Tag Archives: Theo Walcott

Man at the match; Chary: Theo buttresses scoring junks

A swiftly taken, and started, first half hatrick from Theo Walcott ensured the most relaxed atmosphere to an end of season game for an age as the Arsenal set themselves up nicely for the FA Cup final with a comfortable 4-1 win against Pullis’ West Brom.

The expected rotation was there, Gabriel for Kozzer and Walcott for Giroud, in addition to the replacement of Gibbs for Monreal and Jack for Ramsey from the previous game.

However neither Santi nor Alexis got the breather I felt they needed, but then that may have been too much change for a game in which victory was desirable as it would set the mood for the FA Cup preparations.

Only the most doom laden Gooner would have feared losing third spot today as a seven goal swing was required for that to happen and fearing a repeat of the previous weekends performance from the today’s opposition against Chelsea some would argue pre match concerns like this were not entirely invalid.

Surely any Pullis side would be defensively tight, unadventurous and looking to frustrate ?

Panoramic from North Bank

Panoramic from North Bank

Having taken my seat in the north bank lower within a few minutes of the start I could see this was not the case, even though Arsenal were attacking the Clock End, as usual, in the first half and my sub par vision would make details hard to pick out.

West Brom looked to push forward early on and hence left gaps behind them, which after a short time was the wrong tactic.

A threaded ball from Santi found Theo wide right, who then unleashed an unstoppable rising drive that gave the Baggies keeper no chance.

Instant relief and the crowd could relax as the mini goal drought ended less than five minutes into the game.

Distant view after Theo scores

Distant view after Theo scores

And so started the Wembley songs which then continued for the rest of the afternoon.

In addition to the relatively open nature of the game another feature was Jack’s surging runs through the middle of the park, which drew much appreciation from the crowd, one of these led to some interchange with Özil that fired a cross into the West Brom box which Theo efficiently dispatched for his second.

Barely had we stopped cheering Theo’s brace then another attack led to some ping pong n the away penalty area which the Baggie’s defenders failed to clear and a lose ball was rifled in by Jack for the third.

The English core had now scored three goals and the ludicrous bad luck that dogged Arsenal’s goal attempts in the last three games was well and truly banished.

A Pullis side surrendering so tamely didn’t seem right and looking at the man himself he watched impassively, arms folded, without even attempting to look at all concerned.

The only semblance of order was a touch of the Stoke City’s that whenever there was a West Brom goal kick, as the ball looped down, the West Brom player was always giving out a sneaky shove to the Arsenal player attempting the clearing header.

The Baggies still came forward, even at three down, however Berahino’s early threat seemed to subside and all their approach play seemed to fizzle out impotently.

At three nil up a surge of exiting Gooners making for front of the queue for half time food missed Theo’s hat trick goal as Santi completed a move involving Özil, Alexis and Jack by firing across the goal for Theo to tap in a poachers goal.

Sign him up Arsène!
Sign da ting !

Half time came and as the score in the Stoke-Scousers game was flashed up much delirium ensued, clearly Stevie Me’s swansong would not end well as Liverpool were being battered 5-nil by Pullis’ former charges.

After such a breathless, enthralling first half, the second would struggle not to be an anti climax, and a weird starting second half it was.

First off Hector went lunging into the West Brom number 11 and received an unnecessary yellow card and then indecision in the the Arsenal defence led to a corner.

Then, after having looked so secure for nearly all his time in goal, Ospina seemed to flap at the corner and let a header in.

The excessive/ironic celebration of the Baggies fans at this point was the highlight of their day and only a mild irritant to the home support.

With the FA Cup in mind some of Arsène’s prospective starting 11 were taken off, Coquelin and then Theo to take the applause for his masterful hatrick; only the most churlish of us would take his little wave to the west stand as he walked off as a “wave goodbye”.

To my eyes if Villa allow us space to play then Theo should start; if not his replacement today, Olly, should start. Luckily that difficult decision is not mine to make.

Finally Jack was replaced by the Ox and the reception he got proved that his mid season indiscretions had been forgiven and his on field efforts very much appreciated.

The introduction of Ramsay and the Ox didn’t stop the fluidity of the mid field and chances were still being created.

