We survived an early scare to make it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup, coming from a goal down to win 3-1 against Sam Allarydce’s Sunderland.
A couple of players were given rests for the game, with Mesut Özil and Per Mertesacker the most notable of the absentees. It was an extremely attacking lineup named by Arsene Wenger, with the likes of Theo Walcott, Joel Campbell, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Olivier Giroud, and young Alex Iwobi all starting.
We arguably should have taken the lead early on after a great bit of build up play, Olivier Giroud setting up Kieran Gibbs as he raced into the box. His shot was straight at the keeper however, who parried it out for a corner.
Sunderland didn’t look a huge threat, but were causing us some problems with their high energy and high pressing game. It was this tactic that yielded them a goal, harrying Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs, forcing them into a mistake.
The left-back put in a good tackle to prevent a Sunderland attack, but needlessly put Koscienly into danger with a really poor pass. The Frenchman then failed to clear quick enough, and Jeremain Lens was able to nick the ball and smash it past Petr Cech at his near post. 1-0.
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Thankfully we didn’t have long to wait for an equaliser, with Joel Campbell to the rescue. Alex Iwobi – who was getting his first senior Arsenal – drove through midfield towards goal, before spreading the play to Theo Walcott on the left. Walcott picked out Campbell in the box with a great pass, and the Costa Rican applied a smart finish into the bottom right corner. 1-1.
There were a couple of half chances before the end of the first half, but in the end we went into the break with honours even.
Early in the second half we unquestionably should have been ahead, with great work from the Ox seeing the ball cannon off the post. The ball fell straight to Walcott, but under pressure he couldn’t direct it goalwards.
It was a case of ‘anything you can do’ for Sunderland, who went down the other end and rattled Cech’s crossbar with a Steven Fletcher head, Duncan Watmore firing over on the rebound.
Walcott really should have given us the lead after being set up with a great cut-back by Gibbs, but his tame effort was straight at the keeper.
Aaron Ramsey was brought on with 20 minutes to go, and the substitution had an instant impact. He added some much needed energy and gave us the kick we needed, then moments later we were ahead.
Great work from Hector Bellerin and Joel Campbell down the right set the Spaniard away, and there were bodies in the box to aim at. He fired a ball low across goal, where super sub Aaron Ramsey was there to smash it in. 2-1.
Sunderland had looked dangerous, so a 2-1 scoreline certainly won’t have been enough to settle Arsenal fans’ jitters. We got a third shortly after though, which all but put the game to bed. It was Bellerin yet again who got the assist, his pace proving too much for a tired Patrick van Aanholt – not to mention Danny Graham who failed to track back. He put a fine cross into the box, laying it on a plate for Olivier Giroud to tap in. 3-1.
It really should have been four or five before the end of the game, with referee Martin Atkinson somehow failing to give one of the clearest penalties you’ll ever see. Giroud had his feet taken from under him right as he was about to shoot, but bizarrely, nothing was given.
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It wasn’t a perfect performance by any stretch, with a couple of players below par, but we got through and that’s what counts.