Arsenal (0) 2 Cardiff City (0) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Tuesday, 29th January 2019. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno; Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Monreal, Kolašinac; Torreira, Elneny; Özil, Guendouzi, Lacazette; Aubameyang
Substitutes: Čech, Ramsey, Iwobi, Jenkinson, Mavropans, Xhaka, Nketiah.
Yellow Cards: Monreal, Guendouzi, Lacazette
Referee: Mike Dean
Some things happen to be considerably more important than football. Tonight’s match has been overshadowed by talk of the missing Emiliano Sala, along with pilot David Ibbotson, who, in the words of sui generis Joni Mitchell, appears to be “swallowed by the sky, or by the sea”. It goes without saying that everyone’s thoughts and prayers are surely with his family, friends and colleagues of both Cardiff City and Sala’s previous club, Nantes, symbolised emotionally in tonight’s match programme, where an image of a daffodil, instead of a shirt number was placed next to his name. The funereal atmosphere in the stadium became evident when the two captains, Mesut Özil and Sol Bamba on behalf of Emiliano Sala’s team-mates and the club that he may never know, laid a bouquet of yellow daffodils and yellow tulips (the symbol of Nantes) on the Emirates pitch prior to kick-off brought home to everyone present just how gossamer thin this entity called life truly is.
To their eternal credit, Cardiff City played this match tonight with resilience and confidence which truly belied the traumatic week that has been endured by everyone associated with the South Wales club. Not only did they stop Arsenal from scoring even more goals than they actually did, but at times it was thought that they could, somehow, drag a result out of tonight’s meeting between these two famous old clubs, who are currently some thirteen places apart in the Premier League.
Make no mistake about it, Arsenal’s dominance may well have been reflected in their 70% possession statistic, but Cardiff’s heart and passion certainly made them work for it. In unkind weather, both sides struggled at times to gain advantage; indeed neither home nor away side had a shot on target during the first 45 minutes, which was dogged, sluggish and to be fair, hard work for both players and supporters to get through. The highlight (if there was one that is) was when referee Mike Dean denied two appeals for penalties from Arsenal, much to the annoyance of the home crowd.
Mr. Emery is always not one to disappoint, especially when it comes to his substitutions, an area that you certainly could not accuse him of profligacy. Mohamed Elneny was substituted for Alex Iwobi, and on the hour, Carl Jenkinson replaced the somewhat invisible Stephan Lichtsteiner at full-back. These changes can often turn matches, and sure enough, a few mintues later Sead Kolašinac was brought down in the penalty area by Cardiff defender Ecuele Manga; our top striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made no mistake from the spot. Arsenal’s third and final substution of the night happened ten minutes later, when Aaron Ramsey made his entrance at the expense of Mesut Özil, who truly had an indifferent game. Alexandre Lacazette pounced to make it 2-0 to Arsenal on the 83rd minute, and from then on, the game slowed down. However, Cardiff City managed to grab a goal for themselves in injury time when Nathaniel Mendez-Liang scored with a curling ball past Bernd Leno.
Tonight was always going to be more than a game, with so much in people’s minds with regards to the missing Bluebirds’ striker. Cardiff City, in particular showed to be a formidable opponent tonight and at times got very close to getting a result for themselves here at The Emirates. However, a win is always good, and we now equal Chelsea in joint fourth place with 47 points on the board. Manchester City next at The Etihad on Saturday. Can we? Will we? Let’s see. One day left until the end of the transfer window for loan deals. 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.