Sunderland 0 Arsenal 1: arguably our best win of the season
WELL I don’t know about you but I haven’t screamed at an Arsenal game like that for a very long time. For this afternoon at least the (comparatively) zennish state of semi-detached calm acceptance that has typified my Arsenal viewing for the previous couple of years was shunted to one side and it was hello again to the primeval, mouth-foaming, remonstrating young me sat on my own on a Saturday afternoon in a random pub, a Kanu era inspired Nigerian Gooner who’d only come for a quiet afternoon my best friend/sounding board for 90 minutes.
And why was this so? Because Arsenal so deserved to win this game. We’d scored and spurned oodles of other chances that largely fell under the heading of “unlucky” rather than “inept”. We’d had an utterly schizophrenic ref who had decided that Carl Jenkinson would get no leeway for two undoubtedly rash tackles, while Sunderland would get virtual carte-blanche to kick whatever they wanted out of our players. And then when Jenkinson had departed and we needed to show character and spirit – traits more often spouted than seen around the club in recent years – we did in abundance.
If our spirit was enough to win me over, it was Sunderland’s tactics that had me screaming lunatic like at the telly. The kindest thing I can say about them is that they were akin to Stoke’s ugly half-sister and frankly even that statement has had to be run past the lawyers.
Player wise, Szczesny made two great saves when called on late on. Monreal was pretty decent again and Mertsersacker must take credit for marshaling the makeshift defence, even if his continued turning his back on a ball fired vaguely in his direction makes me livid. Jenkinson was a late call-up into the side in place of the injured Koscielny and looked it: neither tackle was wise, both seemed avoidable initially.
Sagna, perhaps not at his best of late, looked like a centre-back and battled bravely. The point about why we don’t have a fourth central defender that we’re prepared to play is a valid one but can wait for another day.
Arteta was quietly himself and Wilshere was running the show until injury (seemingly the product of more Sunderland fouling) ended his afternoon. Ramsey was more direct and forward moving that at other times and when he moved to right-back he was nothing short of heroic, defending as if he’d always been there and still able to contribute going forward at the right moments.
The front three (Cazorla, Giroud and Theo) all spurned chances and chances to make chances but all put in good shifts. The goal was a thing of beauty, the driving run from Wilshere, a thoughtful Theo layoff and a low driven shot from Cazorla. Very nicely done.
We’ve had some big wins this season but I can’t think (with the possible exception of Spurs) of a more impressive one.
Spirit, character, resilience: take your pick Mr Wenger.