Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Flamini, Wilshere, Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Rosicky, Ryo, Gnabry, Bendtner
Arsenal went back to the top of the league with a late, great 2-0 win against Cardiff at the Emirates today.
Arsene Wenger brought in Nacho Monreal at left back, Mathieu Flamini in midfield and gave Lukas Podolski a start up front as he shuffled his somewhat injured pack.
The game was played in horrible conditions, driving rain and wet pitch made for a scrappy start as the teams sounded each other out. The most interesting thing about the opening 10 minutes was the linesman getting two offside decisions wrong against Theo Walcott.
Arsenal trying to find the England winger over the top was an unsuccessful feature of the opening period, and when Jack Wilshere found his range, Walcott could only put the ball wide on the stretch as he came in at the back post.
That was followed by an odd moment when Arsenal got a free kick just outside the Cardiff box but with Cazorla and Walcott on the pitch, Bacary Sagna was the man to take it. The right-back’s effort hit the wall however.
Moments later Wilshere created another good Arsenal chance when he set up Cazorla on the edge of the Cardiff box but the Spaniard’s powerful left-footed shot went well wide. Jack was involved again when he drove into the Cardiff box was tripped by Medel but referee John Moss waved play on.
Jordan Mutch had the visitors first shot on goal in the 28th minute but Wojciech Szczesny saved with his legs, before great play from Cazorla set up Walcott but his left-footed effort hit the side netting when he really should have got it on target.
Wilshere again was the man to try and make things happen but after combining with Walcott his shot was blocked, and the half descended into the kind of tedious hungover fare that I would provide if I was all 22 players and was too half-drunk to run.
Towards the end of the half Lukas Podolski got the ball in a dangerous area, but his pass to Cazorla was blocked. It summed up a fairly insipid half of football and there was no breakthrough on either side as the teams went in level at the break.
Bacary Sagna had the Gunners first effort of the second period, flashing a left footed shot wide after a Monreal cross deflected into his path, while a Podolski effort was blocked after good interplay with Cazorla.
Cardiff were shouting for a penalty when a Noone cross deflected off the left-back’s hand on the edge of the Arsenal area, and in fairness you’ve seen them given. The Bluebirds keeper, David Marshall, was booked for time wasting as he took an age over each goal kick, and once more Jack Wilshere was Arsenal’s most dangerous player, cracking a shot off the post from a tight angle.
In the 65th minute Arsene Wenger made a double substitution to try and get on top of the game, bringing on Bendtner and Rosicky for Flamini and Podolski. A couple of minutes later Per Mertesacker should have opened the scoring, heading a Walcott cross wide from 8 yards, and the BFG had another chance from a corner but again headed wide at the back post.
As Arsenal increased the pressure, with most of the game being played in the Cardiff half, Jack Wilshere dragged a shot wide and a Cazorla effort took a nick off a defender making it easier for the keeper.
Despite all the pressure Cardiff had some moments of danger in the last 10 minutes, shooting over twice in quick succession, while at the other end good combination play saw Rosicky and Cazorla combine, but with no end product. A Walcott cross just evaded Bendtner’s head and a Sagna looping header was cleared from under the crossbar as Cardiff dug in.
However, in the 89th minute Arsenal finally got the goal they were looking for when Nicklas Bendtner finally broke the deadlock. Monreal crossed it from the left, Sagna headed it at goal, the keeper saved but the big Dane was on hand to smash the rebound into the top corner from close range.
In scoring he injured himself, pulling a muscle, and was immedaitely replaced by Thomas Vermaelen. Theo Walcott went up front and straight away sealed the game for the Gunners. Jack Wilshere flicked the ball into Walcott’s path in the Cardiff area, and the winger dinked it over the keeper to make it 2-0.
It was a tough day at the office for Arsenal, but they got the goals they needed to back on top of the league.