Cardiff City 0-3 Arsenal: There's Only One Aaron Ramsey

Secretly, I have internally gone back and forth on when exactly I would start officially believing that this Arsenal side is in the conversation for this season's title race. I've mulled it over a bit, and have decided that "going to the ground that both Manchester clubs embarrassed themselves at and smashing the home side to pieces" is as good a spot as any.

There's much football left to be played, and we are not a lock for glory by any means. But, Arsenal Football Club will have a big say in the destination of this year's title.

I was late even by my standards, and missed the opening quarter of an hour. I'm told that Jack Wilshere hit the post early, and Per Mertesacker suffered a bloody facial injury that made him "look like a vampire". I rather hope it was a proper Nosferatu sort rather than the type hanging out with Kristen Stewart.

(Actually, on second thought, I rather wouldn't mind some alone time with Kristen Stewart.)

Anyway, the home side unsurprisingly built a red wall of players behind the ball, looking to soak up pressure and hit us on the counter or with set pieces. The Gunners had their characteristic difficulty breaking that kind of defense down, though Olivier Giroud was badly culpable of not playing to the whistle when put through by an audacious Mesut Ozil toe-flick. The Frenchman waited around for the offside flag that never came, allowing the defenders to clear it away.

The German would get his assist though, and it was another moment of brilliance that did it. A seemingly harmless foray down the left saw Ozil receive the ball in a bit of space, which he used to curl a gorgeous cross into the center of the area. The former Bluebird Aaron Ramsey timed his run perfectly, meeting the ball at the perfect location. His header looped over David Marshall and into the far corner, leaving the Cardiff keeper with no chance whatsoever. Ramsey, class act that he is, declined to celebrate the goal.

That proved to be the halftime score, as the Gunners kept possession but were unable to further pierce the determined Cardiff backline. Whatever Malky Mackay told his charges during the interval worked a treat, as the Bluebirds were far more dangerous in the second half.

Part of that, though, was down to referee Lee Mason. I honestly try not to have too much of a go at referees in this space, but the man was absolute clown shoes. Cardiff were allowed to kick us in the air with impunity, whereas bog-standard fouls (neither vicious nor a cynical denial of a scoring chance) were met with yellow cards. Kieran Gibbs got a yellow on his first foul, on what was a nothing challenge. I know every club thinks they get it tough from referees, but I think we have a far more solid body of evidence to refer to.

That's not to say that Cardiff hadn't pulled themselves back into the match of their own devices, though. They were a bit lucky to clear a goalbound Giroud shot off the line, but were then inches away from scoring themselves. Kim Bo-Kyung's cross was beautifully headed downwards by Fraizer Campbell, but Wojciech Szczesny was down in a flash to claw it to safety. Make no mistake - that was a world-class save, and potentially changed the entire complexion of the match.

The home side lost a bit of their impetus after that save, allowing Arsenal to retake control of the match. The next 20 minutes were played out in much the same manner as the first half was, until the boss withdrew Santi Cazorla for Mathieu Flamini. What was intended as a defensive substitution ended up paying dividends on the other side of the ball. A quick succession of passes ended with Ozil in possession once again. He played in Flamini, who absolutely thumped one into the top corner. No keeper on the planet saves that.

(Side note: That goal resulted in my first-ever song that caught on in 10-plus years of going to these matches: "Short sleeves when he waaaaaaaaaants......")

That killed the game deader than fried chicken, but there was still time for Ramsey to do his thing once again. This time, the substitute Theo Walcott was the provider. This time, Ramsey did a Flamini and fired a howitzer into the top corner. Poor old Marshall did nothing wrong on the day and still picked the ball out of his net three times. Truly, the glamorous life of a goalkeeper.

So, Arsenal remain top of the league, seven points clear pending today's action. Like I said, there's a long way to go...but I bloody like what we have in our rearview mirror so far.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

 Szczesny 8, Gibbs 7, Koscielny 7, Mertesacker 7, Sagna 7, Arteta 7, Wilshere 8 (Monreal N/A), Cazorla 6 (Flamini 8), Ramsey 9, Ozil 8 (Walcott N/A), Giroud 6

Man of the Match: Is this ever a no-brainer...Aaron F'n Ramsey.