Arsenal Take Their Ch-Sanchez......
The R's came back from a break in the fixture list and a training get together in Dubai to take on the first of three London Derbies over the next ten days. On this occasion the visitors were an Arsenal side that traveled to Loftus Road after a morale boosting victory over Everton at the weekend.
Despite traffic causing havoc on the A40 last night, the gang(Lofty, Sam, Luke, Jenson, Michael and Zach) arrived in good time last night and gathered in the Loft before my late arrival for the first catch up in over a month, yes it has been that long since we were last at HQ! Unfortunately we were missing Jess through illness as PK was unable to attend due to working commitments.
The team news saw a surprise inclusion for the inconsistent Junior Hoilett, whilst Onuoha and Sandro returned to the starting eleven after injury. The trio replaced Kranjcar(bench), Ferdinand(signing books) and Barton(suspended for d!ck slapping).
The game started tentatively with both sides looking very compact. Sandro and Henry were providing the bulldog spirit in the heart of the R's midfield, chasing down Cazola and Rosicky at every opportunity to ensure neither of them had an inch of space to get Sanchez and Ozil in between the defense and midfield and create all sorts of problems.
With the game plan being effective it was the R's that had the first shot in anger after Zamora laid the ball off to Austin and the Rangers' top scorer who sent his half volley directly at Ospina, who collected at the second attempt.
Green was called into action for the first time half way through the first period when Giroud's shot from the edge of the box was gathered comfortably.
The Gunners' were dealt with a blow ten minutes before the break as Gabriel's 'Dreams' didn't come true as he limped off to be be replaced by Koscielny
This spurred on the home side and they continued to press aggressively at the Gunners midfield with good effect, ensuring the Ospina remained the busier of the two 'keepers in the first half.
The R's front two combined soon after, as Henry's long punt up field was knocked down once again by Zamora and that man Austin sent a fizzing volley just millimeters wide of a despairing Ospina, who would've had no chance had it been just the other side of the post.
The R's were then dealt with a defensive blow of their own when Onuoha collided with a combination of what looked like Caulker and Giroud and was forced to leave the field with what was apparently a nasty looking face injury.
Arsenal took advantage of the new found weakness of the R's and finished the half the better of the two sides, with Giroud once again testing Green, only to find the R's number one more than equal to the effort and pushed his push away to safety.
The gang assembled for the half time interval happy once again after seeing a positive and attacking performance that we probably would not of seen under the former manager and Ramsey clearly has has style of play that is bringing the best out of the players we have in our ranks and clearly fills them with confidence. Matty Phillips was one of the stars of the first half and under Ramsey he has flourished, looking like the player we spent £5 million on over 18months ago. He's running at players and crossing the ball from wide positions in a way that I can only describe as a David Bardsley type cross that is being whipped in from about 25-30 yards out, unfortunately because Zamora is acting as a target man we're seeing Austin operate slightly deeper and cannot get on the end of these, if he was in that more advanced position then he could and would easily score over 20-25 goals a season from the service Phillips can provide.
Arsenal started the second half as they finished the first and within the opening minute when Rosicky waltz down the touchline and squared to Ozil, who luckily for the R's could not dispatch ball into the back of the net.
It was at this point where our own entertainment was made for the next ten minutes by Pete sitting behind us. What I failed to mention earlier was that Lofty's good friend Laura joined us up at the back of the stands. Pete, with his tongue in cheek, referred to Laura as Lofty's daughter, much to the amusement to our row with us all knowing that Lofty is just days away from his birthday and saying that he's beginning to feel it (but not look it!) this could've been the icing on the game for him but instead he just used it to keep jesting with Pete for the next fifteen minutes and perk us all up during what was a testing spell for the R's.
With Sandro playing in his first match since returning from a lengthy injury, he departed on the hour mark after being replaced by Krancjar.
Rangers' continued with their positive vain and came close once again as Phillips' volley, just as Austin's did in the first half, went a whisker past the post!
Minutes after Sandro departed Arsenal asserted themselves for the first time in the game and tore apart the R's defense with ease in one simple breakaway.
The break started with the unusually quiet Sanchez before he released Gibbs down the Arsenal left and his cross was momentarily blocked before Giroud swept home on the angle to give the visitors what looked like an unlikely lead.
With Rangers' rocked and shocked by this the visitors smelt blood and swiftly went in for the kill and should've found themselves two nil up when Caulker was caught napping before he lost the ball to Sanchez, leaving the Chilean one on one with Green but the man in the form of his life managed to narrow the angle and smother the ball before Sanchez could punish the R's.
That let off was short lived and Sanchez made it two nil shortly after.
The midfield was now wide open after Sandro's departure and this led to young right back Darnell Furlong being heavily exposed to Sanchez's pace and the pacy winger made his way in from the sideline unchallenged to then cheekily poke home at Rob Green's near post. An excellent goal from a fantastic player.
This killed the atmosphere around the ground as the Arsenal fans finally found their voices.
Cazorla and Ozil took control of the game and we were left wondering what could've been had Sandro been fully fit. Krancjar is not an ideal replacement, especially in a game where we needed to maintain the high intensity. I'm not sure if Doughty is injured or not but it would've been great to see him in the battle as you know he would've been able to handle himself and gain some more vital experience.
The R's handed themselves a lifeline when they finally got back on the ball when Phillips' left wing centre was collected by Austin and when it seemed easier to lay the ball off to Furlong, Austin settled himself before unleashing an unstoppable drive past Ospina.
Despite a late flurry the R's were left frustrated by the lack of decisions that went against them by a very bias refereeing performance by Kevin Friend, he's always been an enemy of ours!!
Well it's another defeat but one that we would've expected to lost anyway. There are plenty of positives to take from the game with the performances of Green, Phillips and Austin standing out from the rest. It's a breath of fresh air to see youngsters like Darnell Furlong get a chance at Hull and not lose his place as soon as Isla is fit again.
The big question is, where would we be without Rob Green and Charlie Austin? These two are the reason we are within a whisker of safety. Green plays out of his skin week after week with little reward, whilst up the other end our one potent threat is Charlie Austin bagging vital goals for us.
Onto our Man of the Match. Jess, after catching a stream at home, voted for another fantastic game from Rob Green. Luke and Lofty both opted for the goalscorer Charlie Austin after another hard working performance. The winner on this occasion with three votes from Jenson, Sam and myself for another fantastic display of wing play by Matty Phillips.
Another London Derby is on the horizon as we host Spurs in our game in hand over the teams just above us, not quite a must win but it is vital confidence wise to get something from the game.
I will return on Saturday evening/Sunday morning with what I'm hoping to be a positive report!