- Arsenal boss Unai Emery opted to play Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Alexandre Lacazette from the start
- Shkodran Mustafi’s header broke the deadlock as the centre-back converted Granit Xhaka’s early corner
- Cardiff equalised on the stroke of half time as new signing Victor Camarasa slammed a strike home
- Aubameyang curled the Gunners back in front with superbly controlled strike from outside Cardiff’s box
- But the Bluebirds hauled themselves back into the game through Danny Ward’s well-placed header
- Alexandre Lacazette rifled winner on the half turn as Neil Etheridge was beaten by power at his near post
DAILYNEWS UG |By Our Reporter|
What madness. What brilliant, bizarre, weird and wonderful madness. However this season plays out from here on in, there will be nothing boring about this Arsenal team.
Quite how they won this one is anyone’s guess. Did they deserve to? On the basis of possession, chances created, and the quality of their finishing, then probably they did.
Could they have lost? Oh yes. And that against a Cardiff team that previously held a unique distinction among the top four divisions for having failed to score this season.
Call it the Arsenal effect – they made Cardiff look deadly, owing to a defence that can, at its best be described as a shambolic, and a goalkeeper who appears to be trapped in some kind of cruel experiment. Time and again, Unai Emery implored Petr Cech to play out from the back. Time and again, the 36-year-old fluffed the brief, a magnificent keeper forced into a style that is all wrong for him.
That deficiency might have had Cardiff ahead at the start of the match. It might also have had them in front early in the second half. And had that come to pass, then who could have really said it was unfair? Repeatedly, Arsenal gave up the openings.
Shkodran Mustafi missed defensive headers, Granit Xhaka misplaced passes, Sokratis was out of position – recurring scenarios, all of them. They play that high line and get caught – every game now. Cech plays from the back and gets it wrong – it look questionable against Manchester City, it looked suicidal here.
And yet they have such riches going forward that in games like this they can get away with it. Against opponents like this. And that is not to disrespect a Cardiff side built in Neil Warnock’s snarling image – they were brilliant. A constant energy and threat. Arsenal don’t like rough stuff and so Harry Arter jumped into everything.
But Arsenal just had too much quality. Mustafi had put them in front, before Victor Camarasa levelled following more defensive incompetence from Arsenal in first half stoppage time. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had Arsenal back in front just after the hour, before Danny Ward looked to have saved Cardiff a point. Then up popped Alexandre Lacazette, starting a game with Aubameyang for the first time and his winner was exceptional. A thing of beauty.
It meant a rare away win for Arsenal and a second of the season. But with top four the aim, you have to wonder if they will be sturdy enough to get enough over the course of the campaign.
The first half was the ultra high-definition, volume-up showcase of what is wrong with this Arsenal team.
Inside the first seven minutes, Cech was looking desperately vulnerable with the ball at his feet. And not just once – three times, twice in the opening 55 seconds. In the first instance, he made a heavy-footed attempt to sidestep Bobby Reid in order to roll left to Nacho Monreal and came within an inch or two of losing possession a couple of yards from his goal. Emery clapped the attempt.
A moment later, Cech was trying to play square across his goalline to Hector Bellerin and nearly gave Danny Ward a tap-in. It is the kind of manoeuvre you generally learn to avoid sometime before turning 10.
Victor Camarasa slammed his powerful finish past Petr Cech to bring Cardiff on terms on the stroke of half time
The new signing made a heart gesture to the home supporters after endearing himself to them with the equaliser
The hairiest error of the bunch came on seven minutes, when Cech took a pass-back from Sokratis, and attempted to play through the middle to Granit Xhaka. The ball went straight to Harry Arter on the edge of the Arsenal area and with a better finish Cardiff would have led.
It really takes something to make Cardiff look like an attacking threat and Arsenal on that score were flying. The head-banging mystery is why Cech has been given such an unsuitable brief when they have a £20million keeper on the bench in Bernd Leno, whose work with his feet is known to be good. Cech is rightly regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers to play in Britain, but retraining this old dog to use a trick with which he is plainly uncomfortable seems bizarre.
But this is Arsenal – it would be no fun if their managers stuck to what everyone else felt was obvious.
In any case, they led on 12 minutes. Granit Xhaka sent over a corner and Shkodran Mustafi beat Sol Bamba to the header for the goal.
Ordinarily, given Cardiff’s struggles in the matter of creating chances, that might have been enough. But not here. Not by a long shot. Danny Ward lunged at a Reid cross and failed to connect when left unmarked and Junior Hoilett launched over after collecting the loose ball. Mustafi was guilty of poor positioning in the build up and again in conceding a chance to Reid a moment later – red flags were going up all over this defence.