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Arsenal Make The Grade At Oxford.

The FA Cup is great until it’s your team’s turn, playing on a windswept pasture versus rugged opponents, with Sam Matterface commentating from a different, dumber reality. 

It took us a while to get on top of the conditions and our opponent’s man-marking, but we did it comfortably in the end.

Bear in mind that not even Oxford United want to play at the Kassam Stadium, which is the third-biggest attraction in a retail park with a bowling alley and a Frankie & Benny’s. 

They have steadily trended upwards in the last decade, and aspire to more than this unfinished parody of Stoke’s Britannia Stadium.

With the ball wafting around like a penny floater at Cleethorpes, this was not a night for subtlety. The ball seemed to gain momentum rather than slow down with each bounce, and just wasn’t sticking. It took us about an hour to clock that fact and adapt. 

Every loose touch was punished by an organized and revved-up opponent. Of the men in yellow, I remember right-back Anderson, who matched Martinelli in a couple of races. 

Then there was Moore who went through the back of our attackers a couple of times. Brown with the man-bun was defending Saka. And finally you had the scowling Brannagan, who looked like an accident waiting to happen. 

Trying to put together a dainty move in these circumstances was pointless, like composing a watercolor landscape in heavy rain. Lokonga flailed, Saka and Martinelli toiled, while Vieira was having the worst time of all. 

We needed to be more direct, and much later on it was no shock when Zinchenko—fresh with instructions from Arteta—launched the ball behind the Oxford defence with his first pass. 

What you can say is that we were ‘on it’ defensively, tracking runners, winning headers and second-balls at the back. You can bet that Matterface wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to seize on a hint of defensive frailty. 

In the meantime, referee David Coote did intervene when we got buffeted, hoicked by the neck, barged in the back, even as the home crowd seethed. Still, Coote might have called a penalty for handball in the 35th minute. It was marginal.

So the first half drifted by without either side coming remotely close. For all we could tell ourselves that Oxford would tire after the break, it was hard to shake the idea that we might not rise above the conditions and stop trying to trap the ball with our shins.

Our prospects looked bleaker in the 49th minute when Holding was caught out. Their striker Matty Taylor went through before being put off by Turner, who looks good, by the way. 

Back to Fabio Vieira, who is happiest when has a clear picture of what’s in front of him. He is not one for a midfield scrap, but wants to move into space to use that left foot. So it makes sense that he found some clarity from a dead ball situation.

He whipped in a perfect cross, which found Elneny’s head and then the net. Did Elneny know much about it? Who cares! Elneny was as dependable as ever all night. 

From that moment, everything became a lot easier. The snap went out of Oxford’s game, and the distances between the lines grew, to the point that Vieira could receive the ball, turn and play Nketiah through to round their ‘keeper (can’t remember his name—oh, McGinty), for the second. 

Emile Smith-Rowe came off the bench for a 15-minute practice session, with all jeopardy removed by a delicate scooped finish after a neatly weighted pass by Martinelli. Was Nketiah offside? Who cares!

There was time for some comments about Arteta leaving his technical area. Now, a lot of managers are animated on the touchline, and a lot spend time out of that little box. 

Just like a lot of managers defend their players and avoid talking about contentious moments, like Arsene Wenger used to do. 

Is this going to be the new version of “I didn’t see it”? 

By then, Matterface had retreated into his alternate reality, claiming Arsenal had the benefit of no European football and could concentrate on the league and cup. 

Whatever, the win sends us through to a 4th Round tie at Manchester City. 

Birdkamp

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60 comments on “Arsenal Make The Grade At Oxford.

  1. Thought the ref had a great game, as we did in the first half.

    Like

  2. some after game comments from Arteta

    On what he liked most about the win…
    Everything. I loved the way we played and the courage we showed to come here and play. Doing our job we can make a lot of people happy, and I’m sure we’ve made Arsenal fans very happy. It is not for me. Everything we ask, they are so willing to try and do. They are a terrific group of players. I think today we went another step. We won last season in big stadiums, but the way we won today was really pleasing to watch.

    On the character of his side…
    It shows not only determination and courage, which is great, but then you need to have the belief and the quality to do against this team what we have done today. That’s down absolutely to the players.

