Early game today; started 6:45 CT. I rolled out of bed and put on my away jersey over my PJs to watch the match.
Nothing about the start of this season would lead you to believe Arsenal can actually contend for the title other than hope and the fact that they owe it to me, but we managed an ugly 0-1 win over Newcastle United, and will end the day in 5th place. Newcastle started the game with no plan except to commit fouls, and quickly lost a player to a red card. This forced them to put nine players behind the ball, making it tricky for Arsenal to break through. But there is a major risk to this strategy, that a shot will deflect off one of many players jamming up the box, and that played out for the second time this season. After the goalkeeper pushed a shot outside, the ball was struck by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, hitting Newcastle’s defender Coloccini and redirecting into the goal.
Despite the overly positive and often ridiculous commentating by the NBC crew (looking mostly at you, Chris Waddle), Newcastle looked absolutely dreadful, both before and after the red card. Before the goal they were playing for a tie, and after the goal they seemed to be playing for low goal differential, which honestly may come in handy in the battle out of the relegation zone. Their day was summed up by Steve McClaren, the Newcastle manager, exhorting the Newcastle fans to cheer……for a mid-field throw-in they won.
Arsenal should have won the match by much more and just didn’t look sharp overall. In fairness, a missed penalty call early in the game would have probably helped. Arsenal were missing Per Mertesacker, who is still sick, and Mesut Ozil, who has a “slight” knee injury. Gabriel played in place of Mertesacker and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got a start because of Ozil’s injury. Theo Walcott was started in place of Olivier Giroud because Arsene Wenger was expecting to be able to use his pace up front, but the red card and Newcastle’s bus-parking strategy negated any value Walcott brought to the game. He was replaced by Giroud late in the second half, but Giroud also failed to convert the few chances he had to goals. Here’s hoping Ozil isn’t seriously injured; he was missed quite a bit in his orchestration role. Nacho Monreal looked very good. He’s such a solid guy. I felt Coquelin had a good game as well, although he hasn’t received good ratings from the various sources.
Only one club is looking great so far–Manchester City–and after a slow first half, they managed to pull out a 2-0 win over newly-promoted Watford. Liverpool and Chelsea both lost today. Manchester United plays Swansea tomorrow. Tottenham and Everton are playing as I write, but the outcome of that game won’t change the standings relative to Arsenal.
Let’s turn to Man of the Match, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, so named by the BBC. This was undoubtedly a tough call, because no one really stamped their mark on the game. The Ox lost the ball on several occasions and certainly did not have a great game overall, but he did take the shot that produced the goal in a rare Premier League start. The Ox, now 22, joined Arsenal at the age of 17 from Southampton, a product of Southampton’s famed youth academy. He is also the product of a footballing family: his father, uncle, and brother all were/are professional football players.
The Ox is English, so an English dish will be featured in today’s Gooner Supper Club. And because he’s The Ox, it should be beef, should it not? We’ll go with a Jamie Oliver Beef Wellington recipe. You can find it here.
Pictures to be posted after dinner.
Jamie Oliver, look away. I did some cheating on the Beef Wellington because I didn’t realize how long it takes to thaw sheets of puff pastry. So I used puff pastry shells and cooked the beef in a pan. I’m sure it’s not quite so yummy as cooked in the pastry, but it was still pretty good.
I made some bashed neeps to make up for that shortcut. May Jamie and The Ox find it acceptable.