Arsenal 2 – 1 Sunderland: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

There’s Robin van Persie. And then there’s the rest.

As expected, it was a hard fought game with diligent opponents crowding the midfield and the space in front of their defence. And they hardly offered any threat from open play.

The start was a bit of a pleasant surprise though. Van Persie put Arsenal ahead within 30 seconds of the start. Sunderland were clearly looking to lump the ball forward and push their midfield up. Before they could get into any sort of a shape the Gunners found a way to put the ball in the net. Rosicky’s initial pass to Gervinho was well read by O’Shea but his interception took it back to Little Mozart who chipped it first time for the Ivorian. For once the winger did find the final ball. Van Persie controlled it with a deft touch with his left before scoring with his right.

The goal came so early that the pattern of play wasn’t established and neither team really changed their approach. The Gunners kept pushing forward and were camped in the Sunderland half for 20-25 minutes. However, the visitors did get into a better shape and restricted the number of clear chances.

In the 8th minute Gervinho got to the byline but his ball across the goal was just out of the reach of Gibbs. Yes, Gibbs!

The most memorable moment of quite a while now came four minutes later. Arteta played it towards Van Persie who had drifted towards the right edge of the Sunderland box. De Kapitein turned his man beautifully and unleashed a Cantonaesque chip over Mignolet who’d given up. The ball just curved an inch or so more than desired to bounce back out off of the upright.

For a while the Gunners played with swagger reminiscent of Wenger’s best sides but the second goal didn’t come. Gervinho, in particular, got into some very exciting positions but his shot or pass just wasn’t good enough.

Given the recent experiences it was only going to take one moment that shook the players’ confidence and gave the visitors hope. It came just before the half-hour mark when Szczesny went walkabout leaving his goal exposed. Song’s tracking back saved the Pole’s skin in that instant but Sunderland showed a lot more belief from that moment on.

The equalizer came soon after. Arteta conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position with a careless handball as he jumped to challenge for a header. Larsson’s finish was simply superb but I thought Szczesny  got his wall wrong. There should have been another player behind the Birmingham man on the edge of the wall. And while these look unstoppable, Szczesny has conceded or looked vulnerable from far too many direct free-kicks. It’s an area the youngster will have to focus on in training.

The Polish international did partly redeem himself with a big save three minutes later. Jenkinson was caught on the ball which ultimately led to a free header for Cattermole three yards out. The Keeper did well to make himself big and kept his eyes on the ball.

Sessegnon’s movement led to the final chance of the half just before half-time. The striker’s cross from the right was headed back across goal by Larsson but Colback’s shot on the turn went over.

I was impressed with the Gunners’ attitude in the second half. They came out with purpose and pushed forward in search of the winner. That was the best way to combat the lack of confidence and other issues caused by that.

There were a number of half-chances in the second half and many attacks led to corners and set-pieces. Sadly, most were terribly wasted.

However, Arsenal’s movement was causing the visitors a great many problems and led to a number of bookings. The pressure was building. At the other end there were some counter attacking opportunities but Szczesny was largely untroubled. The only cost for the Gunners was in the form of bookings for Song and Koscielny.

Early in the second half Santos had come on for Gibbs who, we later learned, suffered an inflammation of his stomach muscles. Five minutes after the hour, Arshavin came on for Gervinho who had been listless in the second half. The Russian almost scored a wonder goal after a slaloming run. I thought even a run like that would have been great for his confidence but a goal would have been wondrous.

Arsenal kept going as Benayoun seamlessly slotted in for Rosicky. Sunderland conceded one foul too many in the 82nd minute as Brown clipped Van Persie. De Kapitein delivered with a well placed strike. It was technically different from the usual RvP blasts. I had noticed some such attempts a while back but somehow van Persie hadn’t persevered with this style. Hope to see a better mix in future games.

The final few minutes were open and nervy as both sides got a few sighters but neither could find the finish.

As far as I am concerned, just as I said in the preview, a scrappy result will do just fine in the current scenario.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Made one game saving stop. Should have organized his wall better and needs more work on set-piece defending. Has to avoid coming out needlessly as that contributes to the jitters.

Jenkinson: Bit of a mixed bag. Worked really hard and sprinted up and down the flank throughout the game. Put in some good crosses but also produced some terrible ones. Made a number of mistakes and wasn’t always sure of his positioning.

Mertesacker: Not spectacular but fairly sturdy. His positioning was good. Covered for his fellow defenders when needed and helped with the passing game.

Koscielny: Apart from the booking, he hardly made any mistakes. Some of his passes were delightful.

Gibbs: Did well in the attacking areas when the team was dominant. Struggled a bit when the pressure mounted.

I thought the back five weren’t exceptionally good or bad. For large parts of the game the ball was deep in the Sunderland half. The defenders should have done better when the side was under pressure. There were a number of long punts in that period and a general lack of composure.

The full-backs are not at the level a dominant side would need but Sagna and Clichy didn’t do all that well in 2008-09 (Just after 2007-08 where they were the best in the League) when the formation was first changed. It asks a lot of these players and they will need playing time to get their positioning and decision making right.

The central defender don’t track the run of the striker when he drops deep. This seems like a tactical decision from the manager and it has allowed opponents a relatively easy way of getting the ball forward.

Song: Another massive effort from the Cameroonian. Moved high up the pitch quite often. Played some interesting passes but is a long way from making a consistent impact in the attacking areas. Tracked back when he had to and got a vital touch on a number of occasions. Another referee might have sent him off late in the game but I think taking such risks showed a better grasp of the League.

Rosicky: Sprightly with some impish guile sprinkled all over his performance. Didn’t get the right runs to feed when he created time and space for himself. But I want to see this for ten games in a row before I say he’s back.

Arteta: Poor set-pieces, conceded the free-kick with an unwarranted handball, didn’t offer much in terms of creativity. Work rate was good, kept the ball moving, but he has to produce a lot more.

The midfield saw a lot of the ball but rarely looked incisive. The movement, effort, and desire seems to be there. The understanding is getting better. But the rebuilding phase has just started and they must now focus on avoiding the one backward step after taking two steps forward.

Walcott: I get a feeling his role has changed a bit. These days he seems to drift in a bit more often and also plays with his back to the goal offering some lay-offs. His biggest strength hasn’t been used well thus far and this game wasn’t any different.

RvP: MotM by a country mile. Two good goals, superb movement, uncompromising effort.

Gervinho: Continues to excite and frustrate at the same time. Was very lively in the first half-hour. Created the goal and got into dangerous positions three or four times. End product was inconsistent to say the least. Drifted out of the game in the second half.

I am not convinced the front three are on the same page as the midfield. Possession isn’t translating into as many chances as the individual quality of the side should generate. Some technical issues and decision making need improvement.

Subs: Santos had a good game in defence. Arshavin was purposeful. Benayoun almost caused disaster with a poor back pass but was generally elegant.

Wenger: Picked a strong side. Substitutions were interesting and eventually effective. Has to continue improving defending from set-pieces and get better co-ordination from  the forward players.

25 Responses to Arsenal 2 – 1 Sunderland: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Tim says:

    There were definitely signs of the old swagger, so even though this was a victory over limited opponents where we yet again wobbled horribly after conceding a goal, there were definite signs of improvement here.

    Some very good performances, and some distressingly poor ones. Song had forgotten his passing boots. Arteta still seems to be struggling to find his niche. And Theo faded in and out again. But RvP was magnificent, Rosicky direct and Jenkinson had an excellent second half. Great to see Arshavin off the bench with such purpose too. It’s too easy to write him off, but he is still a magician when the mood takes him and he could be very important for us.

    • santori says:

      Thought Song was quite solid today. Some very decent distribution, timely intercepts, broke down play well and got in to stop a goal to boot.

    • AP says:

      i think some of the through ball attempts by Song looked off mostly because the wingers (Theo, i remember once) were probably staying inside a bit and not really rushing ahead as much. That made those moments look amateurish, but nothing i would be very worried about, another day and those could result in good positions. His main job is to keep the middle solid, which he did.

  2. el bizarron says:

    Another sigh of relief. Something has to change in the team and I believe it will. I have to. Until then, I’m not expecting much. But they are the Arsenal and I will continue to wear the red and white amidst the snickers and finger pointing.

    On another note, how does Arteta’s hair stay so perfect throughout the game?

  3. cupsui says:

    I was really happy and suprised by rosicky, that was a cesc like performance, the way he controlled the ball and turned opponents to open space for a scything run, great too see, this is what we need more of if teams want to press up that hard its the best way to open up space but song needs to stay alert cause inevitably there will be the odd tackle made. Jack was also very impressive at this and it can’t be stressed enough how much we are missing little jackie boy right now. I think that would take some pressure of arteta (who for me put in his worst gunners game) and give him some more freedom.
    Jenko looked like he could collapse during that spell at the end of the 1st half, luckily he showed character and played well in the 2nd, he does look a little nervous, but he has desire and he is a hard worker and looks to be trying to use his body and strength to hold off opponents…this he must improve a lot and work with players like song, rosicky and jack, who are immense are that.
    I’m beginning to be very impressed with santos and i think he will be #1 LB very soon, doesn’t look as bad as reports said defensively and a real threat going forward, great technique.
    Good performance and a deserved win, so now we must build from it and keep on truckin!!
    p.s. I thought arsharvin changed the game, he was dangerous and was running at players with cards and i felt much more confident of a goal after his inclusion

  4. Prabal Rakshit says:

    The only blemish on the otherwise perfect evening for RVP was the needless booking he got for taking off his shirt in celebration. He got an identical booking when Liverpool visited emirates last season. Wonder why we don’t learn. One more booking against Stoke and I guess he is out of our Stamford Bridge clash.
    Anyway yellow card or otherwise his freekick goal after almost an era was one of the most delightful sights to behold 🙂

    • santori says:

      We’ve been poor at set pieces for quite a while now.

      Hope arteta can find his shooting boots.

      With Vermaelen due back shortly, we will finally have better options again in this respect.

  5. Aussie Jack says:

    Someone ,some where, said “footballers don`t have brains”, can`t remember who, doesn`t matter.
    RVP gets a yellow card for taking off his shirt in celebration and in doing so could be suspended if he gets another against Stoke, (which knowing Stoke is quite likely).It`s the kind of silly rule I would not expect any professional to fall for and yet our captain does just that. “Balls for brains”, sorry Robyn.

    • eleanor says:

      I’m pretty sure this was RVP’s FA first yellow card of the season.

      Yes, it was dumb because at some point he’ll be in danger of missing a match. But he’ll have to get another four before that happens.

  6. EMMANUEL says:

    rvp gets a yellow against stoke he will miss carling cup n return for chelsea.

    • Aussie Jack says:

      Not too sure on the ruling there, not that it matters, he won`t be in the Carling Cup side anyway, but I did think the suspension covered two league games. The details are not important it was just an unnecessary action that`s all.

  7. Tee Song says:

    In FA sanctioned games (BPL, Carling Cup, FA Cup), five yellow cards accumulated in approximately half a season garners a one match suspension, ten over a whole season a two match suspension. The suspension covers the next FA sanctioned match or matches. As far as I know, the cards aren’t carried over from the previous season. Yellow cards accumulated in other competitions sanctioned by other governing bodies (UEFA, FIFA) are governed by different rules. RvP has one yellow card in the BPL so he’s not close to being in trouble. I would imagine if any of Arsenal’s players have problems with accumulation of yellow cards, it’ll be Song.

  8. santori says:

    Plenty of positives and some niggling ills still around.

    On the plus, agree that we played much more brightly for long spells.

    Partly I thought some of the players seemed to have worked on their first touch which enabled them to profit and move the ball quicker, particularly against a limited but determined team sitting 4–6-0

    Absolutely love the way RVp allowed the ball to run on into position for him to simply shoot it. Deft turn against Richardson, where’s the justice? Deserved a goal that one. Brilliant.

    Rosicky was close to excellent too. Again some good first touches. Seems Thomas has been working on his first touch spinning away quicker in recent games.

    Gervinho too, some excellen play.

    And excellent to see Arsharvin willing to take shots where many of our players would elect to take the extra touch. Again seems like he is better a little more central and I hope we do figure out an alternative to RVP quickly. I really think the solution at the moment would be a combination of Chamakh/AA (in the hole) or maybe Chamakh/Park (Haven’t seen enough of the Korean to fully judge him.

    Jenkinson did reasonably well but I do think he is still on a steep learning curve. He should be played against middle opposition but Santos seems to be getting the hang of things very quickly and I wonder if he will be better emplpoyed at RB if we play top tier (Chelsea).

    Not much else to say except it is still vey annoying how our confidence can crumble so easily and most vexing how we are unable to keep a cool head and keep ball in the dying ambers of the game. Lots of punts up field from the backline which again hands the ball back toward the opposition.

    We simply have to do these things better being that we have more experience/captians and all.

    But my word, I’ve been calling for him to be Captain since last season and well done RVP. The way he tried to get the library going after 29 seconds was money!

  9. terry says:

    why dosent arteta shoot from distance he has a excellent shot on goal. he never was a very creative player. for everton most of his assit came from set peices. i think this is what wenger should plan for next season:
    walcott has like 18 months left on his contract i say sell him hes english some like liverpool will buy him for 20m den get jesus navas … he is as pacy as walcott but has so much of end product to his game… moltolivo has jus 8mnths let on his contract we can snatch him for free and 2 more players in eden hazard and samba and we will be sorted out .

    hazard RVP navas
    wilsahre moltolivo song
    santos vermy pet sagna

    we can sell players like arshavin (one in a ten game wonder), diaby (the bed man), squillchi (u knw him best), almunia (no comments), flappy(the name says it all), chamak (not suited for our play), nikki b (arrogant SOB), theo (navas better option).
    all together would definately fetch us 50m+
    plus 50m in the bank see again we have 100m

    hazard- 30m, samba-10m, navas-25m, maltolivo- free, drogba (if we could snatch him from chelsea for free, a 1yr contract, by then joe cambell will be ready for first team football).

    by the way how did our lonees perform this week….

    • santori says:

      January is close but still some ways a way. Can’t you at least wait till then?:D

      Meanwhile, reality is the players that we’ve got.

      Arteta should be taking shots from distance but it’s often quite packed in front of him. He hasn’t been as yet back to his best with his shooting. Still needs to take it up a notch.

      I don’t know about loanees but that was a very very good oal by our ex-Arsenal lad Larsson, topped only by our captain! 🙂

      • santori says:

        I don’t think we will be in the market for a Cback BTW.

        We already have TV, Per and Kosc. Granted Djourou has stagnated but we also have to consider two excellent young defenders coming through in Bartley and Miguel.

        Samba is overated.

  10. critic says:

    well i would like to call that as bergkempish chip rather than Cantonaesque chip. We have our own legends.

  11. 037 says:

    It was great to see Arsenal finally win. The last part of the 1st half was disappointing.

    It was also strange to see Rosicky come off. He had a brilliant game!! Dribbling like Messi at some stages.

    I had expected Park Ju Young to come on, and was disappointed to see Benayoun come on. I wonder why Wenger isn’t giving JYP playing time?? You can’t ignore a man who scored 7 goals in the the last 4 international games!

    • DNA05 says:

      Yes I just wonder if we will only see Park (and maybe Ox=) in Carling cup or FA Cup? but it might just be cause this is first half of the season…

  12. 037 says:

    How composed was Santos in the final third? He had the mind to stop and pivot the ball in the penalty area, nearly producing a chance out of nothing.

    I wish more of our midfielders and wingers were more like that.

  13. rhesaananta says:

    one thing is sure… