Evening all and what a fine, glorious one it is too. I suppose I ought to start with our one-nil Community Shied win over Chelsea this afternoon, which was secured courtesy of a left-footed rocket of a strike by Alex ‘Cesar Azpilicueta’s my b*tch’ Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Of course, it was ‘only’ the Community Shield and the hard stuff isn’t available until we entertain West Ham on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, but still, I like the buzz today’s result has produced. Oh yes.
Although the scoreline wasn’t as emphatic as I had suggested it might be earlier this week, the Ox did partly do my prediction proud, with his bullying of Chelsea’s Spanish fullback, who admittedly escaped a nervous breakdown in the end, but not the referees notebook, for a desperate shirt-pull on his fancy-haired tormentor.
And immediately following his attempt to undress the Ox, the floundering fullback was shown mercy by his manager Jose Mourinho and replaced with Kurt Zouma shortly before the 70 minute mark. If Azpilicueta is the league’s best left back, then best of luck to the rest of them when they come up against the ferociously effervescent Ox in today’s form.
I won’t go into a blow by blow account of the action, mainly because Chelsea didn’t land any, but also because you probably saw the game and by the off chance you didn’t, there are plenty of places to find a detailed match report. Instead I’ll start with team selection and the headline news was that Theo Walcott assumed the central striking role ahead of Olivier Giroud and that Jack Wilshere missed out on the occasion entirely as he’d picked up an ankle knock in training yesterday.
Having seen the starting 11, I wondered how we’d line up. Who would play from the left? Would it be Mesut Ozil? Or Oxlade-Chamberlain with Aaron Ramsey playing from the right? Or vice versa? But no, it was the one player I never envisaged being moved from the middle after his blossoming in that position last year and his outstanding displays there so far this pre-season, Santi Cazorla.
As it was, Ramsey joined Francis Coquelin in his preferred central midfield area and Ozil was given his usual licence to roam elegantly across the pitch ahead of them. And in truth, although I could see the logic of using Ramsey’s greater physical presence and stamina against Nemanja Matic and Ramires in the middle of the park, it did, in the early stages of the contest at least, seem as though Santi’s absence from the middle disrupted our rhythm a little.
But as the game wore on, I think Arsene Wenger was completely vindicated in his decision, as the Ramsey-Coquelin combo proved too formidable a pairing for Chelsea to bypass.
The only goal of the game arrived in the 24th minute and the move began with Petr Cech playing it to Per Mertersacker at the back. The German’s pass forward in search of Cazorla looked, for a split-second, like being intercepted by Willian, but Cazorla was sufficiently switched on and slid to poke the ball back to Koscielny. That was a vital piece of play by the Spaniard, not only because it eventually led to our goal, but also because a slower mind there would have seen Chelsea regain possession in a very threatening position.
Anyway, Koscielny then returned the ball to Cazorla and he took two typically deft touches in releasing Ozil with a lobbed pass. Ozil then sauntered to the left byline, took his time and played a precise square pass into Walcott in the middle. Theo adroitly moved it on to the Ox who was in space on the right and he stepped inside Azpilicueta, steadied himself and let rip with his left foot into the far top corner, before jogging off doing the old ‘too hot to handle’, ‘what a goal, if I do say so myself’-style celebration.
There were chances at either end after that, with Ramires – the Brazilian Charlie Adam/Lee Cattermole hybrid – taking a break from trying to maim our midfielders and getting himself forward to head over the bar with the goal gaping, and Eden Hazard blazing over a chance Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi would have taken in their sleep, when one-on-one with Cech in the second period.
For us, both Cazorla and substitute Kieran Gibbs had great chances scuppered by Thibaut Courtois late on and Giroud had a couple of efforts, which looked goal-bound, blocked. Overall, although Chelsea enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, I think we produced the better phases of football and constructed more goal scoring opportunities.
Of course, Mourinho didn’t agree with that analysis and said that ‘the best team lost’ after the game but then Mourinho also thinks Hazard’s the second best player in the world, so…
And speaking of the ‘The Special Ego’, the fact Arsene has managed to finally secure a win over his Chelsea, at the 105th time of asking or whatever it is, means that that particular monkey has been yanked from our backs and buried in the same hole as the ‘x years without a trophy’ nonsense, so often used to belittle our manager’s achievements this past, financially handicapped decade or so.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more thoughts on the game and the post match reaction, including Arsene’s priceless lack of acknowledgement of Mourinho’s presence at the bottom of the Wembley steps.
Till then, Community Shield winners.