Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunderland 1 Arsenal 2

We all knew this was going to be a very tough game. Sunderland were on a run of good results since Martin O'Neill turned things round for them. Shortly after the emphatic win over Blackburn last weekend, Arsene Wenger said that he would be delighted if his side beat Sunderland 1-0. Scorelines may be irrelevant (although the 7 goals proved to be very useful as we have slotted into the 4th spot after this match ahead of Chelsea only on goals scored), while points are all important.

If you watched Match of the Day, you'd have thought Arsenal were the second best side in the first half with a goal-scoring opportunity limited to only one shot by Walcott, which went past the far post. I must agree with a number of the members who felt the first half was pretty much an uneventful affair. However, we weren't any worse than Sunderland, although they may have had a better chance or two. In fact, we controlled the most of the game. Statistics proved that with Arsenal's overall possession of 69.5%: 66.2% in the first half and 74.5% in the second half.

Sunderland's only goal was unfortunate. Per Mertesacker collapsed to the floor and they made most of it. According to the post-match interview, Wenger reckons that Mertesacker may have damaged his ankle ligament. But Arsenal did not capitulate after this misfortune. They came from behind and went on to win the game.

If we can chose a coach for the Man of the Match, Arsene Wenger deserves it. His substitutions were spot on in this game. He took off Oxlade-Chamberlain, who worked hard but did not pose a big threat to very organised Sunderland defence, and brought Thierry Henry on in the 66th minute. When we had conceded a goal and lost a defender to a serious-looking injury, he replaced Mertesacker with Ramsey, moving Song to the central defence, instead of opting for a like-for-like substitution, such as bringing in Gibbs and moving Vermaelen to the central defence. And this more aggressive option paid off. Ramsey netted the equaliser 3 minutes after he came on. In injury time, one of the other substitutes, Arshavin, set up the winner for the other.

The victory was the result of team effort. Especially, we were really happy to see the urgency coming from the team in the last 20 minutes.

When Henry decided to join Arsenal for the second time, RVP praised his bravery, which could have cost him his legendary status. The Dutchman must be eager to do everything to make sure that Henry's loan spell would only consolidate his iconic image, not tarnish it. Our captain looked so happy to see Henry score the mighty winner.

As posted before, our initial view on Henry's loan deal was wait and see, although we were sure that his off-the-pitch influence would be tremendous. Our verdict now is that it was a success. Henry helped us with an important winner once again following the FA cup tie against Leeds. Three goals in 6 games are not too bad for a 34 year-old striker (considering that Torres hasn't scored for 18 games). Let's hope he can do it again for the very last time in this loan spell against AC Milan on Wednesday.

Player ratings

Made some match-deciding saves, including a superb save from Gardner.

Sagna: 7

Mertesacker: 5
He seemed to have struggled with the condition of the pitch more than any other players did. In the first half, he slipped in the area and the ball hit his arm. Fortunately for us, the referee didn't regard it as a deliberate handball. Then, he looked to have caught his studs in the turf, which may be the cause of the ankle injury. The pitch did not seem to have affected Arsenal's passing game, though, as their passing success rate was an impressive 88.8% according to Sky Sports.

Koscielny: 6
Some unconvincing moments.

Vermaelen: 7

Rosicky: 6
I thought I had seen him dispossessed too often in the first half.

Arteta: 7
Did his job well.

Song: 8
Worked hard to keep Sessegnon quiet. He took the central defensive role after Mertesacker was stretchered off.

Walcott: 5
He had a poor game. His effort in the first half was good, but other than that, he was asleep.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6
Worked hard but not too much impact.

van Persie: 7
He had a quiet game by his standard as Sunderland defence did not give him much space.


Henry: 8
Came on in the 66th minute to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain. He humbles himself to say that he was only in the right place, but the goal took some brilliance as the ball came in at awkward height.

Ramsey: 7
72nd-minute substitute for Mertesacker. Made an impact 3 minutes after he came on the pitch. Good to see him have a shot from the edge of the box.

Arshavin: 7
Came off the bench in the 87th minute to replace Walcott. Made two good crosses to create chances and put pressure on Sunderland, one of which found Henry and resulted in the winner.

No comments:

Post a Comment