Gunners Return to Winning Ways in the League
Arsenal 3 (Campbell 33′, Giroud 64′, Ramsey 90′) – Sunderland 1 (Giroud own goal 45′)
The Premier League is truly one of the most exciting leagues in the world. Nobody saw Manchester City dropping points to Stoke and with that, the way was paved for the Gunners to join the leading pack. Injuries forced Arsene Wenger’s hands to tweak his team selection with Aaron Ramsey returning to his ‘favored’ central midfield role and Joel Campbell continuing his extended run in the side. On the bright side, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was fit to start while Theo Walcott made a place on the bench.
Sunderland almost grabbed the lead when Fabio Borini hit the Gunners on the break but his shot was saved by a fully-concentrating Petr Cech in goal. Cech had to show his reflexes yet again when Mathieu Flamini almost scored an own goal. He has been a positive influence on the defense since his introduction to the team this season. The Ox had a couple of moments where he showed his directness against the opposition but his final ball was lacking, as the case has always been with him.
Arsenal finally got the lead when the red-hot Mesut Ozil threaded an inch-perfect pass for Campbell in behind the defense and the Costa Rican forward placed the ball past Costel Pantilimon to give the Gunners the lead. Kudos to Wenger for making him and the Ox switch flanks. That was a tactical move that yielded fruit. Ozil almost found Campbell again with another brilliant pass but the forward wasn’t on the same wavelength with the awesome Ozil.
Sunderland got their equalizer in rather bizarre circumstances. First, Laurent Koscielny committed a foul in a position he wasn’t meant to then Giroud deflected the ball into his own net. Just like the Norwich game, the Gunners had conceded an equalizer just before the stroke of half time, so the onus was on the lands to up the ante in the second half.
Nacho Monreal showed great determination to win the ball further up the pitch before finding Ramsey but the Welshman fired his shot into the side netting. The last time Monreal was in a similar situation, he passed the ball to Alexis Sanchez and the net was shaking shortly afterwards. Ramsey was located with another awesome Ozil pass but he was offside.
As if conceding an equalizer wasn’t bad enough, Steven Fletcher fired a shot that would have put Sunderland ahead but Cech made another good save. On the hour mark, Cech made himself big to stop a Fletcher effort at point blank range. That was a big moment in the game because if Sunderland went ahead, the winds would have been taken away from Arsenal’s sails.
With Sunderland failing to take the initiative, Arsenal grabbed the lead when Giroud dived low to head Ramsey’s clipped pass that beat Pantilimon in his near post. Shortly afterwards, Walcott made his comeback, replacing the ineffectual Ox. Giroud almost got a brace when his headed effort from a corner was blocked off the line. Had that ball entered, it would have been another assist for Ozil. With 12 assists to his name already, he’s odds on to surpass Thierry Henry’s Premier League record this season.
At 2-1, things were somewhat tetchy and it seemed as if a Sunderland equalizer was more likely than Arsenal putting the game beyond doubt. My fears were almost realized when Hector Bellerin was caught in No Man’s Land but Patrick van Aanholt’s shot sailed over the bar. The Gunners finally put the game to rest when Ramsey fired in the game clincher late on.
With Leicester taking Swansea to the cleaners, the Foxes are on top of the Premier League with 32 points and the Gunners are two points behind. Both Manchester clubs are level on points with 29 each. This has been a topsy turvy season but there is still more to be unfolded.
Now that the points are in the bag, it’s time to focus on the all-important Champions League clash against Olympiakos
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