Arsenal have finally made it into the top ten! Recovering from what was an underwhelming first half display on Monday night, Arsenal came flying out of the blocks after the break to claim a comfortable 3-0 home win over Newcastle, thereby maintaining our unbeaten start to 2021.
Although we ultimately continued our march up the table, there were a number of surprises in store when the team-sheet was announced, such as Gabriel’s continued absence from the side and the mysterious ‘selection choice’ that saw Ainsley Maitland-Niles being left at home – maybe playing Fortnite with Mesut Ozil one last time?
Having completed 90 minutes in three of the four league games played since Christmas, the boss explained pre-match that Hector Bellerín was in need of a rest, granting the former Southampton man a rare chance to impress a fanbase that remains unconvinced of his value to the current setup following a quiet beginning to life in north London.
Cedric takes his chance in rare Arsenal start over Hector Bellerin
Making his first Premier League start of the season, Cedric capitalised on the opportunity by putting in arguably his best performance in an Arsenal shirt. The Portuguese international’s link-up play with Bukayo Saka was a joy to watch, and he displayed neat ball control when operating in tight spaces near the touchline.
He also gave Kieran Tierney a run for his money with some fantastic deliveries into the box, before capping off the evening by cleverly setting up the third goal.
Putting in a complete performance against what was a poor Newcastle side, Cedric efforts answered his critics emphatically and, although Arteta’s faith in Bellerín suggests this rare appearance is unlikely to become a regular feature over the coming weeks, his significant influence on proceedings will have assuaged discontent regarding his acquisition last winter.
As we progress through this unique campaign, the increasing possibilities of match postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks, and the inevitable fixture congestion that they will lead to, will mean that strength in depth and rotation will be more important than ever. Cedric’s display against the Magpies suggests that he is a very capable deputy.