31 minutes. Great play between Cazorla and Ramsey allowed the latter a clear sight of goal and his finish was excellent. Oh, how we’ve missed his dynamism and willingness to run beyond the front man. The only other person in the squad who can do that from a central midfield area is Wilshere, so when both are injured it blunts our attacking threat. Instead of carrying the likes of Diaby, we should have another midfielder in the squad with an eye for goal who can make intelligent attacking runs like that. Yet another squad issue Wenger has to address in the summer.
The second goal on the stroke of halftime turned the game massively in our favour. Podolski’s finish was once again excellent as he lashed home a loose ball to continue his fine recent form. I can’t help feeling that if that chance had fallen Hull’s way they had nobody on the pitch with enough quality to have taken it. That basically was the difference yesterday, and hopefully it will be at Wembley too.
The second half was a procession as Hull seemed to emerge from the tunnel a beaten side. Their defending was shambolic for the killer third goal which Ramsey was again at the hub of and a comfortable three points was heading back down to London.
What did we learn today? Nothing new, just further proof that we are good against poor teams and poor against good teams. It’s an inexpensive recipe for fourth place every season which Kroenke and Wenger seem perfectly happy with, and while there is no pressure from fans for things to change it will be the same for years to come.
At the final whistle fourth place seemed in the bag, but then I watched Everton totally outplay Man Utd. 2-0 flattered Man Utd as Martinez adapted his tactics yet again to suit the occasion and gain a morale boosting victory. I think they will draw with Man City and win their other two games, which means we need two wins and a draw from our remaining three games because of Everton’s superior goal difference. That should be a simple enough task given our fixtures, although I will be a little concerned if Norwich need a win against us on the final day of the season to stay up. Hopefully we can put the matter to bed before then and rest some players that day for the cup final.
So the Everton/Wigan wobble seems to have been steadied and we are winning and scoring goals again. I expect us to continue like that and get the job done as there is no team better at grinding out fourth place than us — it is Wenger’s modus operandi after all. Leave the title challenge to ambitious, dynamic managers like Brendan Rodgers Arsene, just do enough to get us fourth place again, there’s a good chap.
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