Man City 2:2 Arsenal

Away to Man City was the toughest game our run-in and the opening minutes showed how much the players knew it. We were lucky it took a whole eight minutes for City to score. Confusion in the Arsenal box and then Sergio Aguero bangs it in at the near post.

Fortunately Manchester City know a thing or two about confusion in the box and straight away they nearly scored an own goal from a Giroud cross. From the resulting corner they let Giroud have a go all by himself and he scored. Yes, I know, that Giroud. Well it’s been a while. All this after Spurs were kind enough to choke away three points losing at home to Southampton.

The rest of the game was about Man City pressure. They bossed the midfield but Arsenal hung in there, just. Kevin De Bruyne was very impressive and fed Aguero well. They should have scored more but somehow we survived. At this point it is worth asking – what is Jesus Navas for? He was as pointless today as he has been all season, blasting the ball all over the place with no purpose. Pellegrini’s answer was to bring on Bony.  Something that makes you ask – what is Jesus Navas for?

To be fair to Bony he did hit the crossbar, but you wonder what he and Navas are doing in a club that can afford the likes of Aguero and De Bruyne.

The second half started like the first half – lots of Man City pressure that got them a goal. A good goal too by Kevin De Bruyne from outside the box.  Everyone’s questioning Petr Cech for not saving it, but it was well placed and came through someone’s legs.  It took longer to get  the second equaliser. Walcott came on and tormented Otamendi and Mangala. But in the end it was a great one-two by Sanchez and Giroud that got the Chilean a good goal.  But it was made by Giroud, fantastic return ball with his heal that split open a big gap for Sanchez who finished well.

Not the prettiest game from Arsenal, but they got the job done and Olivier Giroud had a good game, a goal and a brilliant assist.  The only real downer was Danny Welbeck going off with an injury that could keep him out of the Euro’s. It meant that Jack Wilshere got a decent amount of time on the pitch and wasn’t bad. Usual Wilshere, positive forward running, passing players getting brought down. But some decent end product too until he tired.

I find Walcott and Wilshere very frustrating. Both a couple of good guys and they show you enough to let you believe. But somehow neither has delivered. I desperately want both to succeed, but how longer do they get?

Anyway, here we with one game to go, two points behind Spurs. We play Villa at home, they play Newcastle away. One point for Arsenal and we secure third place. Three points and, well who knows, we might just get the biggest laugh of the season. A mid-week win for Sunderland could mean Newcastle are already down and don’t care, but…

 

Leicester win, Spurs lose it

Congratulations Leicester City

An amazing result that rival fans would need a heart of stone to be unmoved by. Who knows what will happen next. Will they soar to European heights like Nottingham Forrest or buckle under the burden? Right now no one in Leicester will care, they’re 5000-1 league champions. Few teams really worked them out and no one matched their consistency. No one saw them coming.

The Chelsea – Spurs game last night was prime time entertainment for reasons good and bad. A great goal from Eden Hazard and amazing resilience from Chelsea to come back from 2:0 down in a game where the result has little impact on their season.

Too many yellows, too few reds

There was a pretty vicious undercurrent to the game though, that referee Mark Clattenburg didn’t pick up on early enough. He was obviously keen to let the football be the story and early fouls were dealt with by warnings rather than cards. But it didn’t work and he ended up giving nine yellow cards to Spurs players and could easily have used two reds.

Danny Rose could have picked up two yellows but escaped with a warning for an early scything. When a scuffle broke out between Rose and Willian later, Mousa Dembele clearly stuck his finger in Diego Costa’s eye. Yes, Diego Costa – victim. Who’d a thought it. The eye gouge wasn’t spotted last night but he will surely get a ban for the remaining two games. Near the end Eric Dier should have picked up a second yellow. He was prabably saved by Clattenburg, rightly, playing advantage until another Spurs foul and not going back to the first incident.

Cesc Fabregas claimed that Erik Lamela stamped on his hand but it was hard to tell from the TV clips I saw. If there is film that confirms it then he will surely get a ban too. After the final whistle the scrapping continued down the tunnel. Entertaining if not very edifying.

But the night and the story belongs to Leicester City. This morning the Radio 4 News is live from Leicester and on Radio 2 Chris Evans is trying to talk football. Congratulations Leicester City, everyone sees you now.

Arsenal 1:0 Norwich City

For a long time I didn’t think we were going to win. We seemed even worse than before, listlessly trying the same thing again and again even though it wasn’t working. As Arsene Wenger acknowledged after the game, this kind of situation has bogged us down all season (longer really) – we just don’t know how to deal with teams that sit deep.

Things briefly got a little more interesting at around twelve minutes in with the ‘demonstration’. This turned out to be no more impressive than the football. It wasn’t huge and was dwarfed after by those singing ‘one Arsene Wenger’. Back on the pitch we huffed and puffed, repeatedly trying to drive through the middle of Norwich. Just occasionally we would get it out wide, but the crosses were aimed at an isolated Giroud and easily defended by Bassong and Martin. At the other end Norwich did the best they could with regular breaks and Petr Cech needed to keep us in it with some sharp saves. We were better at defending crosses than of late though. Not completely secure, but nothing breathtakingly dumb either.

About an hour in, Arsene Wenger sent on Danny Welbeck, taking off Iwobi. Much booing all round, the Iwobi bit rather than the arrival on Welbeck, but to be honest the young Nigerian wasn’t having his best game. He’d been going in field and banging his head against the yellow wall like everyone else. Straight away after the change we seemed to have more purpose, more variety and more than just Giroud in the box. Five minutes later we scored. The unsubstituted Giroud won a header and Iwobi replacement Welbeck banged it in. One nil to the Arsenal. ‘Arsene knows!’ tweeted someone, but if this was the definitive answer to the ‘eight defenders’ problem then the revelation has come rather late.

We carried on being better after that, playing with more purpose and speed. Though to be honest that was probably as much to do with point-desperate Norwich coming further out and leaving more space to play in.

We should have got a second, most likely after a fantastic pass from Ozil, but Sanchez ran into the defenders, all Wilshere-like, rather than passing to the uncrowded Bellerin and we missed out. Per Mertesacker went off with what looked like a hamstring injury so his season may be done.

So for a little while at least we are back up to third place. City go to Southampton this afternoon which isn’t as easy fixture so who knows, it might just stick. In fact, those around us have quite tough games this weekend, so it’s as well that we did manage to squeeze past Norwich.

Do we know anything new after this game? Nothing startling other than the fact Arsene Wenger can make tactical substitutions before 70 minutes afterall. Two games to go. Best possible finish – second, worst possible finish – seventh, mostly likely finish – fourth. Most clubs would envy these options but this feels so very dull.