Monday, 2 December 2013

Cardiff 0-3 Arsenal: Positives all around

A seemingly comfortable victory for us as Arsenal won 3-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium, where United only managed a point and City lost. It's a brilliant result all around, and one that we can take a lot of encouragement from.

Firstly, let's address the elephant in the room, Aaron Ramsey. I was simply dazzled by his display yesterday, and not just because of the two goals. He was absolutely outstanding all around on a day where we needed three points to consolidate our lead. His defensive workrate, his passing precision and especially his positioning was truly top class.

The first goal that he scored was pure class, a really difficult header pulled off with such apparent ease. That's a kind of header that Olivier Giroud would struggle to head in, and yet Ramsey, 14 cms shorter than him, fired it in promptly, yet had the respect to not celebrate a fine goal in front of his former fans.

His second was in much different circumstances, kind of a way to kick Cardiff when they were down. Theo Walcott, deadly pace brought on in the dying minutes, was fed wide by Aaron himself to start the move. Theo had a simple return pass to provide, which he comfortably executed, leaving Ramsey to smash home after a really good first touch, I might add.

It capped another eye-catching display from the Welshman, who is rapidly becoming one of my many favourite players at the club. He is currently comfortably Arsenal's top goalscorer this season, which is simply magnificent considering his assigned deep midfield role. He has a lot of qualities - his stamina, his finishing, his vision, his defensive abilities, you name it. He's constantly reminding me of Frank Lampard this year, and resembling THE complete midfielder.

Arsene said of him:

"He has developed and matured, not only as a player but as a person as well. A few years ago we came here in a cup game and he had a very, very difficult game. And now it shows you how much he has developed as a person as well."

What's even more exciting is the fact that he is still 23 years of age, with at least 10 years of football still in him. To me, he is the best in the Premier League at the moment, and I'm running out of ways to describe him. In fact, I think that I'm running out of ways to say that I'm running out of ways to describe him!

Since suffering that horrific leg break back in February 2010, he's come a long, LONG, way to impose his importance on the club. And it wasn't a sweet ride either. Almost immediately after returning from injury, he was forced to fill the Cesc Fabregas void, and yet managed it for some time. Around January, the death of his mentor and Wales manager Gary Speed meant a dip in form, for which he was unfairly criticized. Last season, Wenger ludicrously decided to play him on the right flank ahead of Lukas Podolski, which still seems a baffling decision to me, in a world where we signed Park Chu Young.

Poor performances were imminent, with which criticism was sure to follow. People failed to notice that a central midfielder doesn't exactly thrive as a right winger, and used him as a scapegoat for everything that was wrong with the club at the time. Still, Aaron kept his head down and gave his all in every match, after which he was given a long-term contract.

People were raging at this decision by the manager, but have been since eating their words, because he has been vastly improving post-January. After keeping it simple, yet effective in the second half of last season, he has progressed leaps and bounds, amassing 13 goals and 5 assists in the process. Cesc, in his best season for Arsenal, got 19 goals and 19 assists, and Ramsey has managed to near those amount of goals already. We haven't even gone through halfway through the season yet.

His story to glory itself is hugely dramatic, to the point of being inspirational. Ramsey's form, symbolic of Arsenal's form, has been surreal this season, which was shown yesterday at Cardiff. Even though I supported Ramsey throughout his bleak days, I never, ever, expected him to produce such top drawer displays at such a consistent level, and at this rate, I have no idea when he will stop. It's telling that even a Mesut Ozil back in form failed to wrest the MOTM award from Ramsey. We've got a real gem on our hands, I must say.

Talking about Mesut Ozil, I finally saw glimpses that made Arsene shell out £42m for him, since the Napoli game. While I had suggested that he needed to be dropped to make way for more hardworking players like Rosicky, it seems that missing a penalty against Marseille marked a turning point for him. He was fantastic yesterday, his two assists were no fluke - especially the one to feed Flamini - and if Ramsey hadn't been, well, Ramsey, then he surely would've taken the match ball home.

While I am still cautious to concede that a scintillating game against an average side is proof that Ozil is back to his Real Madrid form, I am happy that he is getting the assists to justify his selection. The best part is that even if he does under perform, we still have midfielders capable and willing to take the creativity burden upon them. It's hugely encouraging that we have gone from having Cesc and Nasri to Ozil, Cazorla, Jack and Rosicky.

Positives aren't just oozing from the Arsenal, though. Spurs and United slipping up, coupled with Liverpool crashing 3-1 and Chelsea currently losing to Southampton means that our 7 point lead may just hold true by the end of the weekend. [UPDATE: Oh well, 4 points isn't half bad either] A Sunday just couldn't get any better now, could it?

Mind The Gap? More like mind the Grand Canyon.        

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )