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Arsenal 2 Cardiff 0: Post-Match Thoughts and Match Ratings

World Best to the Rescue

World Best to the Rescue

Just when we thought that it was going to be one of those days when things didn’t go according to plan, Arsenal left it really late to score the goals that sent them back to the top of the Premier League. As expected, Arsene Wenger waxed lyrical about Nicklas Bendtner’s cameo performance and expressed his regret over his injury that could sideline him for a couple of weeks.

Listed below are the Gooner Daily player ratings for Arsenal’s late heroes in the home clash with Cardiff City:

Wojciech Szczesny: The big Pole was pretty much a spectator in the course of the game but he showed his alertness in quelling some attacks from the opposition forwards. His save from Mutch was pretty much routine but his late save from Caulker was top notch stuff. 7/10

Nacho Monreal: The fullback’s last outing against Manchester City was very disastrous but he put up a much-improved performance, as he offered an outlet on the left and lofted the cross that led to Arsenal’s relieving opener. 7/10

Bacary Sagna: The Frenchman didn’t really offer much on the final third but he did very well defensively. It was his presence in the box that played a big role for the match opener. 7/10

Per Mertesacker: The BFG did very well with his defensive duties but he had two clear cut headed chances that were missed when it seemed easier to score. 7/10

Mertesacker's expression says it all

Laurent Koscielny: With Thomas Vermaelen out with a sickness, Koscielny worked in tandem with the BFG to keep the Cardiff forwards at bay. 7/10

Mathieu Flamini: The Flamster added some steel to the midfield and always made himself available for a pass. Had to be sacrificed when the Gunners needed to add some attacking verve to their play. 7/10

Mikel Arteta: The inspirational leader dictated the tempo of the game and added stability to the midfield. Maintained the balance of the team when they went for broke looking for the killer goal. 7/10

Jack Wilshere: Arsenal’s poster boy put up his best performance yet. He was at the heart of everything good from an attacking perspective and he made the team tick. To crown a great day in the office for Wilshere, he supplied a sumptuous assist to Theo Walcott for the game clincher. 9/10

Santi Cazorla: The diminutive Spaniard was a thorn in Cardiff’s flesh and his trickery was on show yet again. He threaded a couple of neat passes over the course of the game and should be satisfied with his performance. 7/10

Theo Walcott: Worked his skins off on the right hand side and supplied some quality balls into the box that were not finished off by Per Mertesacker and Nicklas Bendtner. Received a lovely pass late on from Jack Wilshere and chipped in Arsenal’s match clincher to take his tally to five goals in five games. 8/10

Walcott, Arsenal

Lukas Podolski: The German machine put up a scintillating cameo against West Ham but his frailties were exposed when he played up front and he failed to make his mark on the game. Was replaced by Nicklas Bendtner after a somewhat torrid outing. 6/10

Tomas Rosicky: Hit the ground running as he arrived on the pitch as he added bite to Arsenal’s attack and made a couple of good passes in the final third. His energy, work rate and determination were on display yet again. Shame he’s already reaching his twilight years at 33. 7/10

Nicklas Bendtner: Games have come few and far between for Bendtner but since he decided to put his head down and play some football, his manager showed some faith in him and since his goal against Hull, he has made a couple of cameo appearances off the bench in the course of the season. Yesterday, he replaced Podolski and missed a sitter from a Walcott cross but he reacted quickly to slam home a rebound. Shame he got injured afterwards. 7/10

Bendtner injury KO forces Wenger's hand in transfer market

Bendtner would be out for weeks with a sprained ankle

Thomas Vermaelen didn’t play long enough to get a rating.

Do you agree or disagree with Gooner Daily’s post match thoughts and match ratings?

Feel free to share them with your comments below.

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Cardiff Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

13/14: Cardiff 0-3 Arsenal - Aaron Ramsey

The Premier League, unlike other top flight football leagues in Europe, is a very unforgiving league. The fixtures are coming thick and fast and the Gunners have a simple task of hosting Cardiff City, a team in turmoil following the off the field shenanigans between their owner, Vincent Tan, and the previous manager, Malky Mackay.

The Bluebirds are currently in 16th place, just four points of the drop and it seems really bleak for the Welsh outfit. With the January transfer window finally open, Arsene Wenger has been tipped to delve into the club’s cheque book to sign a player or two that would help with the team’s surge for their first league title win in 10 years.

