Ten Man Arsenal Defeat Sunderland
Arsenal travelled to the wild north east on Saturday to take on Sunderland at home.
Arsenal were without their captain and mainstay of their defence Thomas Vermaelen. Things got worse during the warm up when Laurent Koscielny pulled out, after previously having passed a fitness test. The defence was reshuffled, bringing in Carl Jenkinson and moving Bacary Sagna to central defence alongside Mertesacker and the new boy Nacho Monreal.
In the mid-field Ramsey was given the nod ahead of Diaby, alongside Arteta and Wilshire. Cazorla, Walcott and Giroud completed the line up. On a cold afternoon, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski warmed the bench.
It’s always tough to play physical sides like Stoke and Sunderland, who seem to set themselves for a draw against sides like Arsenal and do whatever they can to stem their creativity. Saturday was no exception. Sunderland welcomed back captain Lee Cattermole from a knee injury for his first league start since November and the midfielder was cautioned inside two minutes for a late challenge on Aaron Ramsey. Other strong tackles steeled Arsenal for the fight and Carl Jenkinson was booked for a heavy challenge shortly after. Sunderland had some attacks, but eventually Arsenal took control of the midfield and bombarded the Sunderland goal. Only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet kept Arsenal out.
In the 35th minute some good work from Walcott provided Cazorla with the ball on the edge of the area. He fired through a sea of legs; the ball took a slight deflection and finally beat Mignolet.
For the latter part of the first half Arsenal played like the Arsenal of old; dominating possession, making fast accurate passes and constantly threatening the Sunderland goal. Surely it was only a matter of time before the second goal would come.
Arsenal came out for the second half full of confidence, but that took a battering very quickly. After only 5 minutes Jack Wilshire got a kick in the thigh and could not carry on. Until then Wilshire, along with Santi Cazorla, had had been directing play. Had Wilshire stayed on it would have been a toss up between them for man of the match.
Wilshire was replaced by Vassiriki Diaby. But only a few minutes later Carl Jenkinson picked up a second yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Sessegnon and was sent off. Both bookings were harsh. Sure they were fouls, but neither was vicious, cynical or dangerous. Ramsey slipped into the vacant right back position and no substitutions were made.
Sunderland had a period of dominance, but whenever they were on target Szczesny was there to deny them. He made a series of good saves. But it was not all one way and Arsenal continued to create chances too.
The ten men held out until the final whistle. Ramsey and Sagna both gave a good account of themselves while playing out of position. Cazorla had one of his best games and Szczesny was excellent when called upon, while there was plenty of talent on the bench that was not called upon. Bring on Blackburn as this could be a changing point for the season.
Meanwhile back at the Emirates Stadium Arsene Wenger is still making decisions that are baffling. Johan Djourou and Andre Santos have both been sent out on loan for the rest of the season. Nacho Monreal has been brought in at left back and so far has proved much more reliable than Santos. However there is still a shortage of cover at the back, especially considering how often Arsenal players seem to be injured. So why send these players away when Wenger refuses to buy in replacements when the opportunity arises?