Arsenal’s trip to South Wales was never going to be a smooth ride given that Unai Emery’s side is still a work in progress. To Cardiff’s credit, they made life difficult for Arsenal who also had a terrible time at defending and Petr Cech, in particular, was a mess with his feet. Arsenal managed to edge past Neil Warnock’s side thanks to their strikers, Lacazette and Aubameyang, who both got their first goals of the season.
With Ozil back in the side and Mikhtaryan on the bench, Unai Emery gave a start to Alexander Lacazette who put in a match-winning performance with a goal and assist.
It was a very wobbly start for the away side with Petr Cech fumbling on a back pass from Sokratis in the very first minute. It would only take him another 6 minutes to err again with his feet as he passed straight to Cardiff’s Harry Arter after receiving a backpass with Cardiff pressing high up. Fortunately for Arsenal, Harry Arter blasted the shot over the bar. If the last three matches weren’t proof enough, this game should surely propel Unai Emery to start Bernd Leno in the next game. Petr Cech is clearly not good with his feet and the whole team is suffering as Unai Emery’s tactic of playing out from the back is often rendered useless.
On the other end, Arsenal were making steady progress and it finally resulted in a goal when Granit Xhaka’s corner from the left was met by Mustafi, who had gotten past his marker, with his head and the ball just sped past the keeper into the net. With Mustafi celebrating with the Albanian Eagle gesture, it’s only to be seen if he will face any action from the FA.
Cardiff constantly grew into the game with some good attacks down the wings and although Lacazette came close to scoring with his shot hitting the post, Cardiff got a really good chance on the right wing as a ball from Camarasa came agonisingly close to being tapped in by Danny Ward but the ball continued its path and a loitering Junior Hoillet at the far post blazed his shot wide.
The home supporters saw the energy and the drive in their side and constantly backed them as Cardiff soon equalised at the Halftime mark. A lazy cross-field ball from Xhaka was intercepted by Junior Hoillet who passed it to Bennett on the left and the resulting cross fell to the feet of Camarasa who spun like a top and scored! Although there was luck involved in Camarasa’s first touch it was nothing less than Cardiff deserved.
It was clear Arsenal, like in their previous games, were better in attack than in defence but it was deja vu when Petr Cech again passed to a player in blue within a minute of the restart. Arsenal’s defensive woes continued until their attack rescued them again. Lacazette and Aubameyang combined beautifully for a second goal as Lacazette gave a backheel pass to the Gabonian and from 20 yards out he bent the ball just beyond Etheridge’s outstretched arm and Arsenal were in front again. Aubameyang who had joked before the game that he was shifted to train as the goalkeeper due to his lack of goals this season could now go back to training normally as that was an exquisite finish any top striker would be proud of.
Throughout the first half, Anthony Taylor was harsh on Arsenal as he kept ignoring clear fouls on the players from London. Cardiff’s players were allowed to rough up not just Ramsey, as Neil Warnock had suggested before the game, but most other Arsenal players. Taylor called a foul on a tackle by Lacazette which clearly wasn’t one. The resulting free-kick was headed over to Danny Ward by the towering central defender, Morrison. Ward did the headed pass full justice by firing his shot to the far post for Cardiff’s 2nd equaliser.
Arsenal needed to respond again with Unai Emery bringing on the young new recruit Lucas Torreira who impressed again bringing great vision and composure to the game as much as that the team seemed to have stepped up after his arrival. He found Lacazette on the right of the box who cleverly turned and bazooka’d it into the top corner of the near post leaving goalkeeper Etheridge stunned and motionless.
Although Cardiff had a great chance in injury time to equalise again, Arsenal survived and now have a crucial win which happens to be only the 2nd away win in the whole of 2018 thanks to their strikers.
Unai Emery still has a long way to go as there are still too many naïve defensive mistakes happening in each game. Also, he needs to fix the goalkeeping issue as Petr Cech’s attempted transformation into a ‘modern’ goalkeeper shows no sign of improving. It is also clear that Torreira needs to start as soon as he is physically able to, with the midfield lacking ideas and structure without him. The good sign from the game is that the strike partnership between Lacazette and Aubameyang seems to be blossoming and we, the fans, can only hope that the team builds on that and stakes a claim for the title.