Özil corner

Özil corner

Alexis, as ever, never stopped running and when one of his jinks into the opposition penalty area came to nothing, the crowd showed their appreciation and encouragement with his “Alexis baby” song – I don’t think he knows it his song yet as he just kept his head down while walking back to his position after play restarted.

Cheer up Alexis, every Gooner loves you !

A fifth goal would have been great and a Ramsay shot cannoned off the post as the game drew to a close.

Close from Rambo

Close from Rambo

The end of season feeling was confirmed when the fourth official didn’t bother signalling how much added time there would but when the final whistle blew it was with satisfaction the crowd showed their thanks for the result of the game.

Five points clear of fourth placed ManUre with no annoying Champions League pre qualifier to mess up pre season for the lads, I’d a taken that after our slow League start.

The lap of appreciation started with the handful of West Brom fans remaining holding up a plea on behalf of Sweden for Olsson, which seemed odd as he looked rather clumsy and unathletic on today’s showing, the Swedes must be desperate.

Olsson request

Olsson request

So we wait for the season climax next Saturday for our shot at another trophy; sadly for me I won’t be going as tickets are extremely hard to come by so I’ll thank you the readers for staying with me this season and I’ll see you in the 15/16 season.

Players Lap

Players Lap

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Man at the match; Chary: Birmingham Villa swatted aside by Mesut and Santi

A solitary first half goal, well taken by Olly Giroud from a sublime Özil flick, was no portent for the avalanche of goals in the second half as a very ordinary Villa side capitulated with four more conceded in the second half, the fifth the cherry on the scoring cake.

With Saturday’s results all going for the teams around the Arsenal the was no margin for error and an out of sorts Villa looked like the ideal opposition.

The Arsenal pre match warm up

The Arsenal pre match warm up

My seat in the North Bank lower was in front of the warm up area for the playing members of the squad where Chesney, while firing in corner kicks for Ospina to collect, seemed to have a chastened look on his face.

The away support were no doubt hoping for a repeat of the corresponding fixture last season where the resulting home defeat led to much angst amongst the Gooner faithful.

The Birmingham Villa contingent

The Birmingham Villa contingent

Selection wise the expected unavailability of Alexis seemed to cause less consternation than it would have done earlier in the season, a reflection of the current better squad depth with Theo and Özil starting and Monreal replacing Gibbs at the back – a very strong looking side and a healthy bench, with possibly only the substitute striker department being inexperienced, Welbeck instead of Chubby Akpom would have been preferrable.

Soon after kick off a chance fell to Theo and as is the case nowadays the modern day supporter displays schitzoid tendencies by screeching with derision when a player doesn’t bury every chance, as a voice from behind me indicated. To be fair Walcott did show signs of rustiness as later in the game he would race to the touch line to keep a ball in but he approached the ball from the wrong side to scoop it back in, a basic error.

Another voice would say:

“This lot are rubbish, we should be getting at least four against them”

In comparison to Theo’s awkwardness Özil was gliding around the pitch with his trademark panache and pretty soon a lofted ball from the centre landed in his ambit, then a sublime flick from Mesut and Olly collected then slammed home to open the scoring.

Long distance view of Olly's goal

Long distance view of Olly’s goal

With the number of crucial goals the big Frenchman has been scoring lately the English media will have to tone down their accusation of him being a flat track bully; yes it was against lowly Villa but the first goal in any game is crucial.

After conceding fairly early Vila had to step up the pace of their game and then Coquelin’s worth came into view – he provided a robust presence in the middle of the pitch which Arsenal have lacked for a while. His tackling was generally clean and on the spot even if he may concede a few fouls but in the hurly burly of any midfield this almost inevitable.

While Coquelin’s bustling presence was a new pleasure to behold, a not so new one was Santi’s dazzling close control, where he seems to pluck lofted passes to him out of the air and caress the ball with ease.

The only Villa players that caught my eye were for naughty infringements – Benteke (as slow and as lumbering a striker as you will ever see) barging Kozzer as he was about to head a Villa cross clear, and another barge from the rotund Villa number 5 on Ramsey as he was jumping into a header.

Özil continued to ghost across all areas and, with Santi, pick and tease apart Villa’s defence to the extent that as half time approached the Ashburton Grove crowd felt the Arsenal should have been two or three up, with only some good saves by the bald Villa keeper and the woodwork preventing the half time lead from being greater.

