Saturday 4 January 2014

Arsenal 2-0 Cardiff [Star Casino, Sydney]

Sydney. Is there a more iconic place to bring in the start of a new year than this place? I had put my round-the-world itinerary together with the purpose of being in Sydney Harbour on New Years Eve, where the best pyromaniacs in the business create a fire and light show in front of a million and a half party-goers. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it's something you'd probably be more than happy experiencing just once in your life anyway, because the whole of the downtown area is jammed full of people wanting to witness the same thing as you. It meant, for me and many others, an obstructed view of the Harbour Bridge, from the wrong side, and no view of the Opera House whatsoever. As most of the premier viewings spots had already been taken up, with people camping in the early hours for the privilege, people had to settle for next-best. The firework display itself was still very impressive, and it means a lot to say I was there in person, but once is enough. And I'm glad that I didn't pay $600 for a boat ride that lasted all of an hour. That's just ludicrous.

My view of the Sydney fireworks. Not exactly front row.
With another important Premier League clash comes another late-nighter in Sydney. January 2nd at 2am, to be precise. I returned to the early morning venue of choice, the Star Casino, to watch Arsenal beat a stern Cardiff side at the Emirates. There were eight games on in total, all being aired simultaneously at the Casino Sports Bar. There was a handful of Liverpool supporters, probably five in total, and a couple of Villa fans too. We, the Arsenal, had around thirty or forty. Sydney really is predominantly red and white.

The game was a hugely frustrating one to watch for the majority, we just lacked that bit of sparkle in the final third, and credit to Cardiff for doing a good job at shutting up shop up until Nicky Bee finally broke the deadlock, before immediately going off injured.

Podolski, who started his first game in more than three months, looked out of ideas for the majority of the game. I'm not saying that he can't play up front, but he needs the right kind of service and probably more match practice before he can pull it off, especially if he's up there on his own. He doesn't have the physical attributes to boss central defenders in the same way that Giroud, or even Bendtner, can. With the way we've utilised Giroud as a target man, does Podolski have a future at Arsenal as a centre-forward? I think we all know he's better on the wing, or even potentially in a number 10 attacking position playing off a stronger forward like Giroud.

So, we're nine out of nine, it's been a congested festive season with mixed results against some tough opposition, but we've come through Christmas and New Year on top of the table. The next few weeks are going to be just as testing, both on the pitch with important games against Spurs, and the will-he-won't-he saga of the January transfer window. Let's hope we can keep the momentum up and pull away from the two sugar-daddy clubs and that man-eater.



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