When you have goal scorers you always have a chance. Neil Warnock teams are capable of giving you a hard game and that’s exactly what we got on Sunday. Although the victory was deserved, it was worrying how close we looked to Cardiff’s level. If Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were in blue, we would have been thrashed. Lucky for us the two comrades were in red and on fire to secure a much needed three points.
We lined up with two changes from our victory against West Ham. Lacazette and Mesut Ozil came in for Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. I was surprised to see Lucas Torreira on the bench. I thought he earned a start ahead of our new prodigy Matteo Guendouzi.
Petr Cech set the tone for what was going to be an end to end game when he passed the ball to Harry Arter who should have registered Cardiff’s first goal of the season. Moments like this breathe life into a home team and their partisan crowd. It’s not long before we lose to a Cech Fawlty Towers moment.
On 11’ we managed to take the lead when Shkodran Mustafi headed home Granit Xhaka’s in-swinging corner. Despite the nervy Cech moment there were lots of positives in the first 15’. Xhaka and Guendouzi were passing well and we managed to register 82.5 per cent possession.
Cardiff 0 – 1 Arsenal
After the first 15’ the game started to become scrappier, with both teams becoming more physical. Lacazette was pressing well and setting a good example for his teammates. He was almost rewarded for his tenacity on 32’ but his snap shot was denied by the post.
Instead of heading into the break with a lead we shot ourselves in the foot when Xhaka hit a calamitous cross field ball that was intercepted. When will he learn! Our recovery defensive shape in the transition was awful. Cardiff left back Joe Bennet was able to cross the ball unchallenged to Roberto Camarasa who rifled it into the roof of the net. Before this game we had conceded more shots than any other team in the premiership. Unai Emery has to improve this quickly.
Half time: Cardiff 1 – 1 Arsenal
Mesut Ozil was anonymous in the first half. He started on the right but looked disinterested and registered less touches than any other Arsenal player. Luckily his move to number 10 after the break improved his effectiveness and he started to link our play with the quality we know he possesses. On 60’ it clicked when Ozil slipped a ball to Lacazette who flicked it to Aubameyang. The Gabon striker then moved into space and effortlessly placed his shot from outside the box.
Cardiff 1 – 2 Arsenal
Unfortunately, it only took nine minutes for Cardiff to equalise. A soft free kick was awarded on the edge of the box and for some unknown reason the 6’4” Sean Morrison was marked by Aaron Ramsey. The Cardiff captain easily beat the Welshman to head the ball back across goal for Danny Ward to head home his first premiership goal. The lad from Bradford deserved that.
Cardiff 2 – 2 Arsenal
As with the West Ham game it took Torreira coming on for Guendouzi for us to regain control of the game. In 20 minutes, the diminutive Uruguayan made more tackles than any other Arsenal player. On 81’ he slipped in Lacazette who ruthlessly smashed the ball into the roof of the net to win the game.
Full time: Cardiff 2 – 3 Arsenal
Man of the match: Alexandre Lacazette
An assist, a fantastic goal and a great all-round performance. The Frenchman looks fitter, sharper and hungrier this season.
The new Yorke and Cole in the making
I have not seen such palpable chemistry between two strikers since the legendary Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. In the 1998/1999 Man Utd treble winning season the two registered 35 goals between them and put the fear of god into all defences. In an interview with Four Four Two last year Cole said “Soon after he (Yorke) joined, the biggest clubs in Europe were saying: stop Cole and Yorke and we stop Man United. But they couldn’t. Our confidence soared, and we thought we’d score every week. If one of us didn’t score, the other would.”
Great partnerships are a blend of quality, complimentary skills and mutual respect. The blossoming comradery between Laca and Auba appears to possess those ingredients and just may deliver a similar goal haul.
Having great strikers is a must for any top team, but the best teams are built on the solid foundation of a good defence and clean sheets. We can’t continue to be this vulnerable without the ball.