Arsenal headed into the Sunderland game knowing the only option was 3 points after Spurs took the same amount away from Newcastle. The sun was shining, sadly, only on the ground… there was a grey cloud over our line up after Koscielny pulled out due to a calf injury. Wenger did manage to resist the burning temptation to play Squillaci by leaving him in London. He instead opted for creativity by slipping Sagna through the middle with Jenkinson flanking.
Arsenal took a while to find their stride, Sunderland doing their best to press our midfield. We were finding gaps with some very slick and fast counter attacking moves. Theo had the best chance when he ripped a shot Mignolet did well to parry. The midfield really found its stride half way into the first half, Aaron Ramsey found himself teed up perfectly, he made perfect contact but again the Belgian keeper was spectacularly equal to it tipping the ball wide.
Our goal came from some lovely Jack Wilshere driving power play, he forced his way through the middle, found Theo, he unselfishly laid Cazorla off who kept his nerve and drove low into the net. A lovely fluid goal.
Sunderland fell to pieces after that. We had a number of great chances, two of the best fell to 1) Giroud who dragged his shot just wide 2) Ramsey who skipped into the box but found the keeper.
The second half had a cheek… no easy street, just an attitude that we weren’t going to have things all our way. Giroud went close with a long range effort, that, according to my stream hit the post, I’m not sure it did. Things turned sour after that when Jack Wilshere hobbled off the pitch clutching his heavily bandaged thigh. He didn’t head down the tunnel and he was smiling. Hopefully that indicates at worse it’ll only be a few weeks… not an Arsenal 3 weeks.
We lost our shape a bit after Jack went off, but we were surviving the aerial bombardment. Then Jenkinson dived in recklessly after getting roasted down the right. An immature mistake that could have cost us the points. Ramsey slipped into right back and found himself pulled out of position instantly which nearly led to us conceding.
Szczesny certainly earned his money, making a number of top class saves. He was positioned well to tip a header over, he came racing out of the area to block a Fletcher shot after Mertesacker had his clearance intercepted by what looked like a hand. He did manage to hash up a couple of crosses which was worrying, but the clean sheet stood.
Arsenal could have taken 4 goals out of that afternoon. Giroud brings a lot to our front line, one thing that is missing is the finishing. We can keep talking about it coming good, but we don’t have time to wait. He needs to find those shooting boots this season because they could be the difference between a rescued season and a failure. He was guilty of some bad misses that can’t be blamed on bad luck. He needs to force through a change in clinical fortunes. He needs to prove he can be an elite striker. He certainly has most of the attributes.
Arsenal battled through the ninety four minutes of time and took maximum points. The Arsenal of old would have been proud, winning with 10 men is always satisfying, the only difference between now and then is that we didn’t opt for four up front! Results like yesterday are the sort that instil belief. We haven’t had enough of those this year. Everyone fought hard and regardless of how messy it looked at times, we did what was needed.
We’ve got a bit of a rest in the sense that we should spank Blackburn next week. The really important game is in 10 days when we take on the might of Bayern. We need a fit Jack and we need a full defence to stand a chance. Things are looking precarious because of our wafer thin squad, so lets hope Jack has the return from injury skills of John Terry!
3 points… enjoy them and let’s look forward to a hopefully quite simple tie against Blackburn next week.