Arsenal began the New Year holding onto their top spot in the Premier League after defeating Cardiff City 2-0 to stay a point up over Manchester City.
The Gunners came into the match without four key members in their squad out due to injury. Kieran Gibbs is suffering from a calf strain, Olivier Giroud has an ankle issue, Mesut Özil has a shoulder problem, and former Bluebird Aaron Ramsey has a thigh strain. Arsène Wenger replaced Gibbs with Nacho Monreal, Giroud’s spot to lead the line was filled in by Lukas Podolski, Özil’s normal position in the hole was taken over by Jack Wilshere, and Ramsey’s place was handled by Mathieu Flamini. Cardiff City started the same side that drew Sunderland 2-2 over the weekend with the exception of Kevin McNaughton replacing Kévin Théophile-Catherine in the defense. The Bluebirds stylish owner Vincent Tan was in attendance with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Cardiff City’s new manager.
The conditions of the pitch due to the rain and heavy wind made a lot of long balls look miscalculated for both sides early in the match but eventually the squads figured out how to operate under the conditions. Wilshere finally getting a chance to play in his preferred position displayed early and often how influential he could be when playing in an advanced role on the pitch.
In the 14th minute, Wilshere dropped off a solid ball to Theo Walcott in the box but his slide to finish was poor. A minute later when Arsenal received a free kick in good position outside the box and wide left, Bacary Sagna was oddly picked to take the shot and it went right into Cardiff City’s wall. A few moments later, Wilshere crossed to Santi Cazorla right outside the box and the Spaniard shot the ball but it faded wide right. In the 25th minute, Wilshere gets pushed by well-known goon Gary Medel in box but stays up but the Chilean challenges again with a tackle to make the 22-year-old fall but no penalty was given. In the 28th minute, The Bluebirds had their first legit opportunity for goal off a quick counter-attack and Jordan Mutch took on two defenders in the box and faded right to get a clear shot of goal but Wojciech Szczęsny made a solid save into play to end the attack. In the 42nd minute, Cardiff City had another chance to score as Craig Noone took on Monreal and switched to his left foot to shoot but it went over the net. Heading into halftime, the 0-0 score was a reminder of the opportunities wasted.