Arsenal Holds Strong For Needed Three Points
It seemed to be a tale of two halves on Saturday as Arsenal took on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. After taking a commanding hold of the game in the first half and going up 1-0, Arsenal found themselves a man down struggling to keep their head above water as Sunderland pushed on in the second. Arsenal was looking to continue their move up in the table for the desired Champions League spot.
From the start Arsenal was threatening. The midfield was linking up wonderful. Jack Wilshire and Santi Cazorla combined on multiple occasions to threaten Sunderland’s net. There was a lot of one touch football and for a while it appeared as if the vintage Gunners were making an appearance. Aaron Ramsey looked good creating some chances and taking a nice lay off pass from Jack Wilshire, turning a powerful shot to the top corner only to be blocked by an impressive Mignolet save. Cazorla looked sharp and after some nice combination play in the 36th minute his shot went past two Sunderland defenders and found the right corner of the net. Arsenal continued to dominate in the first half but didn’t capitalize to put the game out of reach for Sunderland.
Wilshire continued to dictate the midfield play at the start of the second half but was subbed off prematurely in the 50th minute due to injury. It didn’t appear to be anything serious but Arsenal fans will be worried about him after his inspiring play this season. Wilshire did play in a friendly for England on Wednesday so it is possible that this was a ‘rather safe than sorry’ substitution.
From then on the game changed and Sunderland began to challenge the gunners. Arsenal’s chances were still coming though, and Olivier Giroud threatened intermittently. His presence made a positive impact but his good form didn’t earn him a goal on the day. Theo Walcott also had a strong second half and even had a chance to put Arsenal up two but his break away shot hit the face of the post.
Carl Jenkinson was in the starting eleven to replace Laurent Koscielny who decided he wasn’t well enough to play after his warm up. Jenkinson seemed to struggle with the pace of the Sunderland attackers and in the 53rd minute he earned himself a second yellow with a harsh challenge. With Arsenal down to ten men, Sunderland surged further desperately fighting for a point at home.
Ramsey got sent to the defense to cover for the missing Jenkinson and after a strong 50 minutes found himself struggling at left back. It looked as if Arsenal could’ve used a positive substitution in order to take control of the game again. Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain could’ve brought the pace the team needed to clench the victory. Luckily, Bacary Sagna seemed to be back in good form despite playing at center back and was able to make up for whatever mistakes were made. Wojciech Szczesny had to make some impressive saves to keep Arsenal ahead and he did so in style with confidence. Arsenal had some chances with Giroud and Cazorla in the dying minutes of the game but both lacked the finishing touch that was needed to put the game out of reach for Sunderland. Giroud looked a bit tired and although Cazorla played a good game it was clear his last two shots were tired ones. Nonetheless, Arsenal held on to the three points and that’s what they needed to do.
The win puts Arsenal at fifth in the league with 44 points only 4 behind the fourth place Tottenham. Assuming Everton loses to Manchester United tomorrow, Arsenal will remain in fifth. Arsenal’s next league game isn’t until the 23rd due to FA Cup and Champions League games but they will expect to win against a struggling Aston Villa side and in turn move further up in the table. However a Champions League or FA Cup win might not come as easily.