When Duncan Watmore went down inside our box I sank in my chair. It looked all set up to become one of those days. Good pressure and slick passing, a goal to show for our trouble, loads of chances created, then one mistake puts paid to everything good. Usually it’s also the first shot on our target.
I watched Cech move hither and thither, waving arms in different directions to knock Defoe off his stride, but wasn’t remotely fooled Petr had a chance with the penalty. He is a brilliant goalkeeper, but he just doesn’t seem too good with saving pens, at least for us.
For a full 5 minutes I’ve felt properly miserable. Sunderland were turning on the pressure and were getting a foothold in the game and it was oh-so-predictable even at half-time. It was a trap you could see miles away, and yet we still fell in it. The thought of allowing Sunderland to get a point was unbearable, given their form and our aspirations. The thought of them potentially nicking the first win against us…
And then this man came along. The afternoon sun reflected off his left foot as it touched the ball and we were in front once again. Five minutes later Olivier Giroud sealed the deal with a header and hence he makes my top section.
Astonishing really, but Giroud is yet to start a league game this season. Here’s a player who made 135 league appearances over the last 4 seasons. He’s missed just 17 games, 9 of these due to injury, further 6 down to suspensions. I can’t account for only 2 league games of his over 4 seasons!
It’s obvious Giroud won’t play nearly as much in 16/17. Alexis Sanchez seems to have established himself as first-choice and for good reason too. However yesterday Giroud once again showed why he remains an important player and why he, indeed, has been first-choice for so long.
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Ollie showcased the finest qualities for a classic number 9. It’s also HIS finest qualities: one-touch near-post finish and a header from a set-piece. The Bearded French Bloke took just 12 touches in 24 minutes, but scored two crucial goals. Arsene was full of praise for his compatriot after the game:
“Olivier is a guy who is mentally absolutely fantastic. He’s strong and every time he’s questioned, he gives you the right answer on the pitch. I admire that in him. He’s a guy who has gone through some different questions. Even before the European Championship in France, he was questioned by the crowd and in the end everybody was on his side.”
Giroud will push Alexis all the way. He will, at some point, get a run in the side up top. And he will remain hugely important even as an impact sub. Here’s to you, Ollie.
Alexis Sanchez wreaks havoc again
As much as I’d like to give the match ball to Giroud, I can totally understand why it awarded to Sanchez. The Chilean tormented Sunderland’s defense throughout, he scored the opening goal with a shot that would make a target man proud and he just took the piss with the last one.
Alexis was kicked, kneed, had his shirt pulled, but he still proved a handful for Moyes’ side. Once again he did his thing and did it brilliantly. The Chilean now has 50 goals for Arsenal in 107 appearances, and his second goal takes Alexis tally to 6 league goals – only Costa has more.
Kieran Gibbs is the surprise package
Or maybe I just got used to Monreal so much I started forgetting Gibbs can actually be very good. And the Englishman was very, very good vs Sunderland.
I’ll just shamelessly nab @7amkickoff’s “By the Numbers” bit. Mostly because I would have given you the numbers on Gibbs anyway, just to show how good he was.
“He was 3rd on the team with 50/60 passes, second in final third passing with 18/21 passes (Iwobi was 19/21), he led the team (along with Özil) with 3 key passes, he won 2/4 dribbles (second on the team), was second in tackles with 2/4, had 2 interceptions, was second on the team in clearances with 7, tied for first (with Koz) with 5/5 headed clearances, and won 5/9 aerial duels to lead Arsenal.”
Naturally, he also provided a clever assist for Giroud and himself crashed a shot against the post in the build-up to Alexis’ second. Moreover, Gibbs’ delivery from the left has been dangerous all game, something I think Monreal does slightly less well.
Overall, the way Kieran has been playing this season, he’ll give Nacho a run for his money, just like Ollie will push Alexis, or Ox will challenge Theo.
He has been diabolical. Absolutely and utterly crap. He missed an array of obvious (and sometimes quite cynical) fouls from Sunderland players, he wasn’t nearly as harsh as he should have been on the ones he did see, he failed to award a pen on Alexis and there are question marks about the pen he gave to Sunderland. With a performance like this I’m just surprised he didn’t cancel any of our goals.
You probably want me to elaborate on the penalty he gave to Watmore. Way I see it, Cech was pulling out of any possible contact with all his might, but Watmore was determined to get the spot-kick, so he stumbled over Cech’s shoulder and duly fell. Without the benefit of replays it looked less obvious, and that’s the only reason I’ve said “there are question marks” and not “Martin completely twatted it up”.
Think his performance was best summed up by @arseblog:
“Bonus rating: 1/10 Martin Atkinson for being rubbish at life and refereeing. Gets the 1 because he can obviously breathe.”
The last word
The victory means we temporarily moved to the top spot, however City’s thrashing of West Brom pushed us down to 2nd, while Liverpool’s win over Palace ensured there are three teams on 23 points after 10 games.
Quite delightfully, both United and Spurs drew their games. Spurs because it means they now trail us by three points. United because screw them and their manager.
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Now we focus on sealing Champions League qualification on Tuesday, when we play Ludogorets away. By that time at least Xhaka should become available, but I’d advocate resting some key players anyway. No need to rush any of Monreal, Cazorla, Walcott or, indeed, playing Sanchez or Ozil for the entirety of the game, especially with Tottenham up next in the league. However we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
For now just enjoy the win and all it entails.
Back here to cover the North London derby.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.