A Winter Tan: Arsenal 2 – 0 Cardiff – Report & Player Ratings

Final Score
Arsenal 2 – 0 Cardiff

Following a snatched win away at Newcastle, Arsenal needed three points at home to once again fight off the competition, and rise to the top of the league. Cardiff though, were not going to make things easy for The Gunners, especially with all the injuries Arsenal were dealing with.[quote_right]”Wilshere was once again running the show in midfield, driving Arsenal forward in the Ozil role…”[/quote_right]

The game began with both Arsenal and Cardiff playing with relative ease.

Arsenal were moving the ball forward well, but Cardiff were also enjoying their time in The Gunners’ half. The Bluebirds were putting crosses in, passing well around the box.

Much like Arsenal’s visit to Newcastle, the game was slow. Cardiff were defending well, closing down high up the pitch, and looking confident. Arsenal had three half-chances through Theo Walcott, but the Englishman didn’t have his finishing boots on, as he hit the side netting twice, and put another shot over the bar.

Wilshere was once again running the show in midfield, driving Arsenal forward in the Ozil role, and doing a very good job of it. He was brought down in the box mid-way through the half, but the referee was not convinced. How surprising.

The half time whistle soon blew on a poor first half, and the pressure was now on Arsenal to come out for the second half with real purpose.

In fairness, Arsenal did just that. They began to throw more and more at Cardiff, but The Bluebirds were really buckling down at the back.[quote_left]”It was a tactical game, with a frantic finish.”[/quote_left]

Cardiff were getting close to Arsenal’s midfield, playing deep, and soaking up the pressure. Arsenal swapped Podolski and Flamini for Bedtner and Rosicky, hoping to find a way through.

Yet, it took Arsenal a long while to break them down – until the eighty-eighth minute in fact. Nicklas Bendtner found himself in the right place at the right time, as Marshall parried away a header right in front of him. The Dane swung his foot at it from close range, puting Arsenal a goal up with minutes to go.

Bendtner managed to injure himself as he scored, and was replaced by Vermaelen. But that didn’t stop Arsenal. Jack Wilshere played Walcott in with a clever pass in behind the back four. Walcott chipped Marshall, who could only get a hand to the ball as it bounced into the net. It was game over.

Szczesney made an impressive rushing save in the final second to maintain Arsenal’s clean sheet, and the whistle blew shortly after. It was a tactical game, with a frantic finish.

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[title]Arsenal Player Ratings[/title]

Szczesney: [7.5/10]
Only had two saves to make, but he made them well. A good block in the first half, followed by a brilliantly quick rush-save in the dying seconds.

Sagna: [6.5/10]
Wasn’t too impressed by Sagna today. His crossing was poor, and he was further up the pitch than he needed to be on many occasions. No real issues though.

Mertesacker: [7/10]
Had two clear-cut headers to put Arsenal ahead in the second but Per missed them both. Other than that though, he made good tackles, won aerial battles and kept Cardiff quiet all game.

Koscielny: [7/10]
Barely had anything to do. Laurent was more than comfortable at the back, clearing up any loose balls and winning easy headers.

Monreal: [7.5/10]
An impressive performance from Nacho. He made some darting runs with the ball, crossed very well, and defended without any issues at the back. A solid performance.

Flamini: [7/10]
Cardiff weren’t showing much of themselves in Arsenal’s half after the first twenty minutes, so Flamini’s work was simplified. Still, no erros, good passing, and a steady performance. Subbed.

Wilshere: [8.5/10] – MOTM
Jack was in the Ozil role today, and you have to say that he thrived in it. He linked up very well with Walcott and Cazorla at times, pushed Arsenal forward, and drove into the Cardiff box. Should have been awarded a penalty. A very hard-working performance from him, and also managed to grab a nice assist.

Cazorla: [7.5/10]
Santi was hit and miss as usual in the opening few minutes, but he grew into the game. His passing was good for the most part, he held on to the ball very well,and tried to be positive in his play.

Walcott: [8/10]
Theo missed three half-chances in the first half, but without him, Arsenal may have found themselves looking at a dead-end today. Cardiff were sitting back firmly, and Walcott seemed to be the only player looking to penetrate them off the ball. Worked hard in the second half, and took his goal very well.

Arteta: [7/10]
Roamed forward more than usual today, but didn’t do anything different in terms of his playing style. He kept things moving, broke up play in the middle, and provided a reliable outlet when team mates were under pressure.

Podolski: [6.5/10]
I like Lukas, but I prefer him on the left. He was positionally poor today, wasn’t looking hungry for the ball, and kept dropping far too deep. Could have grabbed a goal or two if he was more alert at times. Subbed.

Subs:

Bendtner: [7/10]
Came off the bench and broke the deadlock. What more can you ask for? He isn’t an ideal player to bring on, but he looked lively enough today. Good on him for scoring an important goal, let’s hope his injury is minor.

Rosicky: [6.5/10]
Didn’t have much of an impact after coming on, but did his best to get the ball forward.

Vermaelen: [N/A]

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[title]A Winter Tan[/title]

Cardiff really made life difficult for Arsenal today. They played for a draw, and they very nearly got it.

It was Arsenal’s persistant offensive play which saved them in the end. Wilshere worked his socks off all game to get The Gunners into the final third more often, and in the final few minutes, Bednter and Walcott managed to do the business.

Cardiff owner Vincent Tan will be furious, and that makes me very, very happy.

The win puts Arsenal back on top of the League once again, one point clear of Manchester City. Next up, Tottenham at home in the FA Cup, followed by another (much needed) nine day break.

Oh, and it’s transfer season too.

What did you think of the Arsenal vs Cardiff  match? Let me know in the comments below!

Image: Arsenal

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