This was one of those games where the opposition didn’t really matter as Arsenal controlled 70 percent possession. Normally when we dominate games, we are in the high fifties or early sixties in the possession stats. The Black Cats were tame and didn’t have even a five minute spell of sustained pressure.
To me this game was about our quality in possession and what we do with it versus our mistakes in defense and what the visitors could make of it. In a way I am a little disappointed that we didn’t do more with the ball, especially in the final third. This is not a criticism but more a matter of fact observation.
Some might say that Sunderland had enough chances to score and but for the late goal the result might have been different. I say, let them say it. It doesn’t matter and will be forgotten within a week. We all know Arsenal like to give the opposition some chances but very few are clinical enough to take them. There isn’t a great revelation here, is there?
If anything, this game showed why Kenwyne Jones would not have made a good January signing! I would say the same about Cana, although I can see why some fans might still be impressed by his rugged approach.
Right from the start we were dominant and opened them up with ease. If we had a little more composure and a better final ball the visitors would have been embarrassed. In any case, I’m happy with the three points. Now is not the time to dwell on goal difference.
Nasri, Cesc, Theo and Bendtner went close before the big Dane opened the scoring with a tap in. Eboue’s run into the box was dazzling and once again highlighted the importance of taking people on in the final third. I am not sure whether his pass was a measured one or a mishit shot on goal, but there can be no doubt about our young striker’s positioning. Some people don’t respect tap in’s but I feel this one must have done his confidence a world of good.
In the last ten minutes it seemed to me that Steve Bennett was trying to help the visitors. First he didn’t give a clear foul by Mensah on the edge of the Sunderland box, which could easily have seen a second booking for the Ghanaian defender. On the other end he blew for a foul when Vermaelen lost his footing and Bent stumbled over him. I cannot describe how agitated I was with that decision.
After that heart-in-mouth moment that came to nothing with a lame Zenden effort, we got the second goal deep into injury time when a clumsy foul from Campbell resulted in a penalty. Yes, we finally got one! Once again Cesc stepped up to take the penalty and I was left wondering why!?
It’s not that I doubt the abilities of El Capitan, but there seems to be too much pressure on him and adding the spot kick responsibility to that does not make any sense. Maybe it’s a way to increase his goal count but that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason. It’s Cesc we are talking about not Lampard!
Interestingly, Sunderland had three one-on-one opportunities in this game. Almunia saved two and Jones was wasteful on one occasion. I have defended Almunia quite a bit over the last few weeks and this seems to be the right time to point out that his technique on a one-on-one is perhaps the best in the league. I know a lot of people are not ready to even think about this but I’ll give it a try.
If you look carefully the Spaniard spreads his arms wide and keeps his body upright. He also stretches one foot out and bends the other one tucking the knee down. This way he covers maximum possible width and height and leaves no gap between his legs. He does a good job of narrowing the angles as well.
Darren Bent actually did well with his strike and many goalkeepers would have conceded that one through their legs but Almunia made it look easy. Most goalkeepers either lean towards one side leaving an angle free or concede through the legs.
United lost again while Chelsea managed a good win even though Wolves had more shots on goal. Wenger often says it’s difficult to play away from home after a midweek game and such results show the depth of his thinking. Suddenly, a six point gap doesn’t look all that daunting, does it?
Almunia: Had a fantastic game. Got a good punch, came out at the right time and made a couple of excellent saves.
Eboue: Was exceptional in the final third even if his delivery wasn’t always right. Made a few mistakes defensively but others were there to cover for him.
Vermaelen: Another good game.
Silvestre: Was caught out once while trying to play off-side. Put enough pressure on Bent and Campbell on other occasions without conceding a penalty. I was quite impressed by his physical battle with Kenwyne Jones but his lack of pace was a concern. Still a good job for a man who doesn’t get too many games.
Clichy: Sunderland didn’t have any threat on the right and Nasri did a good job of supporting him. Looked quite comfortable in defense and attack. I think he can and should do much better in the final third.
Song: Class. The big aspect of his game is that he never stops. Even if he loses a ball or someone gets past him the Cameroonian always sprints back and that’s a quality Denilson has to learn.
Cesc: I thought he did a Denilson. A really bad game by his standards. It’s a different matter that he was still better than most on the pitch.
Ramsey: Apart from a big mistake that allowed Richardson to nick the ball and put Jones through the youngster had a great game. He was available in defense, held onto the ball well and his passing was excellent.
Walcott: Some reports I read said he had a great game. That’s strange because the commentators were very critical and I was worried be might get a lot of negative press. I thought he made some very good runs and looks like he is improving. Still doesn’t have the feel for the ball and his delivery or finishing wasn’t very good. As Wenger always said, he needs a little time and it’s only fair.
Bendtner: Good to see him get a goal but I am not sure he is anywhere close to his best. Another one who needs more games. I also get a feeling he isn’t opportunistic enough right now. There was a brilliant chip from Ramsey in the first half that eluded Mensah but the Dane never attacked the ball, probably thinking that it might never reach him. There was a similar moment against Chelsea when Fabregas cushioned a header in his path but he didn’t anticipate the opportunity.
Nasri: My man of the match. Did a great job of helping Clichy, made some good runs, took people on in the final third, and drifted around the pitch effortlessly. Has to improve his final delivery.
Subs: Didn’t have much to do.