By Walter Broeckx
The Sunderland – Arsenal game was a rather important game. Well they all are important in this phase of the competition. But with the spuds already having won the early kick off and Chelsea having a more easy game it was important to keep as close to those teams as possible. So only a win would be enough.
At first my compatriot MIgnolet was having another fantastic game. He usually has against us. So my message to him is : “Kaan het get mienjer mesjeen de naoste keijr”. That’s even in his local dialect so he will now know that a bit less is better.
But let us start with the team. All different notices flying around before the game. Kos played, no he will not, he will play and at the end of the day…he didn’t play. Not fit enough. All kinds of changes and this meant that only one player was playing in his normal position: our new signing Nacho Monreal at left back. And well even for him in a new team and a new league one could say a completely new back 4.
Now you might say that Per was in the centre. Yes he was but he was playing on the left side of the centre and not his usual right side. Sagna as the second central defender on the right side and Jenkinson as the right back. This was the first time these players played like that. So well not really to look forward to when going to Sunderland as that is usually a tough away game for Arsenal.
Up front Podolski was on the bench-beach (copyright Billy) so not really upfront. And Ramsey came in the team but in midfield. And Cazorla was more on the left flank. The first thing I noticed was the ref. In my preview I hoped for an unbiased ref. I must confess that my stream wasn’t the best ever but I think the unbiased part of the ref will have been visible when my stream jammed for a few seconds on too many occasions because when it worked fine I couldn’t see him.
To put one thing straight: I have no complaints about the two yellow cards against Jenkinson. I think Carl is sometimes too much thinking as a fan and should sometimes think less as a fan. As a fan you might think: trip him when he goes past you. But on the field it is sometimes better to let him run if you know there is cover. The ref was right to take out the cards on both occasions. He was too late and caught the player and stopped a promising attack. So that was fine from the ref.
The kicking of Wilshere in particular was not. During this game I was back thinking that it might end up in another broken leg sooner or later. In the end Sunderland managed to kick Wilshere off the field. Ref Taylor was complicit in this outcome.
But let us forget about the ref. Let us look at the goal. A fine run from Wilshere, a little run from Walcott and laying the ball off to Cazorla who scored with a low shot. 0-1 for Arsenal and before, after and in between we managed to miss a few chances. Or Mignolet making a few great saves. I think Ramsey will have been disappointed not to have scored today. He should have scored. That is the only bad thing I have to say about him. In fact will say more good things later on. If I don’t forget it.
So the disappointing thing was only being up 0-1 at half time. When Wilshere went off we weren’t as dominant as before. And when Jenkinson was sent off we knew we would have a difficult finish of the game. On moments like that the players have to rise to the occasion. And rising they did.
Szczesny with a few super saves showing Mignolet that he also is rather a good keeper. Sagna who was heavily criticised the last weeks by the noisy part of the not existing you know ho. I bet they never know that a player coming back from a severe injury can struggle after playing a while. And when a player has to come back from two the same severe injuries he can certainly have a dip of form. But what do we do when this happens to a player? We get behind him and cheer him on. And today both Szczesny and Sagna showed them that they are not as bad as they make them look at times.
Nacho Monreal had a bit of a shaky start in this game. I hope the noisy part of the not existing you know who will not start getting at him from now on. But gradually he became better and also joined more in the attack at times. The Big German playing against his foot but being his calm himself and there when we needed him. And Jenkinson who I feel needs a bit more confidence in some situations to try and go past his man and not always turn back to his own goal. Now he is a bit too predictable. But I guess that will come with time and more experience and more confidence.
But two weeks in a row now no goals let in and that with a different and experimental defence is rather encouraging.
One bad thing was we missed too many chances. We should have made the game safe before the sending off and that is something we must do better. We should have made sure that there would be no sitting on the edge of our seat last 20 minutes. But on the other hand a hard fought 1-0 win against the Stoke tugs, now a hard fought win against the Sunderland. At the start of the season we couldn’t win those games and had two 0-0 draws. We showed character and determination and that is part we sometimes missed.