“We are like many clubs, certainly (we are) on alert, if something special turns up we will not turn it down, but we are not as well desperate because we have a big depth in our squad.

“We have shown that because our midfield at West Ham and at Newcastle was completely different, we changed three players and we still managed to have a very strong team. I am quite confident with our squad.” -Wenger

Olivier Giroud was also on the news recently, stating that he’s hoping for the club not to invest in a new striker, instead they should explore options with Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott in attack. Many might be in agreement with Giroud because of his importance to the team, and a new striker could take a while to get a hang of things but a considerable chunk of the Arsenal supporters need a new center forward because Giroud can’t be trusted to hit the back of the net on a consistent basis.

C’mon, he just came off the lengthy goal drought and when he was afforded a chance to score his second on the night, he fluffed it like an amateur Sunday league player.

Arsenal injury crisis for New Year's Day clash against Cardiff with Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud all ruled out with injury

Arsenal are unbeaten in the past 12 matches in all competitions against Cardiff with seven wins and five draws, since a home defeat in February 1961 and this is the second time the two clubs have met on New Year’s Day. Arsenal won 3-2 at Highbury in an old Division One clash in 1927.

Arsene Wenger’s table-topping side collected a league-high 82 league points (W25, D7, L6) in 2013 and Arsene Wenger’s men share the record for fewest Premier League goals conceded (18) and most clean sheets (8) this season.

It’s also worth noting that Arsenal have the best shooting accuracy (54.5%) in the Premier League this season, whereas Cardiff have the worst (35.7%). Cardiff are in a very poor run of form, and have recorded only one league win in nine games. Cardiff City have conceded 11 goals in the last 15 minutes of league games this season, the second worst in the division (after Fulham, with 13). Arsenal have scored 10, the joint most.

To injury news, Giroud is not going to feature in today’s game as he’s nursing a foot injury but he’s odds on to make a comeback in the crucial FA Cup third round clash against Tottenham this weekend. Full-back Kieran Gibbs (calf) is sidelined, while midfielder Aaron Ramsey (thigh) will be out for around three weeks and the full extent of German playmaker Mesut Ozil’s shoulder problem is still being assessed, so the news several other key men were able to train on Tuesday will have come a timely boost.

There will be fitness tests for Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere that are believed to have had some minor injury concerns in the game against Newcastle.

Cardiff are without Craig Bellamy because of a knee problem, while Declan John is expected to continue in place of injured left-back Andrew Taylor.

My predicted lineups would be,

Arsenal 4-2-3-1 football formationCardiff City 4-2-3-1 football formation

Arsenal have not lost at home on New Year’s Day for 29 years. I don’t believe that the record would be broken today.

Happy New Year everybody.

Sayonara.

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Cardiff 0 Arsenal 3: The Homecoming Hero Haunts his Old Team

13/14: Cardiff 0-3 Arsenal - Aaron Ramsey

Cardiff City Stadium (Premier League)

Cardiff (0); Arsenal – Ramsey (29′, 90′), Flamini (86′)

Player Ratings – Match highlights – Wenger’s Press Conference

With the games coming thick and fast, the Gunners had dispatched Olympique Marseille in the Champions League and had the threat of Cardiff City to contend with in the Premier League. The hosts had taken points off both Manchester clubs at home and Arsenal’s fierce rivals, Tottenham, had to dig really deep to get a victory in Wales so it was going to be a tough tie.

Arsene Wenger, rightfully, fielded the same side that was victorious against L ‘OM with the exception of Kieran Gibbs returning to the side after an illness suffered in midweek. Right from the onset, Arsenal launched an attack with Aaron Ramsey teeing up Jack Wilshere at the edge of the box. The Englishman left his marker for dead, picked his spot and slammed the cross bar with a sweetly curled shot.

The next noteworthy highlight came when Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker collided when the Big Friendly German coming second best before falling on the turf like a sack of potatoes. With his jersey stained with blood, he had to get a new pair from Vik Akers and there was no scissors available to cut it like some people we know.

Cardiff had a rare foray forward through Theophile-Catherine and he lofted a cross that was headed wide by Frazier Campbell. Arsenal’s next wave of attack had a comical twist as Olivier Giroud received a pass from Wilshere that had a minute nudge of Mesut Ozil. With Giroud believing that he was offside, he inexplicably came to a halt as did the opposition defenders but when he realized that the linesman’s flag was down, he attacked the ball but the defenders blocked it.

