Arsenal 2 Cardiff City 0
(Bendtner 88 Walcott 90+2)

Nicklas Bendtner was Arsenal’s hero, coming off the substitutes bench to grab a late opener against Cardiff City at the Emirates. Having scored, Bendtner suffered an injury resulting in him having to go off with what appeared to be a leg injury. The Gunners had been frustrated all afternoon by a stubborn City, who given their turmoil would have easily settled for a point from a goalless draw. With Manchester City having won in the earlier kick off at Swansea however, nothing but three points would see Arsene Wenger’s side back on top. Bendtner struck into the roof of the net after Bacary Sagna saw his initial header saved from Nacho Monreal’s cross. In time added on, Theo Walcott’s exquisite chip from Jack Wilshere’s pass gave Arsenal a deserved second. The Gunners start 2014 in much the same vein as they had finished last year, on top and winning.

Wenger later proclaimed that Bendtner will be out for several weeks with an ankle sprain, making the urgency to reinforce in attack even more vital in the current January transfer window.

Arsenal were without Olivier Giroud, Mesut Özil and Kieran Gibbs, leaving Wenger no option but to play Lukas Podolski as his lone striker. The German had not started a game for four months, and looked isolated when surrounded by a wall of defensive blue with Cardiff defending for their lives.

In incessant rain and wind, Arsenal started with their passing game, but lacked any chance of note in the first half. City keeper David Marshall was rarely troubled and that shouldn’t come as a surprise given the Bluebirds often six man defence close to what could loosley be described as a midfield.

Wilshere looked lively as did Mathiu Flamini with Mikel Arteta trusted to defensive duties from the latter two. Tomas Rosicky was amongst the substitutes. Santi Cazorla was leading the City defence a merry dance, and struck a powerful shot wide from a promising position. Arsenal then saw claims for a penalty waived away, despite Wilshere seeing his run impeded by Gary Medel’s trip. Domination from the side in red, but a rare Cardiff counter attack almost let Jordan Mutch grab a shock opener. Wojciech Szczesny however got down low to block his effort.

More second half pressure from the Gunners who continued to pound the City defence. Walcott’s overhead kick and Sagna’s shot couldn’t trouble Marshall’s goal. The visitors were content to sit back in numbers and invite Arsenal to unpick their defence massed ranks. Wilshere rose to the challenge and teased his way for an opening that had the better of Marshall, but to the agony of the Emirates’ faithful only clipped the post.

Just past the hour mark, Wenger brought on Rosicky and Bendtner for Flamini and Podolski respectively. Arsenal piled forwards and now it was Per Mertersacker who twice went close. His first header from Walcott’s cross was powerful, but just lacked the direction. Moments later almost a carbon copy as the Gunners’ big German defender headed past the same upright.

Bendtner may still divide opinion on the Emirates terraces, but the relief at the Denmark strikers second Premiership goal of the season spoke volumes on his Arsenal rehabilitation. Nacho Monreal crossed from the left and Sagna was brave to the ball with a header which drew his markers. Marshall was saved, but alert as a true striker always is Bendnter lashed in the loose ball for the opener after 88 minutes. Super Nicklas a Bendtner at his finest, but Marshall’s momentum carried on to fell Bendtner, requiring Thomas Vermalen to replace the Arsenal goal scorer.

Two minutes in time added on! Arsenalnow resurgent and on top of the table went in search of a second goal. This time Wilshere’s timing and weight in the pass to Walcott set up the Arsenal number 14. Still with work to do with the large frame of Marshall bearing towards him, Walcott chipped the ball over the City keeper for Arsenal’s brilliantly taken second.

More doubters on the Gunners title credentials will take note, as Wenger’s side recorded their third consecutive win. And win is all Arsenal will want to do from now until the end of the season. The rest will take care of itself.