Not too sure what to make of Sunday’s game. From a league point of view, it’s been a fantastic week of football. We’ve made ground, others haven’t. Many feel it’s a two horse race between Arsenal and City. I won’t feel confident until a few more players come back, or a January miracle happens. But the league looks to be there if Arsenal want it.
It won’t be so straightforward next season. This is the one. Giroud could have had Player of the Week ahead of Campbell last time, and this week the Frenchman get’s his reward. He put in a fantastic shift away to Aston Villa. Okay, Villa were fairly poor… but then were so Arsenal. We scored twice quickly, but apart from that it was a hit and miss game; sloppy, loose passes, weak opposition and a bit of luck. But a win’s a win. The French forward is relishing his football at the moment. And he hit the 50 club, with almost a goal every two games. Not too shabby.
Oliver Giroud was undoubtedly sensational in the Champions League. Often criticised for not turning up to big games, and I’m one of those critics, but he turned up in a big way against Olympiacos. If that had been Suarez, Aguero or Kane, everybody would be purring. There’s the obvious excuse that Olympicaos aren’t much of a force, but statistics show at home they’re a different prospect. In recent years, only Bayern have won there. Arsenal demolished them on their own turf. Not many teams can do that. Arsenal proved better yet, they were outstanding with an injury ravaged side, ten or so key players missing and the team still had the cutting edge to tear the opposition apart. Giroud was the knife. Four shots on target and three goals. It was a complete striker’s performance. He’s taking penalties now, too, which can only improve his confidence.
Arsenal’s opener away to Aston Villa was cheap. Theo did well to force Hutton into making a really dumb foul. Giroud dispatched the penalty calmly. However, it was more of his general play that impressed me. As Henry mentioned in the studio, his all round hold up play throughout the match was excellent. He didn’t do much wrong, and on another day he could have helped himself to more goals. There was one tight offside decision where he brought the ball down brilliantly under pressure and turned only to find the flag raised. Further emphasising his boost in confidence is he seems to have rediscovered that immaculate first touch, plucking the ball from the sky down the left hand side and forcing a corner. That’s great hold up play. That’s what Giroud does better than anyone, and when he’s in his groove, there really isn’t many better offerings. Perhaps Wenger’s comments about him being among the top strikers in Europe aren’t that far off, and again, like Henry said, he maybe doesn’t get the credit simply because he isn’t electric. However, he never seems to maintain the level of quality he’s showing at the moment, and that’s the big question mark over Giroud. It’ll be interesting if he scores against City, because shouldn’t that erase any doubt over him? After all, it is the first big decider of the season. Questions will be answered on Monday night.
Many are praising Ramsey at the moment, and you’d have to agree. He’s relentless in midfield. He does belong there, but you’ll also notice how easy teams have found it to waltz through Arsenal’s midfield since his return to the middle. That could be unfair, it could be down to Flamini’s age or the absence of Coquelin, who let’s not forget was largely perfect. Having said all that, it’s too much fun watching Ramsey do his thing in the middle. He’s a box to box player, and he’s very, very good at it. It’s actually quite scary sometimes watching the Welshman. There was that City game last year, where Arsenal were coasting and he just lost his head, sprinting up the pitch like a mad man, leaving gaps everywhere. That was a nervous ten minutes. There seems to be an obsession about scoring with Ramsey. I still wouldn’t swap him for anyone else. He’s all action and it’s usually brilliant to watch.
Overall, Giroud and Ramsey continue to impress. Arsenal continue to fight, even with all the injuries. It’s been a really impressive response from everyone. I thought we’d slide in the absence of Coquelin, but Flamini and Ramsey are holding the fort, which City will look to blitz. There’s a nasty run of fixtures coming up in the next couple of months for Arsenal. We need players back. Ramsey can only last so long. And Flamini is playing beyond his time. On the positive side of the injury list, Theo’s return is a massive boost. It’s incredibly annoying to know how good this current squad is when everybody is available. We’d be frightening.