Arsenal moved seven points clear at the top of the Premier League after securing a comprehensive 3-0 win at Cardiff City on Saturday.
Aaron Ramsey scored the all-important first goal against his home-town club in the 29th minute. The Welshman showed excellent technique to steer home a header from Mesut Ozil’s excellent cross.
Arsenal were superb in the first half but it was much more even immediately after the break. Wojciech Szczesny made a stunning save from Frazier Campbell to preserve his a sixth clean-sheet in his last seven games.
And, yet again, the Arsenal defence stayed firm.
Four minutes from time, substitute Mathieu Flamini slammed home a second – again Ozil provided an exquisite assist.
It was the Frenchman’s first goal for Arsenal since January 2008.
Ramsey even added another at the death after Theo Walcott broke clear.
With a third of the Premier League gone, Arsenal have a healthy lead.
This was a performance that once again demonstrated the credentials of true title contenders.
But, then again, that is happening every week at the moment.
SETTING THE SCENE
Arsene Wenger made three changes from the side that had swept aside Marseille in midweek.
Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Kieran Gibbs replaced Flamini, Tomas Rosicky and Nacho Monreal respectively.
However, in relation to the side that beat Southampton last weekend, the team was unchanged. It was only the second time Wenger had done that in the Premier League this season.
This was Arsenal’s first League meeting with Cardiff since 1962. The Welsh side were enjoying their elevation back to the top flight – having beaten Manchester City and Swansea at home.
Wenger felt his side would be fully tested this afternoon.
Jack Wilshere had scored in less than 30 seconds on Tuesday. He nearly repeated the feat after just over a minute today.
The Englishman let fly from 25 yards and hit the angle of post and bar.
It had been a lively start but that was interrupted when Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker clashed heads. The German came off worst and needed lengthy treatment to a cut lip.
When play restarted, Cardiff nearly caught Arsenal cold.
Kevin Theophile-Catherine raced down the right and whipped over a cross. His cross was met by the high, hanging figure of Campbell who steered a header just wide.
Arsenal regathered their poise and might have gone ahead had Olivier Giroud not hesitated when clear in front of goal. The Frenchman was expecting an offside flag and stopped. It never came and, after a bizarre couple of seconds, Cardiff managed to clear the ball.
However, by now, the visitors were starting to exert the greater influence and, on the half-hour, took the lead.
Ozil whipped in an incisive cross and Ramsey showed excellent body shape to steer a header into the top corner.
The Welshman did not celebrate scoring against his old side. His compatriots in the crowd appreciated the gesture.
Cardiff tried to respond. Jordan Mutch miscued an overhead kick from a corner.
But Arsenal were in ascendancy. Giroud’s angled shot was deflected wide and, just before the whistle, the Frenchman set up Ramsey.
This time the home-town boy blasted wide.
Arsenal could have finished the argument straight after the restart.
Ramsey darted between a couple of Cardiff defenders, reached the byline and cut the ball back towards Giroud.
The Frenchman made decent contact from eight yards out but the effort was blocked.
However Cardiff had increased the tempo. All they needed was a chance to ignite their confidence. It arrived in the 52nd minute when Andrew Taylor sent over a deep cross. Campbell beat Gibbs in the air but Szczesny superbly pushed the ball aside.
The moment allowed Cardiff to plot a path back into the game. They endeavoured to get closer to Arsenal.
It pressurised the visitors but they stood firm. Arsenal are made of stern stuff these days.
Giroud blazed over and then only Steven Caulker’s touch stopped Gibbs finding the unmarked Frenchman in the middle.
Wenger made defensive substitutions designed to ‘see-out’ the game.
In the end, they did not have too. Ozil set up Flamini to thunder home a shot from just inside the area.
In injury time, Walcott’s pace allowed Ramsey to add another.
Again he did not celebrate.
Unlike the Arsenal fans at the final whistle.
Referee: Lee Mason
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