Blunder: Olivier Giroud stops because he thinks he is offside when he is actually clean through on goal

Confused Giroud. Shoot first. Think later

Ozil broke away from his marker and located Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard sighted an onrushing Gibbs and supplied a pin-point pass but the English fullback miscued his effort in front of goal. Ozil was in the thick of things yet again and he darted with the ball and had a plethora of options in front of him.

With Giroud running across, he took a defender with him which cleared the path for Ramsey to lurk into the area and superbly guide Ozil’s peach of a pass to the net, leaving Marshall no chance in Hell. As you would expect from a player like Ramsey that exudes class, he was delighted for getting his first goal in four games (he hasn’t scored since Liverpool) but he chose to have a muted celebration, much to the delight of the Cardiff fans that cheered him on.

Muted celebration: Ramsey didn't go wild after breaking the deadlock and the Cardiff fans clapped him

I’m sorry guys…but I rep Arsenal now!

Peter Whittingham was targeted as a danger man for the hosts due to his dead ball prowess and it was on show yet again as he swung in several dangerous crosses into Arsenal’s box but when Kim failed to connect with the ball, Mutch attempted a bicycle kick that went wide off the mark.

Gibbs moved with the ball on the left before dinking it to a tightly marked Giroud that manage to break away from the defender before blasting a shot that was blocked for a corner kick. Arsenal launched a counter attack and Giroud did well to chip the ball for Ramsey who controlled the ball superbly but his shot went over the bar. Arteta showed some brilliant movement to evade a couple of markers before sending a diagonal pass to Ozil. The German schemer dallied on the ball before carefully threading it to Wilshere but the English maestro failed to connect well with the ball and it fell kindly for the goalie.

At the start of the second half, Arsenal exchanged some neat passes before the ball fell into Ramsey’s path. The Welsh man on fire somehow managed to squeeze through Kim and Whittingham before feeding Giroud in the six yard box but the French striker’s shot was blocked off by a defender on the line.

With the Gunners failing to capitalize on their chances, Cardiff pressed on and grew in confidence. With the home side on the ascendancy, Taylor lofted a cross that was headed goalwards by Frazier Campbell. Up stepped Szczesny to make another fantastic save to keep Cardiff at bay.

Szczesny does it again

Shortly after the save, Mutch swung a cross that was nodded straight to Whittingham’s path by Gibbs but the midfielder missed his effort by a wild margin, much to the amazement of the away fans. Theophile-Catherine surged forward and fired a shot but Szczesny dived low to smother the ball.

Cazorla was having a bad day in the office and Wenger put him out of his misery by summoning Mathieu Flamini to add steel to the midfield. With the Flamster joining the fray, Wenger showed his tactical genius by drafting Ozil to the right flank while Aaron Ramsey played in the hole behind the attack. Shortly afterwards, Nacho Monreal came in for Jack Wilshere to protect Gibbs on the left.

Cardiff attacked with Whittingham whose ball located substitute Noone and the winger’s cross was headed goalwards by Cowie but Szczesny was on hand to make a good save. Arsenal turned the screw by launching a counter attack through Ozil. The German playmaker saw Flamini on the clear and sent a sweet pass to the Frenchman and he was no time blasting the ball to the roof of the net to put the game beyond doubt.

athieu Flamini of Arsenal beats Steven Caulker of Cardiff City as he scores their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Cardiff City and Arsenal at Cardiff City Stadium on November 30, 2013

The Flam scores his first Arsenal goal in five years

At the dying minutes, Theo Walcott replaced a clearly jaded Ozil and it took the speedster just 48 seconds to create an assist for Ramsey that latched unto his pass and fired a sumptuous shot past Marshall to put the icing on a well baked cake.

Arsenal’s man on fire, Aaron Ramsey, has scored 14 Premier League goals for Arsenal; he has equalled John Hartson’s record for most Premier League goals for the club from a Welsh player. Hartson scored 14 between 1995 and 1997. In this form, he’s the forerunner for the Player of the Year awards, alongside Sergio Aguero.

The victory puts the Gunners seven points clear of Liverpool and Chelsea that play today.

Better days are here again and it got even sweeter for me as I predicted the exact scoreline in the Canon Crested Prediction League, where there are awesome prices up for grabs if you predict Arsenal’s scores right.

An article on the performances in November comes up tomorrow, get ready to place your votes.

Sayonara.

Gooner Daily has been nominated for the Best Sports blog category in the 2013 Nigerian Blog Awards. Please vote!

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