Arsenal 2 – 1 Sunderland

Morning all.

Don’t Monday mornings always seem that much better when we’ve picked up three points at the weekend.

It would have been nice if we could have won them with a little more ease, especially after our quick start but I suppose that is the way we do things now days.

Arsenal came flying out of the blocks, surprise inclusion Thomas Rosicky played in Gervinho down the left and the Ivorian played the ball across goal on the edge of the box and into the path of Robin Van Persie who after taking a touch on his left fired a shot past Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet with his weaker right to put the Gunners one nil up after just 29 seconds – the fastest Premier League goal this season and indeed Arsenal’s quickest ever in this division.

There is often a fear that a team can score too early in a game but as Arsenal dominated the play there appeared to be no issues on that front and with eleven minutes on the clock the skipper almost doubled our advantage. Collecting the ball from the impressive Mickey Arteta the Dutchman executed an exquisite turn and chip on the edge of the box, the ball floated over Mignolet and was seemingly heading into the net until it struck the inside of the far upright and came back out. Whilst the effort was certainly deserving of a goal for the in form forward the only plus to take is that the goal would not have been featured in the soon to be released DVD of Robins first 100 goals for the club which would have been a massive disappointment (ok I’m clutching at straws there I admit it).

At that stage you would have bet your last fiver that Arsenal would go on and add to their tally but in typical fashion Sunderland were provided a lifeline. Referee Howard Webb awarded the visitors a free-kick twenty-five yards from goal on the half hour mark after Mickey had handled the ball. If you had backed any Sunderland player to score on the day it would have been former Gunner Seb Larsson so it was no surprise at all when the Swede struck the ball superbly, directing it above the defensive wall and into the right corner.

That was it, after being fairly ineffective for thirty minutes Sunderland suddenly had a surge of confidence whilst our players looked nothing like the side that had up to that point dominated the game. The Mackems could have gone ahead before the break had it not been for a fantastic save by Wojciech Szczesny – Sunderland skipper Lee Cattermole found himself unmarked at the back post,  he seemed certain to score but Szczesny spread himself and made the save. There is much talk this morning of our reliance on Van Persie’s goals but surely we are equally indebted to the Polish stopper, his ability to keep us in games can not be overlooked and neither should the youngsters continued assent up the goalkeepers rankings. Surely it won’t be long before he is the world’s number one number one. (Although his cause will not be helped by the kind of Almunia impression he pulled at one stage yesterday)

It was a relief when the half time whistle came and there was a sense of frustration that after such a solid start we were counting ourselves lucky to be going in at the break on level terms. I’m not sure what booing the side off was likely to achieve but a section of the fans deemed it appropriate.

In the second half our dominance of possession continued but a second goal  eluded us. Andrey Arshavin replaced Gervinho in the 68th minute and after suggesting last week that he would be doing more to match our expectations of him the little Russian didn’t disappoint. His introduction certainly seemed to spark us back in to life and he almost scored a wonder goal of his own after making a jinking run in the Sunderland box. Sadly it had everything but the finish as Arshavin hit his shot just wide of Mignolet’s far post.

With the clock running down it was starting to look like the game would end a stalemate until Van Persie won a free-kick after being fouled by Wes Brown on the edge of the box. I don’t know if anyone managed to keep count of the number of free-kicks we, and the captain in particular, have wasted in recent times but this seemed set up for that run to come to an end and so it proved.

Van Persie struck the dead ball perfectly, lifting if over the wall before seeing it drop at just the right time and into the top corner of the near post causing Robin to remove his shirt in celebration and earn a needless caution from Webb. We all know why that strike would have delighted Van Persie but despite the player himself saying after the game that the goal was worth the booking, it really isn’t, it’s needless. The rule itself is farcical but whilst it is in place players need to make sure they don’t fall foul of it.

Overall the positives of the result far outweigh the negatives, we won the three points and thats helped us climb to the top half of the league table. We’re now only six points off the top four, admittedly we are still a seemingly massive twelve points off the top but we would be foolish to look that far ahead of ourselves.

So the picture is looking brighter and I’m not going to dwell on the negative aspects of our game, we all know what they are but I think that we saw small improvements yesterday in those areas so lets just enjoy the victory and the fact we’re back on the right path.

The disappointing, but somewhat unsurprising, post match news is that Kieran Gibbs may miss Wednesdays visit to Marseille after suffering an inflammation of his stomach muscles. We could also be without Welshman Aaron Ramsey again, after he was left out yesterday due to a small hamstring problem.

I hope Gibbs is fit for the European tie, I was impressed with the left back yesterday and whilst we’ve still not seen too much of Andy Santos the Englishman is currently ahead of the Brazilian in the current pecking order in my book.

I was also impressed with Carl Jenkinson, there are still kinks to be ironed out but you would expect that of any player of his age and relative inexperience but yesterday will have hopefully boosted his confidence.

The headlines rightfully go to Van Persie, who is on current form the best forward in the league if not across Europe. Our reliance on his goals may be slightly worrying but you have to agree with the players own insistence last week that he looks to be in the best form of his life. Long may it continue.

Thanks for reading.

Paul.

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