Cardiff City (1) 2 Arsenal (1) 3
Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Wales
Sunday, 2nd September 2018. Kick-off time: 1.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Guendouzi, Xhaka; Ramsey, Özil; Aubemeyang, Lacazette.
Substitutes: Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Torreira, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Welbeck, Leno.
Scorers: Mustafi, Aubemeyang, Lacazette.
Yellow Cards: Bellerin, Guendouzi, Monreal, Xhaka.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
The last occasion that we were in South Wales for a Premiership match was back on 30th November 2013, when two goals from Cardiff City alumnus Aaron Ramsey (along with Mathieu Flamini) sent The Bluebirds packing with a confident 3-0 victory to the Londoners; of course, as we know, history has also linked our two clubs because of the incident in our first FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on St. George’s Day 1927. If you can stand the angst of a painful Arsenal cup final defeat, the grainy footage is available on YouTube; be my guest. In modern times, however, the city has been kind to us; out of four cup finals at the Milennium Stadium we have lost only once, so the omens for today are good.
With the sprightly and youthful Alex Iwobi absent through illness for this Sunday lunch-time kick-off in sunny Caerdydd, we applaud the return of Mesut Özil finally reclaiming his rightful place in the midfield area, and also the appearance of our top bandits for the first time in this campaign, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette which certainly had the necessary ingredients to whet the appetite of our travelling band of loyal and enthusiastic supporters.
In the explosive cauldron of Cardiff City Stadium, the first half started in a very lively manner indeed with the home side attempting to capitalise on one or two early errors from Petr Cech which thankfully came to nothing. After eleven minutes, a superb Granit Xhaka corner was powered into the back of the Cardiff net by Shkrodan Mustafi – a well-taken header that obviously had its origins on the training ground last week. Now the rollercoaster starts. Both defences were found wanting, none more so than the home side’s. Alexandre Lacazette hit the post on 33 minutes, and before half-time we were quite wasteful at times when we should have been more clinical in front of their goal. Such frustration leads to mistakes, and in injury time of the first half, Cardiff City equalised after a series of dreadful errors in our defence.
After the break, we came out fighting, and we gained control of the match. After a Shkrodan Mustafi header that was brilliantly saved by the Cardiff goalie, a moment of true brilliance happened. With 61 minutes on the clock, Mesut Özil slotted the ball through to Alexandre Lacazette, who flicked it on to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored with some aplomb. A contender for goal of the season already! Our joy was short lived, when eight minutes later, they equalised when confusion reigned yet again in the Arsenal six-yard box. The last twenty minutes of the match was a frenetic dash for another goal by both sides; the matter was decided by an incredible solo effort by Alexandre Lacazette nine minutes from time that saw all three points go back to North London on a day that was truly a breathtaking contest between two very entertaining sides.
A corner was definitely turned today, with some remarkable performances, none more so of course, than Alexandre Lacazette, whose intelligent and unselfish play was at times, unbelivable. Our defence, individually, is okay; but collectively, is shaky at best. Mr. Emery needs to dedicate time to ensure their cohesion, as this will be a problem area when we play our rivals over the course of the season. Mesut Özil, it has to be said, played very well today, and was conducting proceedings in the manner that we all know that he can; let’s hope that he grows under the new regime and he finds confidence in his role in midfield. The unsung hero in our team is most definitely Mattéo Guendouzi; this 19-year-old midfielder is a confident, pivotal player who has a bright future at the club, and like 22-year-old Lucas Torreira, will propel Arsenal Football Club to greater glories over the next few years. Exciting days ahead for us all. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.