March 13th – Arsenal 2 Leicester 0

Partey time at the Emirates. That was smooth looking football and we displayed no fear of listless Leicester. Not only did he score with a header but then had a shot that not only did it not end up at the back of the stadium it actually hit the target – albeit the crossbar.

From the outset Arsenal settled into a rhythm today. There was no falloff post Watford. We saw smooth link up play, control from the back and Odegaard pulling the strings from midfield. Even before the first goal we saw nicely constructed moves that warranted a goal. The corner from Martinelli looked like it was short – like the last few against Watford from Cedric – but Partey nipped in for a well deserved lead. Even then we continued to control the game and create. This week, because Xhaka was just a little more involved there was more two-sided balance.

Saka though was the stand out in that initial 25 minutes. Turning and beating his man and generally creating havoc. Unfortunately as the tide turned all their chances came down our right. And that, my friends is because Leicester targeted our boy Cedric. And it was pretty clear why. And it got worse in the second half. All their chances originated right by him. It’s not that he played badly but he continues to drop too deep to break out own line and then is exposed to balls over the top. Thankfully we had Ramsdale behind him to save us – literally.

And in front of Ramsdale we have the axis of White and Gabriel. Aside from Gabriel being smacked in the face – which would have gotten Xhaka, of course, sent off – he had a refreshingly solid and uneventful game. No mistakes and a aclear reliance on handing off the ball to White. White was a rock today. In the second hald he flung himself into a Ramsdale deflected shot to prevent an equalizing goal. Overall, his performance was nearly faultless. Of coure you do have to take into account the toothless opposition. But, nonetheless, this axis helped keep yet another clean sheet.

And then there is Ramsdale. That save in second half from Barnes (I think) even had Smooth talking, superficial Rodgers smiling and clapping. It was the game changer. That was their one chance and Ramsdale, though not quite soaring like an eagle, still displayed cat-like reflexes to prevent a certain goal. In the last two games he has not quite been at his highest standard with some dodgy distribution and unsure handling. Today he was back to his best. Some of his longer pass were pin-point. And yet there were times when he’d play direct vertical passes into Partey, Odegaard or Cigarette that would turn defense immediately into attack. To think people (cough, cough) ever doubted the money we spent on him.

The enjoyment of this game came not just from the Odeegard and Saka link-up play but the inclusion of Partey. In fact, the interplay between Partey and Odegaard was not something we’ve seen before. It’s a further sign of the evolution of this team. The building of these onfield relationships and understanding is helping glue this team together. I’d still make the argument that Xhaka is not really suited to the left sided equivalence to Odegaard but he was better today. And Tierney was involved which was also positive to see. He was further up the pitch than we’ve seen him recently. And some of his last minute defending – especially in the first half when, again, Cedric was beaten was vital. Against a better team, I don’t know, let’s say for example, eh, Liverpool we will be torn apart down our right hand side. We need to get Tomi back and it’s a shame it won’t happen before the Liverpool game.

Finally, Cigarette gets a goal. He needed that. Again, we saw good link-up play from him but limited goal threat. He had to bide his time as VAR took it’s time. It seemed they were just looking for anyway to not award that one. I think it took them 4 minutes to decided what we all knew after the first replay. By then Cigarettes’ beard had grown another inch or so and Schmeichel had tried all his mind-game tricks. But, unlike the previously missed attempts, this one was clinical and even had the benefit of having Schmeichel protest like a baby. But this was well-deserved. We had the measure of them even when they were in possession. There was a period at the end of the first half where they dominated but aside from that we had them under control. And we managed to manage the flow of the game in ways we did not against Watford.

We are now firmly in 4th after the enjoyable Old Trafford result. We have a very  tough road ahead though. But now it’s ours to lose. So now it becomes mental. But it also requires the core elements of our team to remain fit and not sent off. If we lose Partey I doubt our chances. He has now become key to this team. He was imperious today, In control and dominant. As impressive as Odegaard was – and he was silky and smooth today – I thought Partey was the fulcrum of this team. And his interplay with Odegaard enabled him to find his way out of tight spots. He seems to be enjoying his football. Gone are the days when he only lasts 70 minutes. His evolution mirrors that of the team. So we need to wrap him in cotton wool and make sure none of the refs target him for red cards.

Liverpool is a game we can’t win. I would just like us to finish the game with 11 players.  And then quickly move on. Beyond that we have Manchester, WHU and Sp*rs. And then, if they are not bankrupt, Chelski. It’s karma. It’s hard to feel anything but smug glee to watch this spineless, classless, club that was fueled by financial doping. Their oligarch changed – for the worse – the game as we know it. As David Dein said, they parked their tanks and fired £5 notes (and now it’s £100 notes) at all the players out there. He (who shall not be named) paved the way for the Man City investment, the distortion of PSG and, lastly, the entrance of the Yemen destroyers at Newcastle. And it started in West London with him throwing around his weight to overpay any and everyone and out bid teams. He inflated the market and caused others to get sucked into the vortex of super inflationary wages and transfers. And it took, literally, a war to cause the FA to grow some balls. But selective ones. They won’t apply the same standards to Newcastle. Or the next autocrat with money. But, just maybe, the next one will realize that all their money could be locked and tied up at a minutes notice. Maybe what happened to Chelski is a warning now to others that they could get locked out of their club, unable to sell their asset or even pay credit card bills. Maybe that will give other to pause before entering our market. The vagueries of this process – the politics of it – might just be enough to scare off equivalent type “investors”. And that would not be a bad thing. It’s not like the FA has a backbone. They have haplessly stood on the sidelines for decades now. But this move, with the help of Parliament, will help slow down this process. I hope. But then money has a way of watering down resistance. I mean, the world cup is still headed to Qatar. So let’s hope by the time we have to play Chelski all their players appreciate they won’t have a team to play on next year and will all be looking to move on without caring what happens to this soulless club.

Regardless of the outcome though there can be no doubt as to our teams evolution and growth. We are pointed in the right direction. We are ahead of schedule. Just remember that while watching us get dismembered by Liverpool. With both Xhaka and Cedric on the pitch there will be too many mistakes for us to withstand their relentless pressure. Don’t be too despondent. Better to have a coming down to earth against Liverpool and then regroup for games we can not and should not lose. And try not to laugh out loud too much as we watch the destruction of Stamford Bridge in order for them to pay reparations. Justice. Karma.


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