By Walter Broeckx
The starting team was Szczesny, Chambers, Per, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Alexis, Welbeck. On the bench we had Mrtinez, Bellerin, Ramsey, Rosicky, Walcott and Podolski.
For those who expected an easy match I can just point at the time we lost heavy in recent seasons. The matches after that we played with a big determination. One time we won against Swansea, and the other 3 times we kept a clean sheet. So I expected a difficult match. Sunderland would wanted to make up for that loss.
The first dangerous situations was in front of the Sunderland goal when Manone spilled a cross from Oxlade-Chamberlain but Sunderland could clear their line. Arsenal got possession most of the time but Sunderland defended in numbers and tried to get us on the break.
A first mention then to the ref as nothing much happened. A two footed frontal challenge from Rodwell was first not punished, the ref then seemed to remember the laws of the game, called the foul but kept the cards in his pocket. As predicted in our preview.
He then unbelievable let go a foul on Oxlade-Chamberlain who was on a promising run and then gave Gibbs a yellow card for what looked a foul that happen a dozen time in a match. I might add as predicted one again.
The match went nowhere till Brown decided to give us a present. A completely missed a back pass and Alexis stormed to the Sunderland goal and with a delicate chip he finished it off. 0-1 to the Arsenal.
Arsenal well on top after that. Cazorla with a shot that went just wide. Chambers after a delightful pass but this time Manone could stop the effort from the young right back. Alexis was chopped down off the ball and then by a Sunderland player and then finally the ref gave a Sunderland player a yellow card.
Arsenal with lots of possession in the Sunderland half and just before half time we had some hundred touches in the Sunderland penalty area but the only result at the end was a corner. Meanwhile Walcott had been running along the touchline and that was already a nice thing to see. 0-1 in favour of Arsenal at half time.
The referee was the first in the spotlight again as he again waved a completely against reguilations card against Welbeck. Welbeck was brought down by O’Shea but the ref saw it as a dive. Replay showed that O’Shea clearly used his arms to stop Welbeck. So even if he didn’t think it was a foul then it wasn’t a dive either. Again another example on how yellow cards are easily given against Arsenal players.
A bit later I will not argue with the yellow card from Arteta who accidentally hit a Sunderland player in the face with his foot. Sunderland showing a bit more desire to go in the direction of the Arsenal goal but apart from a Rodwell header not much danger at first. Brown almost again got caught but Chambers was unlucky with the way the ball bounced.
Some fierce tackles flying in but the ref let most of it go till Cattermole stopped Oxlade-Chamberlain on a counter and he was yellow carded
Meanwhile Alexis was showing some amazing skills at time, what a player he is! No real goal chances at either end of the field during the first 20 minutes of the second half. Wickham getting a yellow card then for a few fouls from different Sunderland players. A good mark for the ref. I think that made Rodwell escape another when he pulled Arteta back when he lost the ball in a promising position for Arsenal.
Oxlade-Chamberlain with a good run on the left but his cross was cut out by a defender in front of Alexis. Kieran Gibbs then hobbled off with an injury. Bellerin came one. Monreal at left back and Chambers would move up to the middle. Bad luck for Kieran once again. With some 20 minutes to at this point not a substitution you would make unless you are forced to it.
A bit scrappy period then and suddenly Monreal on the left flank with a nice cross but Welbeck headed jsut over the bar. Then Szczesny with a moment of madness heading a ball out when he could have caught it but the shot from Sunderland went wide. A counter where Oxlade-Chamberlain stayed on his feet when he could have gone down but we couldn’t get an end product.
And a bit later again but this time the shot from Cazorla was saved. Sunderland now putting the pressure on in the last 5 minutes but Arsenal was wasteful on the counter with Bellerin producing a harmless cross in the arms of Manone. With 4 minutes to go Ramsey came on for Arteta.
He launched a first attack right away but the shot from Cazorla was well off target. In the final minute Rosicky cam on for Oxlade-Chamberlain who mixed excellent things with unlucky moments. Ramsey then on a counter, could have given the ball to the onrushing Rosciky failed to do so and then it went wrong again.
But seconds later the hard work of Alexis paid off. Manone got a back pass after an Arsenal counter, Alexis put him under pressure and the former Arsenal keeper spilled the ball and Alexis finished it off easily. 0-2 for Arsenal and 3 points in the bag.
A hard working performance from a team that knows it isn’t in top form. And we do have one hell of a player in this team: Alexis Sanchez!
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