Progress: An In-Depth Review Of Arsenal In December

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Barring a minor blip at Stoke, Arsenal’s form throughout December was relatively consistent. With Santi Cazorla returning to full form the Gunners picked up four wins from a possible six league games, only carding one defeat in the process. The performances propelled the Gunners closer to the top 4 and renewed some more hope that the season could still be salvaged.

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Arsenal 1-0 Southampton – 3rd December
Arsenal scorer (Alexis)

A tightly contested match looked to be heading for a frustrating 0-0 draw until Sanchez struck late on to secure all 3 points. The Gunners patience was eventually rewarded as Sanchez tapped home after a whole host of other chances went astray. For the most part both sides cancelled each other out. The pivotal moments came in the second half though. The introduction of Giroud added some thrust and potency to the Arsenal attack and after Southampton had made all three subs Toby Alderweireld departed with injury. This opened up the game in the last 20, and after Arsenal squandered a whole host of chances, notably through Welbeck and Giroud, Sanchez thankfully popped up with a late winner to break Saints hearts and send Arsenal fans into raptures.

Man of the Match: Olivier Giroud – May have only been on for half an hour, but the Frenchman completely changed Arsenal’s fortunes going forward. Went close a number of times himself and was pivotal in the change of attacking tempo which saw the Gunners win the game.

Stoke City 3-2 Arsenal – 6th December
Stoke scorers- (Crouch, Bojan, Walters) Arsenal scorers- (Cazorla pen, Ramsey)

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An embarrassing first-half display cost Arsenal big time as they fell at the hands of Stoke yet again. 3-0 up at half-time, Stoke simply breezed past the Gunners as goals from Crouch, Bojan and Walters seemingly put the game to bed. Arsenal came out of the blocks far better after the interval though and Sanchez should’ve pulled one back after a mesmerising run culminated in the Chilean hitting the post. This was the start of some positive play from the Gunners though and in the 68th minute, after Flamini was fouled, Cazorla stepped up to score. Two minutes later Ramsey pulled another back after a nice volley and with 20 minutes to go it looked as though Arsenal would salvage something. The chances unfortunately dried up though and Stoke managed to hold on, adding to the theory that travelling to the Potteries is a real bogey game for Wenger’s men.

Man of the Match: Alexis Sanchez- Worked tirelessly throughout. His attacking intent almost gained Arsenal a share of the spoils.

Galatasaray 1-4 Arsenal– 9th December
Galatasaray scorer (Snejder) Arsenal scorers (Podolski 2, Ramsey 2)

Arsenal cruised to a comfortable win over Turkish giants Galatasaray on Matchday 6 of the Champions League. The Gunners place in the final 16 was already secured allowing the team to play with freedom. Few would have blamed Arsenal if they took their foot of the gas and played a rather mundane game, but the Gunners relished their task and roared into life in the 3rd minute, Podolski setting the Gunners on their way with a lovely finish. Soon after it was 2-0, Chamberlain driving forwards before teeing up Ramsey to finish from a tight angle. The moment of the game came soon after, a Joel Campbell corner was headed clear, the ball bobbled out to Ramsey and from 30 yards he struck the sweetest volley into the top corner. It was an astonishing finish from the Welshman and virtually put the game to bed. Arsenal sat off in the second half, Snejder pulled one back for the hosts with a nice free-kick before Podolski put the icing on the cake for Arsenal in the 90th minute. A great performance, made that little bit more special by Ramsey’s incredible goal.

.Man of the Match: Aaron Ramsey- At the heart of every Arsenal attack. Capped a fine performance with a truly astounding goal.

Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle – 13th December
Arsenal scorers (Giroud 2, Cazorla 2) Newcastle scorer (Perez)

Arsenal dominated from the start against Newcastle in what was one of the Gunners most accomplished performances of the season. A brace apiece from Giroud and Cazorla provided Arsenal with their second 4-1 win in a matter of days. Importantly, Arsenal struck early on, Giroud firing home a thumping header from a Sanchez cross. The Gunners dominated the game for the rest of the half but failed to add to their tally and went in one up at the break. On his 30th birthday, Santi Cazorla really shone in the second half and scored his first goal with a fantastic dink into the far corner. Soon after Arsenal trebled their lead, Giroud brilliantly flicking in at the front post after a Bellerin cross. As always though Arsenal made the game difficult for themselves and conceded from a set-piece with half an hour to go. Despite this blip Arsenal coasted on and Cazorla finished the game off in style, chipping from the penalty spot to cap a fine days work for Wenger’s men.

Man of the Match: Hector Bellerin- Eye catching display going forwards and in defence. Strong in the tackle and always an outlet going forwards it was his best game to date.

Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal– 20th December
Liverpool scorers (Coutinho, Skrtel) Arsenal scorers (Debuchy, Giroud)

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Before the start of the season if you’d said Arsenal would draw 2-2 at Liverpool I would’ve bitten your hand off. However this felt somewhat different as Wenger’s men threw away another lead against a rather average Liverpool side. The Gunners failed to get going in the first half and conceded on 45 minutes, Coutinho finding space before crashing one in off the post. Incredibly though, Arsenal themselves levelled before the interval, Debuchy rising to head home and send Arsenal in, very undeservedly, level. After the break Arsenal really upped their game and had a far bigger threat going forwards. With 25 minutes to go the Gunners made their possession count as Giroud finished nicely after some neat build-up. After going ahead Arsenal started to sit off and by bringing on defenders, Wenger invited Liverpool onto us. Fabio Borini was sent off with 10 to go and it looked as though Arsenal would grind out a good win. Predictably and not surprisingly, in added time Skrtel rose highest to salvage a point for Liverpool, which led to more fans questioning the managers tactics.

Man of the Match: Santi Cazorla- Set up Giroud nicely for the goal. A confident display from a player slowly coming back to his best.

Arsenal 2-1 QPR- 26th December
Arsenal scorers (Sanchez, Rosicky) QPR scorer (Austin pen)

QPR hadn’t won away all season so this looked like a home banker for Arsenal. Predictably Arsenal had all the play and should’ve been one up early on, Sanchez missing a glorious chance from the spot. He himself made amends though and sent Arsenal into the interval one up, firing in a lovely header from a Gibbs cross. After half-time it looked as though Arsenal would continue their dominance, however Giroud quite ridiculously got himself sent off for a headbutt. Despite this, Arsenal managed to double their lead soon after, Rosicky finishing off a lovely move on what was his first league start of the season. Two up maybe, but Giroud’s madness meant Arsenal were put under the cosh in the last 20. Charlie Austin fired home from the spot but Arsenal just about held on for a crucial win.

Man of the Match: Alexis Sanchez- A class showing yet again. Didn’t let the penalty miss get to him and made amends with a fine header.

West Ham 1-2 Arsenal- 28th December                                                                   West Ham scorer (Kouyate) Arsenal scorers (Cazorla pen, Welbeck)

West Ham had been going well all season and Arsenal travelled to Upton Park looking to overhaul their rivals in the table. Arsenal played very well in this one and after Cazorla opened the scoring from another  penalty the Gunners never looked back. Soon after Welbeck doubled our lead, a much-needed goal for the striker which saw Arsenal go into the break in complete control. Into the second half and the Hammers started to look more of a threat, they went close a number of times before Kouyate rose highest to loop a header in. With more than half an hour to go it was a nervy ending for Arsenal, but they did very well and carved a number of chances for themselves rather than looking vulnerable at the other end. A mad goal mouth scramble at the death almost cost the Gunners but thankfully we held on for a fantastic win, ending 2014 in good style.

Man of the Match: Santi Cazorla- Always looked dangerous. Won and cooly slotted home the first-half penalty.

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