The Villa manager must have had the hair dryer out as for about ten minutes after the start of the second half the away team actually pressed forward with purpose and Ospina’s calm, composed keeping continued to shine through.

Every Villa cross, and forward foray, caused little concern amongst the home support as the feeling was that Ospina would deal with it – no panic, just unflappability.

This being the first time I’d seen our Colombian keeper I hadn’t heard the call from the Gooner support when he would take a goal kick:

Osss-peeeeeeeeee-na !

A tad childish, but good fun and also something that may make Chesney grimace at the thought of how popular his counterpart has become so quickly.

As Villa saw no way past the twin shields of Coquelin and Ospina a breakaway attack led to Olly threading a ball through to Özil who calmly slotted home for the second. One goal and one assist already and our record signing looking well on the way to a return to form.

With his mid field partner in wizardry, Santi Cazorla, Özil weaved a spell on the Villa players that left them chasing shadows to the extent that somehow the BFG on one occasion found himself driving into the Villa penalty box and slotting over a cross that just eluded the Arsenal strikers – Beckenbauer-esque !

Santi and Özil bamboozle

Santi and Özil bamboozle

Again Santi found another perfect through ball and Theo ran onto it and finished instinctively, the best way for our number 14 and the match was safe at three nil to the good guys.

As expected the same voice who admonished Theo for fluffing the early chance was singing “Theo, Theee-oo!” the loudest of all just then.

With the game won a flurry of substitutions saw Tomas “Rockin” Rosicky and Chubby Akpom come on, the latter to replace Giroud who was by then visibly wincing from a first half collision with the Villa back line.

Having seen little of Chubby it was interesting to see what he brought to our attack. On the basis of today’s cameo a more controlled version of Sanogo’s energy maybe.

That drive saw him latch onto a pass into the penalty area and to my eyes he appeared to take a heavy first touch but somehow the Villa keeper was deemed to have fouled him after he lost control of the ball. Having had more than our fair share of penalties denied we were all happy to take one that probably wasn’t deserved.

Up stepped our man of the moment Santi (who had received the PFA player of the month award before kickoff) and to rub salt into the wound the Villa keeper got a hand to the penalty but only succeeded in parrying the ball onto the post and seeing it ricochet into the net, four nil.

A cheeky chap in the big screen video control room then showed a close up of the Villa keeper kicking the post in frustration after Santi wheeled off in celebration to much mirth in the home support.

A final flourish was the fifth goal, where after the usual Arsenal succession of probing passes around the penalty area a pass allowed Bellerin to run onto the ball in a line towards the goal and it seemed he’d decided, “enough of this fannying around, I’ll slam this one”.

Hector makes it 5

Hector makes it 5

A well deserved debut goal and the BFG’s usual applause for the crowd was in the upbeat mood befitting a thumping five nil victory.

The BFG thanks the gooners

The BFG thanks the gooners

While the opposition was not especially testing it was a resounding win that sets us up nicely for a trip to the swamplands of the Middlesex reprobates next weekend.

Last word to a couple of Villa fans overheard in their high-pitched whingeing Brummy accents in the queue for the station:

“I thought they’d be shit without Sanchez”

One man team? Emphatically not.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Öoops Özzy

Man at the Match, Chary: Jack gets the job done

A goal in each half, from a Jack Wilshere in smoking hot form, meant the Arsenal finished their work for the evening on top of their Champions League group although not quite guaranteed qualification into the next round.

Many of the Ashburton Grove faithful had barely settled into their seats (yours truly included) when the first home attack of the night caught the French team napping. I was seated in the lower tier behind the goal in the clock end and had a close up view of Jack opening his body and curling the quick fire first goal beyond the flailing keeper. Were Marseille Totn**b in disguise as they conceded so quick?

Are you Totn**mb in disguise?

“Are you Totn**mb in disguise?”

Any hopes of an upset in the away end seemed to die right there and while they carried on singing pretty much the whole way through, apparently aided by one Joseph Anthony Barton who was in their ranks, there was little sustained interest in how the game was going from the travelling support.

That said it appeared to me that Marseille were very much snapping into tackles, their midfielders seeming to have an elastic/bouncy running and tackling style, and harrying Arsenal in possession with the good guys fighting back to gain possession energetically.

