Sunderland 1 - 2 Arsenal
Arsenal continued their battle for a Champions League qualifying spot with a visit to the Stadium of Light. Sunderland managed to hold the Gunners to a goalless draw back in August, and were looking to emulate the same performance.
The first half was a clash of two football cultures. Arsenal were moving the ball around well, maintaining possession and attacking with fluidity, whilst Sunderland sat back and stifled any creativity via tough challenges in midfield and a well organised defence.[quote_right]”[Walcott & Cazorla’s] intelligence was always countered by Lee Cattermole’s aggression…”[/quote_right]
Wilshere & Cazorla in particular were engineering countless attacks, but were finding it difficult to make any of them count, as their intelligence was always countered by Lee Cattermole’s aggression.
Arsenal’s make-shift back four with Sagna at centre-back was holding firm against a tame Sunderland attack, and The Black Cats were resigned to fighting off an Arsenal onslaught within their own half.
In the thirty-sixth minute, Arsenal’s relentless efforts finally paid off. Jack Wilshere’s penetrative run resulted in Theo Walcott picking up the ball on the edge of the area. He touched the ball to Santi Cazorla, and the Spaniard made no mistake when driving the his shot through a crowded box, and past Mignolet. It was great Football.
Arsenal’s goal was a both deserved, and of great value. A goal in the first half was always going to be difficult, but The Gunners could now concentrate on building upon it in the second period.
The second half was a real test for Arsenal both mentally and physically. The Black Cats were defending brilliantly, and Arsenal were running short on ideas, as well as energy.
As the game went on, Arsenal’s attacks began to waver. Jack Wilshere went off injured after just ten minutes, and The Gunners visibly missed his presence. However, in the sixty-second minute, matters got far, far worse.
Carl Jenkinson, who was on a yellow card, leapt in rashly on Sessengon on the edge fo the Arsenal area. The referee produced a second yellow, and Arsenal were forced to play the next thirty minutes with ten men, and without Jack Wilshere in midfield. It was going to be tough.[quote_left]”A determined performance, a clean sheet, and three points. What more could we ask for?”[/quote_left]
Sunderland began to ramp up the pressure on the Arsenal defences, and for half an hour, our make shift back four was bombarded with deep crosses and aerial attacks. But the defence, and Bacary Sagna in particular, held firm.
Outstanding defensive performances from Ramsey (who moved to right back), Sagna & Szczesney kept Sunderland at bay. Fletcher had several chances saved by Szczesney, and Sagna’s excellent challenges were keeping Arsenal in the game.
In the dying moments, Szcesney produced a series of match winning saves from crosses and corners to keep Arsenal ahead. He had a very quiet first half, but he made no mistake in handling the extreme pressures of the second. It was nothing short of heroic.
Arsenal managed to ride out the storm, and due to the Sunderland pressure and difficult circumstances, the final whistle made the win feel momentous. A determined performance, a clean sheet, and three points. What more could we ask for?
[title]Arsenal Player Ratings[/title]
MOTM. Excuse the pun, but Szczesney saved us today. As Sunderland piled on the pressure, he kept his head cool. Produced some remarkable reflex saves to keep us in the game.
Two extremely silly tackles earned Carl two separate yellow cards, and an early bath. A big lack of maturity shown by the Englishman today. Did well otherwise.
What a way to return to form. He didn’t put a foot wrong, and was just as deserving for the MOTM award. Out of position at Centre-Back, Sagna was simply outstanding. Strong, timely tackles and simple, steady passing throughout.
Lost a few aerial battles, but did well overall. He too was in an unfavourable position on the left side of defence, but remained composed in possession. Just the performance we needed.
Got beaten on the inside on a number of occasions, and even had a penalty shout raised against him. Got forward well on a few occasions, but needs time to settle in.
It was a fierce battle in midfield, especially in the first half, but Mikel was equal to it. His passing was calm and he defended well all game.
Jack did brilliantly to run at the Sunderland defences in the build up to Cazorla’s goal. He worked hard, but too many games in a short period of time took its toll. Replaced by Diaby.
Had a miserable day in the centre, giving the ball away on a few occasions. But once he moved to right-back, Aaron looked a changed player. Solid tackles and good marking to help seal the win.
Santi usually goes missing in physical games, but he was on fire today. His passing was good, and his goal was taken very well. Almost a great assist for Walcott’s effort off the post.
Theo got the assist for Cazorla, and nearly grabbed a goal for himself in the second half. He helped out defensively when Arsenal went down to ten men. Replaced by Miquel.
Olivier didn’t do much in the final third, and looked tired for most of the game. But made himself useful defensively whenever called upon. Many of our defensive clearances were off his head, and he came in very handy in the dying moments, when Sunderland were bombarding our goal.
A hard game to settle in to, and Abou couldn’t produce anything of any value.
[title]No Luck For Black Cats[/title]
It was no easy task, but Arsenal ground out a solid, determined performance against a tough Sunderland outfit. The Black Cats were relentless in their offensive play after Jenkinson was sent off, but The Gunners were valiant in defence, even if it was a make-shift back four.
To beat the big teams, We need more performances where grit and passion get us the points, and today was exactly that. On the down side, our squad is looking very thin defensively, and Jack Wilshere may be looking at a stretch on the sidelines. *Gulp*.
What did you think of the Sunderland Vs Arsenal match? Share your views in the comments section below.