Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland: Campbell Shines as Gunners Progress in FA Cup
Arsenal 3 (Campbell 26′, Ramsey 72′, Giroud 76′) – Sunderland 1 (Lens 17′)
With half an eye on the all-important Premier League clash against Liverpool on Wednesday night, Arsene Wenger had to dig deep within the depth of his squad to pick a team that was going to be capable of defeating Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland. The chewing-gum expert had bemoaned the fixture and stated that he was going to rotate his squad, and he kept his word, making seven changes to the team that defeated struggling Aston Villa last season. Wenger on the other hand made five changes with Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel Paulista, Calum Chambers, Alex Iwobi and Joel Campbell coming into the side. Had David Ospina been fit, he would have kept in Petr Cech’s stead. Interestingly, Matt Debuchy stayed on the bench.
The game began well for the home side with Gibbs testing the debutant goalie on his near post that prompted him to make a fine save but against the run of play, Sunderland grabbed an unlikely lead from Jeremain Lens. Gibbs had fed the captain of the day, Laurent Koscielny, with what seemed to be a simple back pass but the ball got in between the French defender’s legs and fell kindly to Lens that blasted the ball past Cech. I was a bit disappointed seeing the ball breeze past the legendary goalie because I believed it was close enough for him to make a save but hey, that’s football.
The Gunners didn’t let that goal dismay them and they kept pressing and probing for an equalizer. Their efforts were crowned when Campbell crept unbeknownst to the defenders and latched onto Walcott’s drive before side-footing past Pickford to make it 1-1. It was a well deserved goal for a player that had really made an influence on the game.
Going into the break level on terms wasn’t bad but there was some concern about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performance. I don’t know why his confidence has been dented but he struggled by his fair standards. His best moment arrived when he curled a sweet ball that clipped the post but Walcott’s rebound was tame.
With Sunderland on the rise, Wenger took out Chambers and Iwobi to bring on Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta. It didn’t take long for Rambo to make his presence felt when he arrived late in the box to convert Hector Bellerin’s perfect-cushioned ball to give the Gunners the lead. Two became three when an anonymous Olivier Giroud made good space for himself to side-foot Bellerin’s drilled pass. These two strikes were scored within four minutes and it put the game beyond doubt.
From that moment that wind left the sails of the away side and held protected their lead to progress to the next round. There was even time to give the Jeff a debut and he didn’t put a foot wrong making neat passes along the way.
The win indicated that Arsenal’s defense of the FA Cup title has begun and it would be interesting to see who they face in the fourth round. However, I must say that Joel Campbell’s performance on the day was exemplary. He attacked and defended valiantly and there was one moment he unleashed his inner Brazilian executing a neat skill on the touchline. In contrast, the Ox didn’t play too well and I hope he gets his act right soon. The lad’s inconsistency is quite shocking and with players returning from injury, he could find himself further down the pecking order. I will be really surprised if he starts ahead of Campbell when the Gunners visit Anfield.
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