Arsenal 2 Sunderland 1: The Flying Dutchman Spares Arsenal’s Blushes
The build up to the game between Arsenal and Sunderland wasn’t like Arsenal’s previous match against Tottenham but the warning signs were there for everyone to see. Arsenal’s homegrown self-proclaimed world’s best striker turned pantomime villain hoped for an Arsenal loss and would have been causing the rules of football that made him ineligible for the tie.
Another Arsenal Swedish reject promised to bring pain to the club he began his football education and his manager Steve Bruce promised to attack the Gunners despite being the away side. From the Arsenal corner of the boxing ring, Arsene Wenger reiterated that he had enough cover in the right back position to make up for Sagna’s loss but promised that Francis Coquelin won’t be deployed to that part of the field.
Some Gunners were even involved in the build-up with the likes of Aaron Ramsey making a case for the club’s shambolic defense, Laurent Koscielny taking each game as they come and Vermaelen feeling better as he recuperates from his injury layoff.
The pre-match quote of the day came from the manager:
“What we can hope for and what we want to achieve is to win our next game. There’s seven games played and we had some difficult away games.
“I am convinced we have good potential, we have rebuilt the team and of course we were a bit disturbed at the start of the season for different reasons, but we just want to focus on short term. At the moment we are not in a position to make long term plans”
Arsenal has amassed a meager 7 points from 7 games played so far and had won eight games in their last 25. The minor positive was that they had won their last four games at home (Swansea, Shrewsbury Town, Bolton and Olympiakos).
At quarter past one on a lovely Sunday afternoon, the time for talking was over and the headlines were going to be dominated by the affairs that would go on for 90 minutes at the Emirates Stadium.
Lukasz Fabianski’s cry for first team action didn’t change Wenger’s plans to start with the younger Pole, Jenkinson played his first Premier League game since his red card in Old Trafford and the boss opted for Tomas Rosicky ahead of Aaron Ramsey.
The start Arsenal made to the game rocked the tentacles of Kraken and Arsenal history was just eight seconds away from being rewritten. Shortly after kickoff, Rosicky fed Gervinho who made a tricky run before passing the ball to Robin van Persie. The intelligent forward let the ball move across him before side-footing it home with his fabled chocolate leg. Arsenal was one up after 28 seconds; Gilberto Silva still holds the record for the fastest Arsenal goal in that 4-0 win over PSV in just 20 seconds and RVP wasn’t far off.
That was his 101st goal in Arsenal colors and the centurion went on to have a storming game. Rosicky fed Gervinho again on the left hand side but his proposed assist was blocked by the never-smiling Wes Brown. Mikel Arteta swung in a cross for Theo Walcott but his shoulder made contact with the ball instead of his head and that made it easy pickings for Mignolet.
In my lifetime I’ve seen Robin van Persie score magnificent goals and I can actually create a new blog if I really want to go into details on every great goal but the Dutchman was a whisker away from adding another strike to his impressive collection. He received a short pass from Arteta and invoked the technical spirit of Dennis Bergkamp to make a swift turn that can be likened to that move against Newcastle eons ago.
Van Persie left the Sunderland defender for dead and noticed in a split second that the goalie was off his line before executing an impudent chip that left the bloke rooted to the spot as if there were powerful magnets that had locked on to the studs of his boot. There are some kinds of goals that are deserved after the build-up involved but Mignolet had his post to thank because the floated chip kissed the woodwork before drifting away from goal.
Alex Song was a colossus in the midfield and his presence yesterday showed what Arsenal lacked while he was away performing defensive duties due to injuries to key players in that position. Song made a good run before sending a pass to RVP but the striker let one rip with his favorite left boot but it went wide. Moments later, RVP left the enthusiastic Brown on his backside and it looked even better on slow-mo.
Gervnho’s trickery won Arsenal a free kick in a good position. RVP and Arteta decided to attempt a training routine that involved a pass and a return flick-on but Arsenal’s reject Seb Larsson read that script and anticipated the situation superbly. Koscielny floated a long ball to Gervinho’s direction and the Ivorian’s first touch made him evade John O’ Shea as if he wasn’t there in the first place. Gervinho had a touch too many before killing a bird in the sky.
With Arsenal pressing all the right buttons on the pitch, there was time for a horror moment when a long ball went in behind Carl Jenkinson with Sessegnon closing on the ball. Wojciech Szczesny ran to anticipate the ball like a raging Hispanic bull whose eyes were firmly fixed on the matador but Sessegnon waltzed past Arsenal’s goalie with a gaping goal there for the taking in a tight angle. The forward sent it to the danger area but it was handed well by the Arsenal defense.
Seb Larsson crossed a ball into Arsenal’s box and after a series of scrambled headers, the ball found its way to Mikel Arteta’s arm when he jumped to challenge for the ball with a Sunderland player. Seb Larsson took all the time in the world to gear himself up for the free kick but it was worth it in the end because “perfection can’t be rushed”.
