Today is the start of a new year. A time for us, flawed human beings that we are, to take stock of our lives. Reassess. Determine what is important in our lives and redouble our focus on those things. Two such noble pursuits are an appreciation of art and the acknowledgement of greatness when it is present. As such, it is altogether fitting for us to pause for a moment, analyze, and praise Olivier Giroud’s opening goal in today’s Premier League contest at the Emirates where Arsenal bested Crystal Palace 2-0.
The time was 16:17 GMT. Lucas Pérez slid to intercept a pass from former Gunner Mathieu Flamini. His interception fell to Héctor Bellerín who took a dribble forward and played the ball forward to Olivier Giroud. The French striker laid the ball off brilliantly with a backheel to Granit Xhaka who played a pass first time to Alex Iwobi. Iwobi drove forward and opted to play a throughball to the onrushing Alexis Sánchez down the left flank. The weight on the pass was perfect and as Alexis got to the pass, he momentarily decelerated, surveying his options. The decision made, a cross was lofted in to Giroud. However, fortunately for the history of mankind, the cross was slightly behind the run of the striker. His only option was to fling his left boot backwards, able to make contact by employing a scorpion kick. And what contact it was. Like a brushstroke by Monet or a penstroke from Hugo, Giroud’s shot lofted over the outreaching arm of Wayne Hennessey, off the crossbar and over the line.
It is a goal of the year in the same way Sgt. Peppers was an album of the year. Construction of a statue memorializing it outside of the Emirates Stadium should begin imminently. It was the ideal expression of sport, an unfathomable combination of team and individual skill from near-demigods in their athleticism.
Other things happened in the match, but, as tends to be the case, they were overshadowed by the Giroud’s goal. A couple of missed sitters in the first half. A well-deserved headed goal from the brilliant Iwobi. A minute of brilliance from Petr Čech in the 60th. How we were able to batter a lesser side with a midfield two that could both pass the ball at an above-average level. Great performances by nearly everyone in the starting lineup. Wilfried Zaha trapped inside a modern day boy-who-cried wolf situation. A bright cameo from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. All in all, a very good day for a Gunners side short on very good days of late.
If you were wondering why a certain German talisman was not in the matchday squad, don’t fret too much. Arsenal were without the services of Mesut Özil on the day as he was in bed home with the flu, according to Arsène Wenger. Though things didn’t sound promising for his recovery by Tuesday’s matchup at Bournemouth, it should not be a long-term issue.
With the win, Arsenal are now 3rd with 40 points at the halfway mark of the Premier League season. That total puts them 3 points behind 2nd place Liverpool and 9 points behind league leaders Chelsea. The Gunners play next at Bournemouth on Tuesday, January 3rd.