A very Happy New Year to all Gooners worldwide. One that was made all the happier in the dying minutes of Wednesday's match of course!
Just like our previous home game, we awoke to some horrible weather after the New Year's Eve celebrations and once again travel wasn't easy as a result. When you are top of the league however, it takes more than dodgy conditions to reduce enthusiasm.
News before suggested the battle in Newcastle had taken its toll on our squad with many either missing or needing late tests to ascertain their availability. With so many fixtures over the festive season, 'squad rotation' as it is called these days, was always on the cards. Injuries and suspensions can make this a necessity rather than a choice.
Compared to our last two games at Upton and St James Park, a number of different players took the field to warm up. I say 'warm', not an adjective that could be used for all us Gooners attending the game! The wind was blustery and the rain continued to fall not just at kick-off time but throughout the game.
In usual situations I am a believer that preventing a game from feeling a little 'flat' is a two way thing between the team's performance and the atmosphere we create as fans. But when the weather is as uncomfortably grim as Wednesday afternoon, we really needed something to warm us all up!
Despite enjoying most of the possession in the first half, our play lacked that all important cutting edge.
Half-time was welcome not just to take stock and go again but to try and warm the cockles before heading back out for the second period.
As the game wore on it looked more and more like being one of 'those' days, intensely worrying and frustrating given all our hard work over the last couple of away games. Great saves, the woodwork and wayward finishing all contributed as the clock ticked ever faster.
After intense pressure for thirty minutes or more, Nacho curled in a far post cross and Bac done well to send a header on target. Cardiff's keeper made yet another course and then it happened. Nicky B smashed home the rebound and we leapt around like lunatics in our weather-beaten garments! An absolutely massive moment to turn one point into three. Get in you beauty!
Theo's cool finish to complete his good second half performance not only gave a more accurate reflection to the scoreline but had us all heading home with the kind of warm glow that looked a million miles away for much of the afternoon. That will do nicely!
The world's greatest cup competition comes next of course and of the 63 teams we could have been paired with we get to enjoy the small matter that is a tie against our nearest and dearest neighbours.
With that in mind, although it provides a short break from the continued fight at the top of the league, it can hardly be called a 'break'!
Up for the cup?! Looking at days in May I remember, the joy of 1979, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005 are enough evidence to make sure we all are.
Come on you mighty reds!
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