Another weekend, another set of quite pleasantly surprising results. Our game went fairly well if in somewhat of a stuttering fashion to begin with thanks to some quite questionable refereeing by Lee Mason, but a good win nonetheless. I guess Stoke couldn’t quite do it on a cold, wet night at the Emirates (LOL – thanks @Ankit_Nayee, great tweet!).
The game began with us on the front foot and probing for a breakthrough but we did look a little shaky at the back. This was further thrown awry when Mustafi went off injured with a hamstring twang. It looks to be a not so bad strain, so he’ll be out for 3 weeks rather than 3 months. Not the best timing but that’s why the title of this piece is ‘Acid Test’. Our squad is really about to be put through its paces with trips to Everton and City away on the horizon. I felt as though we needed an absolute minimum of 5 points from the Stoke, Everton and City games so a win vs Everton gets us to 6 giving us a freebie of sorts vs City. It’s now crucial that we take advantage of their indifferent form to maintain our title challenge. The change we made pushed Gabriel into the centre of defence with Bellerin returning to right back. This actually gave us more impetus going forward, however left us a little more vulnerable with Gabriel and Koscielny not quite at the same level of understanding as the Koscielny and Mustafi relationship. Stoke had a couple of half chances with Joe Allen in good positions but then got a lucky break with one of the weirdest penalty awards I’ve seen given to Stoke for Allen basically running into Xhaka with the ball not really close to either of them. If he had control of the ball then I might understand it but he didn’t and Allen ran into Xhaka more than anything else. Charlie Adam the leader of the Orc army put it away with Cech diving the wrong way once again.
We got back into the game with some neat football around their area and Alexis played a ball to Bellerin in space on the right hand side who squared first time for Walcott to prod home his 10th goal of the season. A great return for the wideman and it’s not just the goals as we all know, his work rate seems to still be ever present, which has been maintained. Long live this new version of Theo I say. The Ox had a half chance to put us ahead, once again with some decent work down the right hand side. The first half came to a close and the second began with a bang for ourselves. We looked determined to take a hold of the game and it only took 4 minutes for us to take the lead. The Ox played a wonderful lobbed pass through to Ozil who everyone thought (the cameraman included) he was going to chest down and finish only to see him beautifully head the ball over an onrushing Grant. 2-1 and back in control of the game. There were some great chances created from ourselves to make it 3-1 but just couldn’t quite take them. Peter Crouch then came on and I started to feel a tad nervous again, similar to when Andy Carroll was imminent last week. His first touch was very nearly the equaliser, but thankfully Cech was on hand to save well. We then put the game to bed with an inspired substitution from Wenger. The Ox had played really well but with the fixtures coming up in mind he chose to give him a rest and bring on the slightly more creatively savvy (as well as better in possession) Iwobi. He played a one-two with Alexis before Alexis was tripped and then diabollicaly stamped on by none other than, you guessed it, Charlie Adam. The video can be found here. Alexis Sanchez is on the floor having been fouled and Adam thought it prudent to go out of his way to stamp on his leg. Not to stop him from scoring. Not for retribution from an earlier challenge from Alexis. Not even in the midst of a mele. Simply because he is an enormous c**%. He has brain parts missing as his MO is simply two fold. Score from the half way line as often as possible and injure as many players as inhumanly possible (I say inhumanly as he is definitely part orc). Thankfully Alexis was unhurt and Iwobi went on to score to really make Adam feel like he’d seen his own reflection.
The remainder of the game petered out without much incident and we could well have made it 4 or 5 with a little better decision making but 3-1 it remained. Then the real fun began. Leicester found out that the season started again and Mahrez seems to finally have gotten over the fact that Jamie Vardy is a raging racist and begun passing to him once more. Some quite brilliant counter attacking football saw them race to a 4-0 lead over City. Much criticism is being levelled at Guardiola, however he is within his first season having to impress upon a new style in a new league. Bayern aren’t exactly flying against the ‘German farmers’ nor are Barcelona top of La Liga and winning Champions League’s for fun. He is in my mind one of the greatest managers around, and while the media moguls of the sporting world say that Conte’s new style could render Guardiola outdated we have to remember that Wenger is still here. Still playing the same way, still endeavouring to play football the way we all love to see it played, still going about every game with a view to win. 20 years on. He’s not been shelved by new management, rather new money so I feel the criticism levelled at Guardiola is unjustified as yet. Give him this season and a full second summer of transfer business to really judge him. Leave the fan boys and hate mongering to Guillem ‘I know everything’ Balague and Stan ‘look at me I’m controversial’ Collymore. Let’s just enjoy some of the finest footballing minds and talent in our league.
The weekend was capped off with Sp*rs and Liverpool dropping more points so we can only be happy with our return. We even gained a couple of goals on Chelsea in the goals scored column as well as one goal in the goal difference column. A good weekend all around. This next week will be a massively tough one and one that if we pass through with flying colours it might just be an incredible Christmas.
Have a wonderful week people.
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.