The international break usually gives the creeps to an average Gunner. We have already had one international break this season that stopped our rise on the table and brought nothing but trouble to us. Given that we already had problems with the injury to Thomas Vermaelen, one of three central defenders whose name isn’t Sebastien Squillaci, we were scared to read injury reports after the latest international break. It was no wonder that we suffered some casualties – Koscielny got injured which left us with a lot of problems in central defense, Ramsey’s knock wasn’t the best news either and I myself have suffered gout issues. Koscielny was ruled out for this game only after the warm-up before the game so Jenkinson took his place in starting 11.
For the first time this season, Wenger decided to give a chance to both natural right-backs Sagna and Jenkinson with the Frenchman being shifted to central defense to provide pace with both Vermaelen and Koscielny were out. Given that our defense had to play in a new shape, Wenger decided to go with four midfielders leaving both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski on the bench.
In what was the best first half of the season, we could have easily scored at least five goals before the interval had our opponents had a worse goalkeeper than Simon Mignolet. The Belgian keeper made a number of saves after our attempts. The first one came after just seventy seconds after Walcott cut inside, but his left-footed shot was saved by Mignolet. Giroud and Walcott created trouble for the Black Cats, but Mignolet denied the latter again. Sessegnon responded by beating Monreal on the left side but Jenkinson made a clearance. Giroud had a decent opportunity, similar to the one he missed against Chelsea few weeks ago, and his miss was similar to the aforementioned Chelsea game. Ramsey’s long shot after Wilshere’s set up was slighty deflected but Mignolet produced more heroics. However, even the Belgian couldn’t save the low shot from Santi Cazorla after Wilshere and Walcott created a chance for the Spaniard who scored his ninth goal in the Premiership.
We could have wrapped it up before the interval after Giroud poked the ball to Ramsey but the Welshman’s attempt from point-blank range was brilliantly saved by Mignolet. It was the last attempt in the first half.
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The second half didn’t have the best start. Wilshere was fouled for the millionth time today and he had to go off. Diaby replaced him but the Arsenal engine wasn’t as powerful without England’s best midfielder. Still, we had our chances that we spurned. Giroud, Cazorla and Diaby took shots but none of them went past Mignolet. Sessegnon – who went on the left side of Sunderland attack after Larsson was introduced – made a couple of problems for us. First he took the ball from Ramsey before creating a chance for Fletcher but the Scottish striker sent his shot wide. Then, Sessegnon was brought down by Jenkinson after making an impressive run on the left flank. It was a second yellow card for the English youngster and it’s not something that we should argue about. It is horrible refereeing that allowed Bramble and Cattermole to stay on the field after number of dangerous challenges that deserves Wenger’s outburst, but it is highly unlikely the FA would “punish” him with a 12.000 pounds fine like they did to Ferguson recently.
Anyway, despite being one-man-down, our players gave a lion’s share of fight. Even with 10 men we were closer to the second goal than Sunderland were to an equalizer – Cazorla’s brilliant pass to Walcott didn’t get the ultimate reward as Walcott’s well-placed shot was denied by the post.
Then, another moment of horrible refereeing took place. Mertesacker tried to clear the ball but it was cut down by Fletcher’s hand. Although it was clear hand-ball, the linesman didn’t raise his flag and Fletcher had a chance to score, but Sczszesny made his first brilliant save of the day. A few minutes later Fletcher’s header was tipped over the bar by the Pole. Adam Johnson and Titus Bramble also had their attempts that didn’t go past the Pole.
On the other side of the pitch, Giroud spoiled a three-on-two-counter-attack by taking a shot himself instead of passing to his team-mates in better position. Cazorla had a couple of long shots that went just over the bar.
At the end, we won very important three points in order to keep the battle for the fourth spot alive. It was one of the best performances of our team this season in terms of domination on the pitch (first half) and fighting spirit (second half).
on the win…
It was tight in the end. It was a game with a high level of intensity where we showed brilliance going forward, but unfortunately we couldn’t score the second goal. We had to show another side in the second half, especially being down to 10 men in the last 20 minutes. We needed to be resilient, committed and deal with everything. I think it was a typical Premier League game with top quality on both sides.
I believe we have been quite consistent away from home since the start of the season. You saw today that the team is up for a fight. Without that, we wouldn’at have got the three points today.
He was excellent today. I believe the defence was excellent, when you think that Sagna was told 15 minutes before the start that he would play centre back. I believe he dealt with what he faced in an excellent way. He and Mertesacker were excellent.
on Koscielny’s injury…
It’s a calf problem. We think it’s a question of days [until he returns] because he had a positive scan. He [came off for France] at half time [on Wednesday] and we decided to give him a trial in the warm up. He was not good enough. I don’t think it’s long-term.
on WIlshere’s knock…
It was a big kick on the thigh. He couldn’t walk. He doesn’t walk properly now. I hope it’s four or five days [until he’s back].
I was a bit frustrated because I thought Jack didn’t get the free kicks he deserved. The referee let two or three things go that I thought were a foul on Jack.
on if Sunderland singled out Wilshere…
No. When you have the midfield we have with Cazorla, Wilshere, Arteta and Ramsey, they want to stop us from playing and combining so they get close to us.
on if he wanted more protection from the referee…
I just want the referee to give a foul when it’s a foul. I don’t want any special protection. The referee is not a bodyguard. We just want him to give a foul when it’s a foul.
on having to win…
We were under pressure to win today. We could not afford to drop points, I said that after the Chelsea game. We are in a situation where we cannot drop points anymore. No matter where we play, we need the three points.
on Cazorla’s performance…
Top, top class. When you think that this guy is not a regular in the Spanish national team, it shows you how good they are. I think he had an outstanding performance today.
on disappointment at not being more than one goal up after an hour…
Today we lacked efficiency in our finishing and we didn’t finish what we created. We create and that’s positive. Sometimes it’s like that. If you look at our games, we score five, seven, and suddenly sometimes we don’t score. The team is still learning and developing and needs to be a bit more efficient.
But overall, I think it was a typical Premier League game with top quality on both sides.
Jenkinson Sagna Mertesacker Monreal
Arteta (c) Ramsey
Wojciech Szczesny | 8.0: Made world-class saves to deny Steven Fletcher on a couple of occasions. The Pole and Sagna saved at least two points.
Carl Jenkinson | 4.5: Made a really stupid foul for the second booking. It seems that he lacks match practice which would explain why he made mistimed tackles.
Bacary Sagna | 9.0: Perfect performance in an unusual role. His energy, tackling and heading were crucial qualities in this match.
Per Mertesacker | 6.5: He was a solid partner to Sagna. His clearance was hand-balled by Fletcher, but the linesman didn’t see it.
Nacho Monreal | 6.5: Sure, he had his troubles with Sessegnon when the attacking midfielder from Benin attacked on his side, but he showed in the second half what kind of advantage good positioning gives to defenders. Was ignored by Walcott in one promising attack.
Mikel Arteta | 7.5: The captain gave another tidy performance and showed his ability to pass the ball under pressure when we were with 10 men on the field.
Jack Wilshere | 7.5: Hopefully he didn’t get a serious thigh injury. He started an attack in which we scored. Was subject to horrible tackles from Sunderland players and I just hope one day the Football Association will abandon their unreasonable tolerance to all Stokes, Sunderlands and Big Fat Sams of England.
Aaron Ramsey | 6.5: Missed a sitter to spare our nerves at the end of the first half and made a mistake that nearly led to an equalizer in second half, but gave a solid performance in both midfield and right-back when Jenkinson was sent off.
Santi Cazorla | 8.0: Scored a goal that was worth of three points and made a perfect pass to Walcott in the second half that should have gotten an assist to his name as well. He might have had too many wasteful shots but his ability to open Sunderland defense and to win space and time with his dribbling turned out to be very useful as well.
Theo Walcott | 7.0: He could easily have scored a hat-trick in this match but in the end he’ll have to be satisfied with an assist. Was selfish in one occasion in first half and unlucky to be denied by the post in the second. Was substituted for tactical reasons.
Olivier Giroud | 6.5: The Big Frenchman failed to find the net in the first half from promising position but worked hard as usual. His decision to take a shot himself in injury time instead of passing the ball to the left or right side deserved Wenger’s anger. Both Giroud and Walcott should know that being selfish might not be the worst thing when you are a striker but it can turn out to be very expensive for the team.
Abou Diaby | 6.5: Had a chance to score in the second half but it wasn’t easy for him to perform well after we lost Jenkinson.
Ignasi Miquel | N/A: Was on the field for a short period of time in order to make our defense stronger, especially in the air.
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