Arsenal v Sunderland
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: May 20th, 2015 19:45 BST
Our third home game in a row in which we failed to score, and although there was less riding on this one, it was equally disappointing. Sunderland defended resolutely, and we were unable to break them down. Our passing was too slow – as well as often going sideways – and at times we were lucky not to concede.
The game started frenetically, with both teams looking threatening. There were shades of David Ospina vs Oscar when Sunderland were through on goal, but the Colombian was quickly off his line to clear the danger.
We were threatening too, but there were no clear cut chances initially. Our first real chance came after Jack Wilshere was put through on goal, a fine pass from Alexis Sanchez cutting Sunderland open.
The England international was making his first start since November, and was clearly a little rusty. His first touch was a little heavy, and he collided with Costel Pantilimon as the chance disappeared.
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As expected, we were dominating the ball. Sunderland were keeping tight though, and it looked set to be a long night – for both sides.
Wilshere was again involved shortly after, in a move that looked sure to end in a goal. A fantastic break sent Mesut Özil away, with the German playmaker holding the ball up as support arrived. He played the ball across the box to Aaron Ramsey, but it was slightly behind the Welshman, who was quickly surrounded.
Ramsey dinked the ball back to Wilshere as he arrived late in the box, but the 23-year-old volleyed his shot high and wide.
We were largely restricted in our chances for the rest of the half, with players resorting to shooting from distance.
We had one more good chance before the break, with Wilshere once again at the heart of it. He played a lovely ball over the top to Özil, but the German fired over from close range when he really should have hit the target.
The half-time whistle went, with honours even at the Emirates.
It was more of the same in the second half, although Sunderland were starting to look more confident.
As the half went on Sunderland started to retreat further into their shell, and we found it harder and harder to create chances.
Olivier Giroud had struggled to find space throughout the game, but he almost gave us the lead with a bit of vintage play from the Frenchman.
Hector Bellerin put an excellent ball into the box, with Giroud getting the better of the Sunderland defenders. He barged his way to the front post, flicking the ball goalwards. It looked destined to hit the back of the net, but Costel Pantilimon made a superb save to keep him out.
Sunderland had brought Steven Fletcher on at half-time, and he was far more of a threat than Danny Graham. He should have put Sunderland ahead after being put through on goal by Jermaine Defoe, but David Ospina made a fine fingertip save to keep out Fletcher’s chip.
He then had an even better chance moments later, with Patrick van Aanholt firing the ball across goal to put it on a plate. He somehow shot over the bar from close range, with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny furious with the linesman for – incorrectly – not flagging him offside.
Wenger made substitutions of his own, with Theo Walcott replacing Jack Wilshere. The pacey forward made an instant impact, and immediately looked a threat. Aaron Ramsey put him through with a fantastic ball, and his pace saw him race away from the defence. Pantilimon was out quickly, but Walcott reached the ball first. He dinked it past the former Manchester City shot-stopper, but couldn’t find the back of the net, with Sunderland clearing their lines.
The Black Cats were defending superbly, but they needed a bit of luck to keep us out as well. Billy Jones was struck by the ball unexpectedly after it was fired into the box, and Pantilimon could only watch helplessly as it struck the bar and bounced back into play.
Walcott crafted a fantastic chance for himself, turning away from the defenders and breaking into space. He fired an excellent shot goalwards, but yet again Pantilimon was there to palm it back into play. You could tell it wasn’t going to be our night, with the Romanian’s save narrowly avoiding Aaron Ramsey who was rushing in for the rebound.
We battled hard right until the end, but couldn’t break the deadlock. The game ended goalless, with Sunderland securing Premier League football for another season, and us almost certainly securing Champions League group stage qualification.