Match Report & Player ratings to follow
The Gunners finally took their place in the top four for the first time in months after a well fought comeback against Sunderland leapfrogged them over Newcastle and Chelsea in the table. Thierry Henry completed the win with a well timed finish after a spectacular Andrey Arshavin cross finished off the tie late on.
Aaron Ramsey equalized Sunderland’s opener with a strike from outside the box after coming on as a 70minute substitute, however Mertesacker can be faulted for Sunderland’s goal with the German international appearing to twist his ankle and collapsed at the worst possible time allowing James McClean to finish cooly.
Wenger was quick to praise his French compatriot Henry after another late goal from the club’s record goalscorer, and hopes he can add to his huge tally against Milan in midweek. The only worrying factor is the extent of Mertesacker’s injury after the German took a hefty tumble which lead to Sunderland’s opener, but with Gibbs returning to the fold Vermaelen can slot into his favoured central position once again to shore up the backline nicely.
Wenger said in his post-match conference:
[on another happy ending for Thierry] He finished the story of the legend today in the championship; I hope he will add some in the Champions League on Wednesday now. Certainly he got us the three points in a difficult game where Sunderland were resilient, well organised and tried to catch us on the break every time. You could see that they have a lot of spirit in their side. It was also on a very difficult pitch. We had a lot of the ball but we couldn’t create a lot because our passing was good but it was very difficult to get into their defence.
On top of that we were 1-0 down so it was a question of a spirited performance and that is what happened in the end. I felt we were intelligent, patient and resilient.
[on unfortunate Sunderland goal] It was unfortunate. Mertesacker told me that he got a shot in his ankle and couldn’t move at all anymore. We are a bit worried about his ankle I must say because he goes home on crutches. He has done some ligament damage, but how big that is we will have to check tomorrow. For sure he is out for Wednesday.
[on possibility of stopping play] I thought about it during the game after they scored but you cannot demand that. You do not know if a guy has gone down through injury or because he slipped. It’s just that in the action you cannot demand to stop.
[on Henry] It might haunt me again because then people will say ‘why did he not stay?’ It just shows you as well that these players never lose it. Exceptional talent survives. You have that with Giggs and Scholes at Manchester United and Thierry here. It is just a luxury to have a player like him on the bench.
[on bringing him back again] We will see next season, but maybe he might want to stop at some stage as well!
[on being fourth] Two weeks ago everybody said it was out of reach for us and today we are in it. So we have to be cautious. But we are happy to be back in this position but it is still very open for everybody around there. You have Newcastle, Chelsea, Liverpool, us and it’s down to consistency now.
[on the importance of scoring away goals against Milan] You always have to push for a goal when you play away in the first leg because it gives you a cushion for the second leg.
We will try to score, of course – we always do. The system rewards the audacious away from home.
The way it is with the away goal, you have to be focused to score and therefore it is important that you play your game.
It seems that Arsenal prefer to come from behind to win matches after loosing a number of fixtures early in 2012 after leading early on but slipping up. Their mentality has definitely improved over the past few months after some emphatic victories recently, particularly against Aston Villa where they came from behind and now todays comeback which has demonstrated their strength and character. Their thrashing of Blackburn will be fresh in their minds too as they look to dismantle Italian highflyers AC Milan away from home in what will prove to be a challenging week for the Gunners who then travel back to the Stadium of Light for their next FA Cup fixture.