The Swede sent it over the wall into Szczesny’s goal and Sunderland was back in the tie. Arsenal was rocked with that equalizer and it almost became a disaster when an error by Jenkinson allowed Sessegnon to send a cross to the Szczesny’s far post with Lee Cattermole set for the kill. Sunderland’s captain headed the ball towards goal but Arsenal’s goalie developed the reflexes of a cat to make an unbelievable save.
Steve Bruce went nuts in the touchline shortly after the save because his hands were in the air when Cattermole nodded the ball but they grabbed his head after the Szczesny effect took place. He wasn’t the first manager to experience the Szczesny effect this season; King Kenny experienced it when Andy Carroll made that header that was odds-on to enter and Owen Coyle experienced it when Pratley flicked the ball goalwards. Udinese’s Francesco Guidolin had an acute case of the Szczesny effect after Antonio di Natale’s penalty was saved.
It’s amazing to know that Wojciech Szczesny is still in his early 20’s and took injuries to complacent senior goalies for Arsenal to unveil this gem to the world. Fabianski is also a decent goalie but it will be hard for him to get his jersey back with performances like this from Szczesny.
The second half started with the withdrawal of Kieran Gibbs for the Samba boy Andre Santos. Tomas Rosicky wasn’t too impressive in the first 45 minutes but he took a shot of his Borussia Dortmund yellow potion and played some classical music at halftime to unleash Little Mozart in the second half. He had a slalom run that was blocked off by some bloke called Vaughan but Andre Santos’ free kick was high enough to hit an Airbus-380 flying past the Emirates. 😀
Rosicky was heavily involved in some build-up play that resulted to free kicks for Arsenal but the dead balls were extremely disappointing. Arteta let one fly and Walcott followed shortly after. Rosicky teed up RVP but his shot was saved by the goalie.
Wenger brought on Arshavin to replace Gervinho and he almost produced a moment of the kind of magic that he promised the Arsenal faithful. After receiving a pass from Andre Santos, Arshavin took on four Sunderland defenders and passed through them like hot knife through butter even though his finish didn’t match his attacking play.
Wenger also took out the rejuvenated Rosicky to bring on Football’s Harry Potter, Yossi Benayoun. Arshavin sent a teasing cross for RVP but Brown was on hand to send it out for a corner. The corner was sent into the danger area by RVP before falling nicely for Arteta on the edge of the box but the Spaniard miscued his shot.
When it all seemed as if all hope was lost and Arsenal was heading for another disappointing draw, Benayoun passed the ball to RVP but the striker was impeded by the rugged Wes Brown. Like Seb Larsson in the first half, van Persie took his time and let out a few bursts of air before curling the ball over the wall to Mignolet’s net.
Arsenal’s talisman took off his shirt in celebration of the potential match clincher but he was booked by the card-happy Howard Webb. As expected, the dying moments of the game were very nervy but Wenger’s men showed a certain level of maturity that was good enough to see out the game to seal a victory that has propelled Arsenal to the top of the table.
Szczesny (8.0) was brilliant all round but raised a few blood pressures when he ran out of his territory to anticipate a ball he ended up missing.
Jenkinson (7.5) sent in a number of quality crosses from the right and was involved in the attack despite balancing his defensive play well.
Mertesacker (7.0) was as calm and composed as ever. I’m still drooling with the prospect of him playing alongside Vermaelen when he returns.
Koscielny (7.5) was a beast at the back and this was evidenced by the block he made in the dying minutes of the game. He put his body in the line of fire and I tend to wonder who Vermaelen’s partner will be when he returns to full fitness.
Song (9.0) was amazing in midfield. His touches on the ball were top-notch and his confidence levels on the pitch were higher than Sergei Bubka’s pole vault leap that won him a world record in the sport.
Arteta (7.0) balanced play between the midfield and attack well but was at fault for the goal Arsenal conceded.
Rosicky (8.0) rolled back the years to play like the Rosicky that was bought from Borussia Dortmund in 2006. He was as canny as ever and his movement was as unpredictable as what Lionel Messi would do when he’s with the ball.
Gervinho (7.0) handed an assist for Arsenal’s first goal.
Walcott (6.5) didn’t threaten as he would have liked but wasn’t half bad though.
Van Persie (9.5) had a well-taken first goal, missed out on a brilliant second but ended it all with his best free kick since his stunner against Sunderland in October 2007. His free kick against Birmingham in January 2011 wasn’t up to the normal RVP standard we’ve gotten used to.
Andre Santos (6.5) steadied the ship on the left hand side.
Arshavin (7.0) produced a moment of magic that made gooners leave their mouths open for a short period of time.
Benayoun (7.0) gave the pass that led to the free kick that…. The rest is history.
This was one Hell of a long post but I love to go into extreme detail in my match review posts. The aim is for my readers to get a “view” of the game from the words of an expert commentary writer like me.
In my opinion, what Jon Champion, Steve Barnyard, Robbie Earle et al do with their voices, I do with my writing.
Happy Monday y’all.