Arsenal and Cardiff Serve Up a Football Treat With Added Class – by Rob Atkinson


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The definitive “Good Advert for Football”

Yesterday’s clash between Cardiff City and Arsenal at the imaginatively-named Cardiff City Stadium produced much that we might have expected – as well as quite a lot that we didn’t.

First things first, and a fantastic performance by the league leaders resulted in a win that looked, on the face of it, comfortable. Arsenal produced everything we all know they’re capable of: shimmering moves going forward with chance upon chance being created; bewildering interchanges of position which saw the most unlikely people cropping up at centre-forward – how do you mark your men against a team like Arsenal? It was a feast of flowing, creative football, beautiful to watch, virtually impossible to cope with and ultimately very, very effective.

And yet Cardiff, newcomers to the Premier League let’s not forget, more than played their part in a highly entertaining game which was always closer than the scoreline might suggest. Their promising forward Fraizer Campbell got himself on the end of a few quality deliveries, and on another day might easily have had one or two goals himself. But the goal-scoring honours on the day rested squarely with a former Cardiff player, Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal.

Ramsey’s was a performance to drool over, not just for his two expertly-taken goals, not even for the overall quality of his performance within a highly proficient overall Arsenal display.  What really caught the eye was Ramsey’s poise, self control and a disarming humility in the way he reacted to his goals. Not a flicker of celebration, just quiet satisfaction and the full measure of respect to the club that gave him his start.  You see this sometimes, it’s a bit of a phenomenon over the past few years, and while it’s not universally observed – van Persie’s tasteless degree of triumphalism against Arsenal themselves springs readily to mind – it always gilds the occasion with that extra patina of class; there’s just something fitting about it that reminds you what football should be all about.

Even in this, Cardiff City more than played their part.  It’s a shattering, disappointing feeling to see your favourites concede a goal, at the best of times – to see a former favourite score not one, but two – that’s really unpalatable. And yet the Cardiff fans, all of them from what could be seen, responded magnificently to the prodigal Ramsey’s return and successes.  When the former Bluebird scored his first goal – a header of stunning quality – his muted response brought the stadium to its feet as the home fans stood and applauded, clearly affected by the respect shown by their departed star.  How often do you see that?

As a Leeds fan, I can only remember one comparable occasion at Elland Road, back in the early nineties when Roy Wegerle of QPR scored a wonder goal of such world-class quality that even the notoriously partisan Leeds fans gave it a unanimous ovation.  To see the Cardiff fans applaud Ramsey – for his second goal as well, which put the seal on Arsenal’s win – made you feel good about the game again, as if the underlying decency of sporting competition will always, in the end, prevail over the less attractive features we’re sometimes exposed to.

In between Ramsey’s two strikes, we had the spectacle of Mathieu Flamini – brought off the bench nine minutes earlier as a holding midfielder – materialising at centre-forward to sweep the ball into Cardiff’s net from Mesut Ozil’s perceptive through pass.  it was another outstanding example of the sheer brilliance Arsenal have in their locker this season.  The third goal right at the death came when the outcome of the game was certain, but it was another quality finish, and another immaculate display of respect from the outstanding Aaron Ramsey.  He took the applause from all sides of the ground, from his fans new and old, clearly touched by the emotion of the moment.

Arsenal’s prospects look genuinely good, there are really only a couple of question marks over their possibilities for the rest of this campaign.  The first concerns how they will fare against the better teams in the Premier League – of these, they have only met a less-than-vintage Man U so far, who scraped a win that will have disappointed the Gunners – knowing themselves to be capable of much better.

The second possible issue is around the back-up they have available in the event of injury or suspension for striker Olivier Giroud. Reserve forward Nicklas Bendtner does not appear to have what it takes at this level, and Arsenal may need to look to the transfer market again when the window opens.  Their stunning pre-season swoop for Ozil has cured any notions that the Gunners lack clout and ambition in their recruitment policy – they will probably need to reaffirm this new determination in the new year.

A highly enjoyable game for more than the usual reasons, and great credit to both clubs. On this display, you would have to back Cardiff to survive with something to spare – and as for Arsenal, they should have their sights set firmly on nothing less than the Premier League title itself.  What better way to break that trophy drought, a millstone around Arsene Wenger’s neck for far too long now?  And also, what better for the game in this country than Champions of the quality and class of Arsenal, still our foremost club despite populist claims for clubs lower down the food-chain.  Arsenal for the Title – I’ll drink to that.

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10 responses to “Arsenal and Cardiff Serve Up a Football Treat With Added Class – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Ozil was the buy of the summer , I’ve backed arsenal for the title rob and ozil to be premiership player of the year in a nice little double , after all if arsenal do win the title then it will be down to what ozil has brought to the team

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    • On the couple of occasions I’ve seen him lately, he’s seemed a bit off-colour. But he was brilliant yesterday.

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      • Have to agree rob , I think he was suffering from our weather with the annual sniffel but as you say yesterday he was back to his best and renewed my faith in my double

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  2. As an Arsenal fan all I can say is wow! I’m almost speechless. This is a fantastic piece, not because the author says nice things about my club, but the refreshingly uncynical intelligent and unpopulist approach. Cardiff were a credit to the league too.

    Fantastic, thanks!

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    • Thank you too Norris – for the kind of feedback I’d like to have framed and hung above my monitor. Very good of you. I must admit I’m very find of Arsenal, but I try to avoid bias (Spurs fans may justifiably disagree with this claim!)

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  3. good article Rob..it was heartwarming to see the lack of celebration & the response from cardiff fans..when we are constantly fed about stories of gamemanship, cheating, matchfixing, bullying..etc..etc..in football, it was a welcome display humility and class from both cardiff and arsenal..And it would be nice to see Arsenal win the league instead of the mancs or russian oil co-orporation..Lets drink to that.

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  4. Nice article. Refreshing. And, yes, a great game to watch. I didn’t like the refs, though.

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  5. Good read, pleasure to see an article about my club without the veil of cynicism found elsewhere – perhaps a cyncical comment in itself, but I love a bit of irony.

    Cardiff were classy from start to end, with Malky wishing Pat Rice the best on behalf of the club in his programme notes as well as the Cardiff fans applauding a rendition of “there’s only one Pat Rice”.

    Cheers

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