We have had to wait for a while for a league victory but The Black Cats were our lucky charm. What could have been a very ugly week ended a very successful one – after we beat Anderlecht with one of the worst Arsenal performances of the decade, we managed to get our third victory in the league this term and narrow the gap between us and Chelsea to nine points.
There have been a lot of comments about how our victory over Sunderland riddled with luck. That’s too harsh on our players. Yes, we did seize the opportunities created by Wes Brown and Vito Mannone to score our goals but we were the much better team anyway and there is no question who deserved to go home with three points in the pocket.
Here are the pointers from the game.
1.Alexis Sánchez – the new Thierry Henry?
Yes, it may sound like an exaggeration or a premature conclusion. Nevertheless, the Chilean has reminded some Gooners (and Gunners for that matter!) of a certain French genius that had molested our opponents for almost a decade. He was head and shoulders above his team-mates in our last three matches – both his goal and assist against Hull City came thanks to his individual quality, it was his never-say-die attitude that led us to that incredible come-back against Anderlecht and the same attitude was rewarded with a brace against Sunderland.
Alexis has scored eight goals in all competitions – he needs two more to reach double-digits and to overtake Marouane Chamakh’s record as the quickest Wenger’s purchase to reach ten goals in all competitions.
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However, there is a slight concern that our team might become too reliant on the brilliant Chilean striker and – just like Henry needed Pires, Bergkamp, Ljungberg, Vieira, Campbell and others to write the most beautiful pages of both Premier League and Arsenal history – Alexis needs support from Welbeck, Cazorla, Ramsey, Chamberlain and, why not, Walcott to propel Arsenal where we belong!
2.Santi Cazorla needs his shooting boots soon.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Santi. The Spaniard could have easily scored a hat-trick but instead hit every part of the stadium except Mannone’s net.
When he was signed from Malaga, he had a reputation of one of the deadliest shooters from the outside of the area and a set-piece specialist. Lately, however, he has struggled to deliver his magic and that’s not OK, especially as we have Özil on the side-lines.
His decisions in general against Sunderland were questionable – had he passed the ball to Bellerin when he ought to, we could have seen a very first goal for the talented Spaniard. Unfortunately, the other talented Spaniard in our squad failed to release him at the right time. Hopefully Santi will return to his best form in the forthcoming fixtures.
3.Mathieu Flamini + Mikel Arteta = not the Defensive Midfielder we want but the one we need?
We have been dreaming about a DM-beast in the midfield for so long that Mr Freud would have written a book about our issues with a dominant father figure had he been alive. Since we don’t have a DM-beast we have to settle with Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta as our holding midfielders. Given that Wenger has tried to switch our formation to 4-1-4-1 this term (without success), only one of them has started in most of the games.
Against Sunderland, however, Wenger picked both of them and it worked. Granted, Sunderland are hardly the strongest test out there but it seems that our obvious lack of quality in the holding midfield area has to be bypassed with quantity. Arteta brings calm passing while Flamini adds aggression – if were merged into one player, we’d have a top-class holding midfielder.
Unfortunately, Wenger’s laboratory hasn’t been adjusted to that sort of experiment so we’ll have to combine what we have at our disposal.
4.Wojciech Szczesny got a clean sheet but…
It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Szczesny but sometimes he can really make me nervous with his dashes or exhibitions inside the box. His header against Sunderland created a solid chance for the hosts but luckily for us and Szczesny the ball went wide. We have spilled too many points so far and the last thing we need is an expensive blunder from our goalkeeper. Our only experienced healthy goalkeeper, to be more precise.
5.Theo Walcott’s return will be a massive lift.
“If we only have flour like when we had sugar, we’d make a perfect cake!” Now, this proverb makes a lot more sense in Bosnian but you probably get the point. When Mesut Özil arrived, the most exciting moment about his transfer was a prospect of his co-operation with Theo Walcott. After the German suffered a long-term injury and joined Walcott on the sidelines, that story looked like the one from the proverb at the beginning of this pointer. Now, with Walcott being days away from his return to the action, we’ll be able to see what we have been missing for the last nine-and-half months. Yes, Theo was absent for so long that his woman got pregnant on the same day and already gave birth.
More importantly, however, is that Walcott’s return means an extra asset for our team, especially given how Theo had looked so mature and composed before he got injured.
6.This has to be a start to the positive run.
No more slips are allowed. We have to beat teams like Burnley – with all due respect to them – and collect points in order to make our title challenge alive. Our victory at Sunderland combined with Van Persie’s late equalizer against Chelsea was a bit of CPR for our title hopes but if we drop points in forthcoming fixtures against Burnley, Swansea and Manchester United respectively, we can kiss goodbye our title dreams.
7.Our unsung hero is named Santiago Vergini.
Remember what happened last term when we played against Sunderland at the Emirates? Well, in case you forgot, I’ll remind you – we won the game without fuss (4:1) and Giroud scored his and our second goal of the game after intercepting a back-pass from Santiago Vergini to Vito Mannone. Alexis Sánchez scored the first goal of the game after intercepting Wes Brown’s back-pass to Mannone and his second after the Italian failed to deal properly with Vergini’s back-pass. One might expect the same sort of back-pass in the reverse fixture and Vergini to celebrate our goal by showing an Arsenal shirt underneath his Sunderland one and screaming: “Yeeeeeeeeeeees, it’s a hat-trick!”
So, next stop – Burnley at home. Perhaps a convincing win to follow?