Giroud should be celebrated, not denigrated
Match Review: Bournemouth 3 Arsenal 3 - Premier League 03.01.17
Mixed and muddled feelings are what spring to mind after that weird and breathless contest on Tuesday night. Mainly I’m siding on the two points dropped despite the impressive comeback side of things. A draw is always better than a defeat, but isn’t always that useful all the same and I’m afraid no matter what the circumstances of the draw, it may have killed off our tenuous title challenge for good.
Three changes were made to the starting line-up with Gabriel, Elneny and Perez making way for Mustafi, Coquelin and Ramsey. Ramsey and Mustafi were both back in following lay offs with injury, while Coquelin had been rotated out for the game against Palace. Giroud kept his place following his wonder goal two days earlier, while it appeared Ramsey and Iwobi were left to alternate between the right wing and number 10 role on the field.
We started the game pretty well, moving the ball pretty quickly and putting Bournemouth firmly on the back foot. However, things went awry quickly after that. Ramsey and Bellerin switched off on a counter attack and left Charlie Daniels in acres of space. When Hector recovered, he made a pretty feeble attempt to tackle the opposing left back and then Petr Cech rounded everything off by leaving a gaping hole at his near post for the Bournemouth man to exploit. Allowing the opposition left back to score is pretty poor, but for him to have 50 yards of the pitch to himself, mug your right back and embarrass your keeper, that’s unforgivable.
When you make a mistake like that, it’s very important not to compound it by making another straight away. But hey-ho this is the Arsenal way and it was Xhaka at fault this time, tracking a counter attack perfectly until he decided that the Bournemouth player needed a hefty shove in the box. Penalty given and that’s as good as a goal with Cech between the sticks at the moment. He seems to dive well before the ball is even close to being hit and as such, Wilson’s feeble penalty still found the back of the net.
At half time it appeared our title challenge was slipping sadly down the drain, but thirteen minutes into the second half, it seemed to fall out of sight altogether. Speedy winger Ryan Fraser got away with a blatant push on Bellerin, allowing him to run free in the box, but the finish was once again aided by Petr Cech, who let the ball slip through his legs and into the corner of the net. It was another unbelievably poor goal to concede and everything was collapsing around us. It felt like a watershed moment of failure had arrived, from which the current regime might have found it tough to come back from.
However, there are occasions when this Arsenal side flicker into life and suddenly you can see why Arsene Wenger has such belief in these players. Alexis kicked things off, popping up at the back post and converting a point blank header to give us some vague interest in the game. Five minutes later though, the interest became a lot more genuine, as a wonderful piece of interplay resulted in Giroud teeing up substitute Lucas Perez to smash in an absolutely stunning volley. At any other time, it was the type of goal that would have been talked about for weeks, but the context it was scored in meant that it became just another notch on our improbable road to recovery.
Momentum stalled slightly after that goal and it looked as if the two goals would be simply consolation efforts. But then Bournemouth shot themselves in the foot. Captain Simon Francis dived in on Ramsey in the middle of the park and Michael Oliver, who’d had a mixed game up until then, produced a straight red with little hesitation. The replay showed that Francis went over the top of the ball and followed through with his trailing leg. The referee had little option and Bournemouth’s appeal has since been denied by the FA.
Six minutes of stoppage time were put up, but we only needed one. It was as simple as a cross from deep finding Giroud to glance onto the post and in. Then came the part that somehow became the focal point of all the pre-match discussion. Giroud, the double assisting, equaliser scoring reprobate that he is CELEBRATED the goal. What sort of sick man references a wonder goal he scored a couple of days ago in a moment of joy having scored a last minute equaliser? It’s almost like he’s a human that feels emotions.
Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less what the ‘yer da’ lot have been saying with regards to Giroud. Those ten seconds are not the reason we didn’t win the match, we didn’t win because we shipped three goals to Bournemouth and played like donkeys. Giroud has scored some unbelievably vital goals this season, including the late equaliser here and against United.
He scored the late winner against West Brom a couple of weeks back, he won the penalty against Southampton in the last minute earlier this season and scored a penalty to equalise against PSG in the Champions League. The man’s been dropped, sat on the bench for long stretches and not only has he come up trumps when we’ve been in desperate need, he hasn’t complained once. Lay off him, or better yet, give him the praise he deserves rather than finding a tenuous reason to dig him out.
I accept that there was no real cause for celebration on Tuesday night. The result was tempered slightly by Chelsea finally losing at Tottenham, but that result also meant we slipped out of the top four and Sp*rs shot up into third. Eight points is not insurmountable, but it is a substantial gap and with Chelsea dispatching most teams with ease and Liverpool and Tottenham playing so well, it’s hard to see how we climb back into the picture.
For now, the Premier League takes a back seat, as our battered, bruised and depleted squad takes the journey up to Preston North End for the FA Cup third round. Whilst many people are predicting a rotated squad, this approach is fraught with risk. We really can’t afford a disappointment in this tournament and going out to lower league opposition in our first game would be more of a catastrophe than a disappointment. Preston should not be underestimated and neither should the competition itself.
Boruc, Francis (R), Cook (Y), Aké, Daniels, Arter (Y), Gosling, Stanislas, King (Surman 63’), Fraser (Smith 68’), Wilson (Smith 91’)
Surman, Smith, Smith, Federici, Mings, Mousset, Ibe
Cech, Bellerin (Y), Mustafi (Y), Koscielny (Gabriel 64’), Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin (Chamberlain 28’), Iwobi (Perez 63’), Ramsey (Y), Alexis, Giroud
Ospina, Gabriel, Perez, Chamberlain, Holding, Reine-Adelaide, Maitland-Niles
Cech - 3/10 - Made a couple of saves, but he should have done better for all three goals
Bellerin - 3/10 - Probably his worst performance since that Dortmund game
Mustafi - 5/10 - Looked short of fitness and off the pace
Koscielny - 7/10 - Did a reasonable job in the chaos, then went off with cramp
Monreal - 7/10 - Solid and provided a constant overlap down the left
Xhaka - 5/10 - Stupid foul for the penalty plus the midfield got bypassed far too often
Coquelin - N/A - Injured after 28 minutes, would be harsh to rate
Iwobi - 6/10 - No lack of effort, but a lack of impact
Ramsey - 5/10 - Severe marks off for the first goal, other than that fairly ordinary
Alexis - 7/10 - Got the goal to help us back into it, gets a well earned rest this weekend
Giroud - 9/10 - Two assists and a goal to drag us back level, what a hero
Chamberlain - 6/10 - Neither good nor bad, somewhere in the middle
Perez - 7/10 - What a strike! We need to see more of him for sure
Gabriel - 6/10 - Replaced Koscielny fairly well
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