While there was not much of note from the Marseille fans, an ill-advised decision to wear what looked like a team onesie from the Marseille coach caused me much mirth.

Team Onesie

Team Onesie

There was also much laughing at the referee’s wardrobe malfunction accompanied by wolf whistles when he his shirt was being seen to.

Selection wise Monreal for Gibbs while Arteta and Cazorla benched were the only changes with Jack and Flamini replacing them.

The presence of Flamini was the main reason that, in contrast to seasons gone by, a one goal lead was seen as very slender and we would concede a goal to a counter attack. I noticed that straight after an attack had failed or finished our returning ex-Marseille man would wave his arms to his team mates and shout for them to get back to their positions and not dwell on the missed chance.

THAT is the sort of protection he has been giving the back four; think how many times in the past after shot was saved by the opposition the goalie would bowl out the ball and the opposition forwards would run through the middle of the pitch unhindered. Not so much now thanks to Flamini and a more responsible defensive attitude from all midfielders.

This, to my eyes, accounts for the more relaxed attitude of the home crowd with just a goal lead to defend and hence the atmosphere being less fractious than in the past.

So when Özzy had his penalty saved, note not “missed his penalty”, their groans were minimal.

Öoops Özzy

Öoops Özzy

In fact, as the penalty incident was just in front of the block I was in, most of the crowd thought it was outside the area and we had the rare feeling of getting a penalty when none was deserved rather than the familiar rage when we are usually denied stonewall penalties.

Giroud had various chances to double the lead in the first half but the ball didn’t quite sit up for him yet the crowd would still sing his song after a failed shot. His tireless work in the offensive and defensive parts of the field accounts is probably why any of his fluffed shots aren’t followed by groans.

Half time arrived and the crowd happy although wistfully wishing perhaps a few more goals for the good guys would have been nice.

You don't get these at Shite Hart Lane

Half time

With their onesie clad managers words no doubt ringing in their ears the Marseille players seemed to play with more urgency straight after the restart however Arsenal’s slightly more combative tackling approach, I don’t recall ever seeing quite so many sliding tackles from us, gradually eroding away the Olympique de Marseille’s bright start to the second half.

I recall one instance where Tomáš Rosický sprinted across the pitch to dispossess a Marseille midfielder and it was just as well he got the ball as it could have been taken for a lunge otherwise.

With arsenal attacking the end far away from me there was not much action at the Clock end in the second half, except for a few smart saves from Chesney, who seems to be having consistently better games this season.

Another player who had a good game was Nacho man Monreal.

He can defend half the pitch in his own

Lone Nachoman

It’s easy pick out how well he provides width on our left flank for attacks but his goal line clearance to keep a clean sheet, after Chesney’s partial block from a Gignac shot spun up and over the Pole towards the goal, was excellent defensive work.

I could see his eyes follow the arc of the ball, rather like a cricketer in the outfield waiting to catch a lofted shot, as it fell towards the goal so he could volley it clear. All defensive units like a clean sheet and thanks he got from the BFG and Chesney was proof of that.

Özzy seemed to put aside his penalty mishap and pull the strings more in midfield leading to his part in Jack’s second goal. Yes, he is having a little dip in form but still his importance the team cannot be underestimated, every team shudders a but when they see him prowling the midfield, and opposition supporters fear him.

In my previous game, the Capitol One Cup game versus Chelsea, the obnoxious Chelsea fans stopped their vile chanting when Özzy came on as a sub and seemed to be caught by surprise.

Arsenal bringing on a superstar? No, they can’t do that. (That game may have been lost but the Chelsea crowd reaction was something I’d not seen before and worth pointing out).

As the game wound down Theo and Santi came on for Jack and Rosický while after Marseille had already brought on Valbuena and Thauvin.

The new defensive responsibility was further exemplified by Santi tussling to get the ball off Valbuena; the sight of those two sprinting for the loose ball looked like Sports day at Oompah Loompah school.

The game petered out and the crowd were happy at full time with the result with confusion over whether the Dortmund- Napoli result, when it was read out, was good or bad news.

However all agreed Mourinho’s Chavs defeat at the hands of Basel was hilarious.

Onwards and upwards, UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)