Cup of tea. The first requirement of the morning. It’s a Sunday morning look back at the day before, so forgive me if some of the events of yesterday have been ‘dissolved’. On reaching the usual pre-match hostelry almost bang on opening time I ran into a face I haven’t seen in nine years. Zaph is a provider of exotic Icelandic food and drink and didn’t disappoint. It was great to see him again.
The ex-neighbour returned for a match and proved something of a lucky omen as we bounced back from the week from hell. Not that it was all plain sailing, but if you read the preview ahead of the match I will claim to have pretty much called how the match would pan out with the exception of the opener arriving before half-time , and the second goal not being scored by Danny Welbeck.
We made a bright start and Mesut Ozil combined with Alex Iwobi only to see his attempted chip headed away. We perhaps should have gone ahead when Alexis was put through but his chip lacked his usual deadly accuracy and Jakupovic made a comfortable save.
That seemed to bring Hull out of their shell and we saw glimpses of why they came into this match unbeaten in four Premier League encounters. The impressive Markovic sped through Arsenal’s left flank and crossed inches out of the reach of Niasse, who was almost gifted a simple tap in. The same player was denied spectacularly by Petr Cech when he climbed highest to a Grosicki cross.
Back came the Arsenal and Hector Bellerin spurned the best opportunity so far when Alexis, Ozil, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain combined to put him free only for the Spaniard to slice his drive onto the next fairway. An apt point at which to point out the contribution of the Ox again yesterday. Defensively he covers gaps rather than thunders into tackles, but he is the next best option we have to Santi for setting us off on the counter attack. He was arguably the man of the match.
He was involved in the next attack too when the ball fell to Alexis who cut inside but dragged his effort from the penalty spot wide of the target. Another Ox long pass was swept imperiously out to Iwobi who showed good strength to find Alexis, and the Chileans chip into the box was met on the volley by Ozil, but sadly it cleared the target with ease.
The opener arrived twelve minutes before the break. Iwobi and Ozil again opened up Hull’s right flank, Kieran Gibbs drive was deflected onto the wrist of the incoming Alexis by Jakupovic. It happened in a split second and referee Mark Clattenburg rightly ruled it to have not been a deliberate handball, but I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Arsenal 1-0 Hull City
Far from down having gone behind the Tigers started the second-half with a statement of intent. Markovic left the otherwise excellent Laurent Koscielny for dead on the hallway line and sprinted down our left flank before crossing to his strike partner Niasse. His drive drew an excellent save from Cech, forced to go full length to his left.
On the hour another sweeping move saw Ozil and Iwobi exchange passes before the latter curled his effort just over the crossbar near the far post. Then Ozil and Alexis put Theo Walcott through but he is a pale shadow of the player who started the season so well, and he passed the ball into the palms of Jakupovic. Knowing the arguments that often causes in the drinks I will say that it was an observation, not a criticism. Everyone has a little dip at points in the season and I would expect to see the busy Theo back again soon. It was a shame to see only Coquelin, after a delay, go to his assistance when Maguire turned bully boy midway through the half. Mohamed Elneny replaced him with twenty minutes to go.
Hull were finishing strongly and we survived something of a mini onslaught in the closing stages. Gibbs got the benefit of the doubt when clearing out Markovic as he bore down on goal, and the defender breathed a sigh of relief at the award of just a yellow card.
Markovic headed straight at Cech, Niasse found the side-netting at the near post, and Diamonde head over from close range. Yet at their most dangerous they were also at their most vulnerable. On the break following a scooped Iwobi clearance Ozil scampered clear and sent Alexis on a diagonal run from centre to left flank. His cross left the goalkeeper in no-mans land, late substitute Lucas headed goalwards and Clucas was forced to extend his arm to the ball to deny the goal. The red card was inevitable, less so was the Alexis spot-kick that was struck close to Jakupovic but with enough venom to render his late dive a pointless exercise.
Arsenal 2-0 Hull City
The ‘holic pound secured at the death, we returned to the pub and Zaph’s deadly concoctions. Old friends and new celebrated a win which was so badly needed. The result was far more important than the performance which was just as well. Once again we were like the proverbial curate’s egg, excellent in parts but…