It was a return of the 1-0 to the Arsenal once again this week, a result we haven’t seen twice in a row for some time now. A long-missed defensive solidarity that Arsenal fans have craved for 5 or 6 years now, although it is by no means proven or consistent as of yet.
Arsenal dominated much of the game, creating numerous chances and scoring just the one goal before Jack Wilshere was subbed off injured, and Jenkinson was sent off for a second bookable offence. Sunderland then piled on the pressure, especially in the last 10 minutes.
It was a bright start to the game, with Theo Walcott hitting two on target in the first 8 minutes and although Simon Mignolet was equal to them, Theo probably should have got one of them in.
Sunderland setting about their physical game, they knew it was the only way if they wanted to get something out of it and Cattermole’s return was surely the catalyst for their ‘dirty’ tackling in midfield against our technically gifted quad of Wilshere, Cazorla, Ramsey and Arteta. Cattermole was booked in 80 seconds after a lunge on Ramsey.
Unfortunately the ref didn’t give the protection that the Arsenal players deserved, especially Jack Wilshere. Arsene Wenger stated that,
I was a bit frustrated because I thought Jack didn’t get the free kicks he deserved. The referee let two or three things go that I thought were a foul on Jack. I just want the referee to give a foul when it’s a foul. I don’t want any special protection.
However, despite many bad tackles from the Sunderland players, it was Carl Jenkinson who would pick up the next yellow card after 18 minutes for a mistimed challenge.
Arsenal continued to press, and it was a great run from Jack Wilshere, charging through the midfield pass three players before he found Walcott, who controlled it then laid it off to Cazorla and with a crisp hit from his left foot it found the far bottom corner from the edge of the area and Mignolet was unable to keep this one out to his left, after a string of fine saves.
Jack Wilshere was taken off early into the second-half after a collision with N’Diaye who left his leg in, injuring Jack’s thigh. Diaby came on in place and added a physical presence and height that would soon be crucial when Jenkinson was sent off for an almost identical mistimed challenge down the wing.
After the challenges and fouls by the Sunderland players, it is frustrating that we should end up with 10 men. But it’s hard to argue that Carl’s tackles weren’t bookable offences yet you want the referee to be consistent, and against Sunderland, he just wasn’t.
This was to change the tides, and Sunderland would go all out attack to get an equaliser, bringing on Danny Graham to a great ovation. Last time he played at the Stadium of Light he was booed endlessly for Swansea, as he is a Newcastle fan. How fickle fans are.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And that is exactly what Arsenal managed to do. Ramsey dropped in at right-back, and Sagna had his best game of the season playing centre-back, ironically. He even out shone Mertesacker, who has 86 caps for Germany in that position. He won more headers than most, and considering he’s a short fella, this was a great achievement.
I thought Ramsey played quite well too, and carried out his tasks well wherever he was asked to play, but Cazorla was on a different planet and some of his play was superb. He worked so hard to get box to the box in the last 20 minutes, trying to create things for Arsenal even though we were under constant threat. At 74 minutes he played through Walcott who hit the post, and this would have sealed the win more comfortably than we did. Wenger had this to say on him.
Top, top class. When you think that this guy is not a regular in the Spanish national team, it shows you how good they are. I think he had an outstanding performance today.
Giroud I was disappointed with. Not only did he miss a host of chances throughout the game, but gave little to collective effort, and in that last 20 minutes you want your tall, strong striker to be holding up the ball to bring others in to play as obviously they were all defending. But time after time he lost it, once even blazing one over the bar from long-range when Santi and Theo were options. Wenger went manic at this point, shouting and flapping his arms. It was a huge frustration and as with a good ten minutes left it was far from won.
But Szczesny really did save the day. A number of great saves that could have easily gone in, and we could have easily lost even, if it wasn’t for him. Mertesacker left him having to deal with a one-on-one. He produced a fine stop with his leg. Later he would be bombarded with crosses and headers, but in the last second he grabbed hold of the ball from Mignolet’s flick, and there was no way he was letting go.
The whistle went and it was a magnificent sight to see most of the players so emotional, shouting, hugging, and happy. It was such a battle and for once we didn’t capitulate. Some of the players like Santi were just bending down trying to catch their breath after working so hard. The passion was unbelievable and nice to see the players experiencing it as well as the fans, they seem like they are really going to grow together, as they are already, and this was without Jack or Vermaelen on the field as well remember.
Player Ratings /10:
Szczesny – 9/10
Jenkinson – 5/10
Sagna – 9/10
Mertesacker – 7/10
Monreal – 6/10
Arteta – 6/10
Ramsey – 7/10
Cazorla – 9/10
Wilshere – 9/10
Walcott – 8/10
Giroud – 6/10
Diaby – 5/10
Miquel – 5/10
Read my View the Numbers feature for an analysis of the game with statistics.