Giroud plays down injury worries as Ramsey outshines Ozil for Arsenal

Sunderland
1 Arsenal 3 – Ozil Immediately Shines But Ramsey Steals The Show Again

Arsenal
made it three wins on the bounce and temporarily (at least) sit at the top of
the Premier League after a 3-1 away victory against Sunderland yesterday.

The pre-match headline was the debut for club record
signing Mesut Ozil, yet we found ourselves without two of our most consistent
and valuable performers as Per Mertesacker and Santi Cazorla both missed out,
with the latter reportedly out for up to a month with an ankle injury, forcing
Arsene Wenger into a reshuffle that saw Bacary Sagna start at centre back and
Ozil wide on the left.

After getting into some threatening positions early on, it
didn’t take long for the visitors to go in front and it was the German debutant
at the centre of it in the 11th minute. Kieran Gibbs’ long ball down
the left was majestically controlled by Ozil, who brought it down and
immediately played it through perfectly for Olivier Giroud, who left his
defender and slotted it passed Keiren Westwood in the Sunderland goal.

We had chances to double our advantage in the first half,
mainly through Theo Walcott who, still searching for his first goal this
season, was released on two occasions by Ozil but couldn’t beat the ‘keeper in
one-on-ones. And at the end of the half Walcott headed wide after some neat
interchanging between Giroud and Jack Wilshere.

Sunderland’s chances were few and far between as they
struggled to get going. Modibo Diakite did hit the bar off a corner and Jozy
Altidore tested Wojciech Szczesny from range as he span away from Sagna, but
the Pole was largely untroubled in the opening period.

Another Walcott chance on half time went begging after
Giroud’s flick gave him a shot from a tight angle and Ozil’s follow up was
deflected wide and the half played out with Arsenal comfortably 1-0 up.

That lead didn’t last long as Sunderland came out after
the interval fired up, winning a penalty in the 49th minute when
Laurent Koscielny clumsily lunged in on Adam Johnson in the area leaving Martin
Atkinson little choice but to award a penalty, which Craig Gardener converted.

From here Sunderland enjoyed a decent spell of pressure;
Steven Fletcher had a goal rightly ruled out for offside, a free kick from
range bounced off the post as no-one got anything on it, and a Fletcher led
counter attack resulted in a Johnson shot deflected wide as Arsenal stood off
nervously at the back.

Arsenal then grew back into it, with crosses from Walcott
and Ozil not finding any away shirts in the box, before the man of the moment
Aaron Ramsey put us in front in the 68th minute.

The Welshman had been quietly going about his business in
the game before he smashed home first time a Carl Jenkinson cross from the edge
of the penalty area to put us back in the lead.

What followed shortly after had Sunderland in fury, as
Altidore outmuscled and peeled away from Sagna before rolling the ball into the
net, but Atkinson had already blown his whistle for a foul awarded in favour of
the home side just outside of the area. No advantage was played, when
technically it didn’t have to be, and Sagna was perhaps fortunate to only see a
yellow card as he obviously denied a goal scoring opportunity as the ball ended
up in the goal… Unlucky for Sunderland and fortunate for Arsenal, perhaps karma
for the shit luck we received on the opening day of the season. Gardener’s free
kick sailed over and he again dragged wide shortly after as the home sides
chances came and went to no avail.

Ramsey then grabbed his second and killed the game with a
beautifully worked third Arsenal goal. He started the move himself just outside
the home side’s penalty area, before some good movement and a neat one touch
triangle was played between Ozil, Giroud and ultimately Ramsey again who finished
coolly from inside the area.

That was game over and allowed Arsene Wenger to withdraw
Ozil for the returning Thomas Vermaelen, Walcott for Nacho Monreal, and Chuba
Akpom got a League debut replacing Giroud who appeared to injure his knee as he
couldn’t meet a Ramsey pull back in stopped time. A worrying late scene, but the
Frenchman Tweeted that he was OK
last night to ease Gooner fears.

Paolo di Canio, the odious twat, was sent off in stoppage
time for complaining about a footballer receiving treatment and the game
finished 3-1, job done.

It was a professional display on the whole, despite the
opening exchanges of the second period where we made it difficult for
ourselves. Koscielny again gave away a penalty cheaply, his second in three
games this season, so that’s an area of his game that needs improving and
hopefully the combined influence of Wenger and Steve Bould can work with him on
that. Mertesacker was definitely missed as a leader at the back as at times we
were all over the place and lacked organisation, so fingers crossed the BFG
recovers from his illness to return for Marseille on Wednesday night.

Going forward there were chances a plenty, largely aided
by the immediate influence of Ozil who had a classy debut. Even more impressive
given the fact he himself was also slightly suffering from illness, plus that
he’d only had two days preparation with his new teammates. He’s only going to
get better, which is quite a thought.

Some of Ozil’s vision and through balls were to die for,
with Walcott the man who prospered from them the most, as many Arsenal
commentators had expected he would. The young Englishman himself is clearly
raring to get off the mark this year and despite again failing to do so
yesterday, I have no worries that it’ll happen and happen soon for him and
he’ll have another prolific year.

Yes he wasted some chances that you’d expect him to bury,
but the game of football is about having a squad capable of providing the goods
at different times during the season. Currently we’re enjoying Ramsey’s time,
as he added two more goals to his tally taking him to five already, and this is
taking the burden off the likes of Walcott still waiting to get going.

Eventually that’ll be role reversal, I have no doubt. And
with Giroud still scoring freely and also playing exceptionally well, the
prospect of Walcott coming to form plus with the added effect Ozil will have on
both of their scoring opportunities, it’s not farfetched to believe that one or
both of them could notch up towards 20 League goals this season, fitness
permitting.

I also shouldn’t pass on this opportunity without praising
the performance of Mathieu Flamini. I’ll happily admit I had my doubts over his
signing, but that’s been proven completely wrong and now Flamini adds the calm
and organisation that we were so reliant on Mikel Arteta for since his arrival
two years ago. Their battle for the holding midfielder role is going to be an
interesting one to watch when the finely haired Spaniard returns to full
fitness.

Wilshere also had his best game for some time on the back
of a difficult week with the England side. His relationship with Ramsey in
midfield is ever improving and he immediately clicked with Ozil and seemed to
flourish off the German’s presence. Hopefully he can maintain this level of
performance as he still battles with his fitness. I’m in no rush with Jack, the
criticism he got midweek was completely unwarranted after one off game, there’s
a wider context to his game often overlooked, that he’s still so young and
recovering from a career threatening injury. Give him time and he will come of
age, no doubt. Ramsey is the perfect example of just how that’s possible.

So a team now in very good form and playing some great football
next heads to Marseille in the Champions League in the week before a home game
against Stoke at the weekend.

It’s the start of the trickiest Champions League group I
think we’ve ever had so important that we get off to a positive start and then
ensure we follow up in similar fashion to keep the momentum going in the
League.

The response from the opening day has been perfect. Long
may it continue.

Matt Littlechild 


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