A Fine Day With Occasional Sunny Spells
4th January 2015 5:30 pm
It wouldn't be surprising to learn that the pre-match managerial talk in both dressing rooms contained something along the lines of 'We want to win this but don`t risk any injuries'. At least that seemed to be the spirit in which the match was played for the most part. At times it seemed that both sides were looking to see who could keep the ball the longest. Then again maybe it was just a natural consequence of playing the fourth game in ten days.
Nevertheless Arsenal created some good chances and Hull virtually none. There were some moments of bright play at various points when the famous handbrake was released but for the most part one hand was kept on it with a boot hovering over the footbrake too. Very early on some bright play created a chance for Campbell put through by Sanchez but a rather tame shot was saved. Shortly after Sanchez had a shot blocked and then chipped over going for an audacious scoop into the far top corner.
Rosicky was in great form turning and running at the defence instantly controlling almost any ball into him, making space for and finding an intelligent pass to keep us moving forward. Inevitably he flagged noticeably in the latter stages of the game but in the first half he might well have been our best player. Despite the flashes of inventiveness, aided by a Hull side who really didn't seem to believe they could win it or perhaps with a lengthy injury list just didn't want the distraction of a Cup run when lying in 15th 2 points off a relegation place, this was a game with long patches of more pedestrian play. Whatever Hull's motivation for a rather subdued performance ours didn't always seem that enthusiastic either.
After Mertesacker's goal from a set piece corner, Sanchez when put through superbly by Rosicky, after a typical driving run from the Czech, had a great chance blocked brilliantly by McShane on the goal line after rounding the keeper. Having created 3 or 4 really good chances in the first 20 minutes or so the handbrake was applied once more and pretty well stayed on for the remainder of the half.
In the second half Walcott's pace gave him a couple of chances and though he looked a little sharper than he had in the first half he still seemed, understandably I suppose, to be lacking match sharpness and for most of the time he was on the pitch he was mainly a peripheral figure.
Coquelin had another good game winning a surprising number of defensive headers, making a number of interceptions tackles and blocks. He was fortunate though when launching himself into a tackle with feet off the ground very late in the game, when we were 2 goals to the good and only a few minutes left to play. He picked up a yellow card when he may well have seen red. It was a risk he didn't need to take and if his performances over the last three games were perhaps giving Wenger pause for thought if a defensive midfielder that he really wanted was proving hard to come by this month then a red card now might have persuaded him otherwise.
Our second goal came from the industrious Sanchez who apparently declined an invitation to sit this one out. There were some claims that the Chilean is playing in the red zone but post match Wenger said that none of the tests show any signs of fatigue in him. There was nothing in his performance in this game to suggest he was showing any signs of tiredness either. In a centre forwards position with his back to the goal Cazorla played a ball into him which he controlled, turned and decisively side footed home.
It has been an energy sapping run of games over the holiday period but maybe this was just the contest Arsenal needed. A chance to exercise some fringe players and rest some fragile ones while Mertesacker, who must have felt a little dumped upon of late, gained a boost to his confidence and Walcott got some game time under his belt. All in all a good day and a satisfying way to round off the holiday season with a whole week now in which players recharge their batteries while the seemingly nuclear powered Alexis will no doubt be lighting up the training pitch.