Arsenal skipped over the bodies of Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Southampton and strolled safely into the next round of the FA Cup after a rather entertaining display at Brighton.
After the Carlsberg-esque results the day before it was only natural to feel a little nervy just before kick off given the changes made to the team but it's quite amazing what a morale victory against the Champions does to you.
We had a spring in our step that we have not had for many games earlier on this season. We were very fluent with our interchanging and that comes from confidence oh and also having actual real players available to play actual games rather than on the treatment table.
It was one of those players who have missed a significant chunk of the season got us under way with the referee's whistle still echoing around the stadium. Calum Chambers showed some rather silky skills on the right when he dragged the ball, produced a step over and sprinted past his marker before crossing low to Walcott who took one touch and arrowed a shot low into the corner of the Brighton net.
VINE. Goal Theo Walcott 1-0 https://t.co/v2vPXbxaQs— Arsenal Page Ind (@ArsenalPage_Ind) January 26, 2015
As you are well aware of, Tomas Rosicky was a joy to watch as usual. His intelligence and flexibility allowed Özil to pop up in central positions while the bouncy haired Czech filled in for him.
As much as I love watching Rosicky over the years, I have criticized the quality of his final pass at times. It simply isn't on the level as the rest of his game but no such criticism can be leveled his way when he produced the pass of the match.
Moments earlier Rosicky had scuffed a shot wide from a central position, this time when he drove into the middle from the left he reversed a pass that nobody saw into the path of Mesut Özil to steer past the Brighton keeper.
Had we scored the third goal then it could have been a lot more comfortable but we couldn't get it. Once Brighton scored, they lifted their heads and made it a match once again. Not the best defending from Flamini and the team and we allowed them back into the game but it always felt like we had another gear to go up if we really needed it.
That is exactly what we did when Rosicky, Sanchezed upon a defensive error and recovered the ball back, bursting towards the box he slipped the ball wide with the trademark Ronaldinho no look pass (how many players can I merge into Rosicky here) when Giroud chipped the ball out to the edge of the area Rosicky to erm Pires it on the volley past the keeper.
Brighton pulled a goal back but even with a mix and match Arsenal defence they did not have enough to put us under enough pressure to force the equaliser.
On this form Tomas Rosicky should be an automatic starter. I can't help but feel he was not used early on in the season to unleash him on the second half of the campaign. Arsène is fully aware of his quality and I struggle to believe that he hardly had a kick because of the competition. It has happened a few times in recent years. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey have been ahead of him until the second half of seasons where he comes back into the team and drives us forward with quality displays.
Rosicky is 34 now and perhaps he simply cannot do what Alexis can do for an entire season who knows. What I do know is that when Rosicky plays, others play better. We press better, we keep the ball better and we have better movement.
Özil and Walcott played well considering the little amount of games they have both had. Both players faded somewhat as the game went on, especially Theo who had a bright first half.
Koscielny was not at his best and that seems to be a consistent theme. One of our first choice defenders having to play on the opposite side alongside players he hasn't played a lot of games with and his form drops. It has been the same with Mertesacker. Hopefully the signing of Gabriel means less moving around for whoever his partner is when he plays.
So that is about that, we are in the draw this evening. I'd quite like to get either Bradford at home or Stoke City away. Yeah I wrote that correctly, we are a far superior side to Stoke and if we caught them in this mood and a fit squad we would despatch them. It would be great for the squad psychologically as well.
As long as we avoid Manchester United, Liverpool and West Ham away then I'll take whatever comes our way.
Onwards and upwards.
PS - We should be recording the post match Podcast tonight. Trying to tie up a last minute transfer guest.. or something. Keep your eyes pealed for that.
Other match related content:Brighton (a) "He made us tick, and brought a dynamism to our attacking play" - Q&A