What a lovely day out that was!
Well, by day out, I mean sat on my couch.
Arsene Wenger went big on rotation. He brought in the usual suspects; Gabriel, Chambo, Chambers… he tellingly left Debuchy (more like Douchy, *chortle*) on the bench and he gave a debut to Iwobi.
The game didn’t have much flow in the first half, which was expected. Sunderland rested heavily and disrespected the FA cup and shockingly, their second string isn’t much cop.
That said, it didn’t stop them taking the lead. Kieran Gibbs dropped a 3ft pass to Laurent, the Frenchman dithered, their man was on hand to capitalise and rifle them in front.
We did draw level when the impressive Joel Campbell side footed a Bellerin low cross into the bottom corner. Really well taken considering the angle and the slight bobble in the pass.
The second half was more purposeful. Iwobi grew with the game, seeking out chinks in the Sunderland armour and daring to take a few duff shots. He slinked one extremely impressive pass right through the Sunderland team and created a chance for Campbell (I think). He looked very confident for one so young.
It was fairly even until Wenger made the big change and brought on Aaron Ramsey. He brought the tempo up a notch with his surging runs and direct approach. He took us into the lead after a Bellerin and Campbell played a perfect one two, Bellerin hit a low cross with Ramsey there to knock it home.
Bellerin turned provider again when he threaded a ball through 4 Sunderland defenders, with Giroud on hand to bury it for the game.
Things that we liked…
Iwobi: I didn’t think Wenger would play someone so green in at number 10, but he went all out in ‘showing the faith’ and let the tricky young play maker have a crack. He did well, his movement reminded me of Alex Hleb in his prime. The ball sticks to his feet, he’s always feeling out space… but he’s a bit more direct than the Belarusian. I think he has a lot of talent and he certainly has a great mentor in Ozil.
Strikers: Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud really do need to crank it up a gear. A real lack lustre game from both of them. You can excuse the Frenchman because he hasn’t had a rest in an age, but Theo? He really needs to start playing like the £100k a week player he is. His finishing has been off and I don’t think he’s really offering the team that much in way of anything at the moment.
Chambo: Another game where you spend most of your time facepalming. He’s trying to hard to force form. He’s making bad decisions. He just doesn’t look like he knows what he’s doing out there. A real shame, because his strike of the post in the second half shows you what’s awaiting when it clicks. But right now, it doesn’t matter where he’s played, he doesn’t seem to be able to make it work.
Joel Campbell: I can’t help but smile when I see him on the pitch. He works harder than anyone. He knows what it means to be playing for Arsenal and you sense the last place he wants to go back to is Greece. Working hard isn’t all he has in his game. He defends really well for a forward player, he keeps the tempo of the game going at a good pace and he’s starting to find some lovely touches around the goal. I really like him, a great asset to the squad this season.
JEFF: Yeah, it happened. Joel on for Jeff. The enigma. The legend. The hero. He looked quite tidy. Bit upset there weren’t 4 goals and an assist, but such is life.
Rolling: We’re hitting a nice stride now. What I’m really excited about is that we’re rotating and it’s working now. I still think Wenger needs to go further. It amazes me that he’s still flogging Giroud and Bellerin, but there you go. Point is, we’re using our squad quite well this season, Wenger is growing in confidence and as I’ve said many times, the key to a great season is keeping your best players fit. If we can manage that until the end of the season, who knows?
Some big tests coming up…
Liverpool, Stoke, Chelsea, Leicester, Bournemouth and Southampton… followed by Barcelona.
YIKES. Make it through those games in one piece and we’ll be laughing.
See you tomorrow x