    On being aggressive…
    We were really aggressive, we were really intense in our high press, we were winning so many balls, so many duels, we managed those balls after that really good. They had a couple of moments, they are going to create chances and openings and they are a very dangerous team but overall, we did a lot of good things today.

    On losing Mudryk to Chelsea…
    I’m very proud to have the players that we have. We always want to improve the squad. The club is the first one that is trying to do everything we can to find the players but as well, we have to have some discipline and we have to be very consistent in the targets we want but as well [consider] what we are able to do in each moment. We can get those [existing] players better, so let’s focus on that.

    On whether he has enough players to see out the season…
    Obviously we have some injuries and some long-term injuries that are not helpful but we can focus on tomorrow, train tomorrow, train better, review the game and go day by day. The window is open, we will try to improve the team but there are a few parties that are always involved [in transfers]. The club is willing, they have my support and I have their support and we’ll try to do it together.

    Like

  3. On what he liked most about the win…

    Everything. I loved the way we played and the courage we showed to come here and play. Doing our job we can make a lot of people happy, and I’m sure we’ve made Arsenal fans very happy. It is not for me. Everything we ask, they are so willing to try and do. They are a terrific group of players. I think today we went another step. We won last season in big stadiums, but the way we won today was really pleasing to watch.

    On the character of his side…

    It shows not only determination and courage, which is great, but then you need to have the belief and the quality to do against this team what we have done today. That’s down absolutely to the players.

    On being aggressive…

    We were really aggressive, we were really intense in our high press, we were winning so many balls, so many duels, we managed those balls after that really good. They had a couple of moments, they are going to create chances and openings and they are a very dangerous team but overall, we did a lot of good things today.

    On losing Mudryk to Chelsea…

    I’m very proud to have the players that we have. We always want to improve the squad. The club is the first one that is trying to do everything we can to find the players but as well, we have to have some discipline and we have to be very consistent in the targets we want but as well [consider] what we are able to do in each moment. We can get those [existing] players better, so let’s focus on that.

    On whether he has enough players to see out the season…

    Obviously we have some injuries and some long-term injuries that are not helpful but we can focus on tomorrow, train tomorrow, train better, review the game and go day by day. The window is open, we will try to improve the team but there are a few parties that are always involved [in transfers]. The club is willing, they have my support and I have their support and we’ll try to do it together.

    Like

  4. Like

  5. so one more game for Saka and Saliba to avoid a 5th yellow card suspension, avoid a yellow card v man utd and it resets for second half of the season

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  6. Like

  7. Craig Pawson on the blower today.
    Strange errors and good performances from the officials all in the Gunners favour this weekend. Recently there was also a rare conjunction for the stargazers.

    That performance from the Gunners today was a fitting tribute to the last victory at WHL. Rosicky’s rocket followed up by an 89 minute long defensive masterclass (one of the many highlights from the BFG/LK partnership). Because it was a better performance. Some have said the second goal was a better goal then Rozza’s and I couldn’t argue against.

    Of much greater note is what Zinchenko and Saka did to Tottenham in that first half around the hub of the midfield. All three controlling the game. Partey finding his long range passing rhythms alongside the shooting. Martinelli with some disgusting skills, almost felt sorry for the opponent. Almost. Perhaps Conte got his set up wrong but for us that is something to celebrate.
    On another day the home team could have scored one. They didn’t.

    Interesting game next week.

    Like

  8. That performance from the Gunners today was a fitting tribute to the last victory at WHL. Rosicky’s rocket followed up by an 89 minute long defensive masterclass (one of the many highlights from the BFG/LK partnership). Because it was a better performance. Some have said the second goal was a better goal then Rozza’s and I couldn’t argue against.

    What Zinchenko and Saka did to Tottenham in that first half around the hub of the midfield. All three controlling the game. Partey finding his long range passing rhythms alongside the shooting. Martinelli with some disgusting skills, almost felt sorry for the opponent. Almost. Perhaps Conte got his set up wrong but for us that is something to celebrate.
    On another day the home team could have scored one. They didn’t.

    Interesting game next week.

    Like

  9. Craig Pawson on the blower today.
    Strange errors and good performances from the officials all in the Gunners favour this weekend, halfway through the season
    .
    Best performance of late is the restart after the WC from The Arsenal with players like Jesus, Rowe and the impressing Nelson unavailable. You have to applaud. Whilst enjoying the goals, like the second today.

    Like

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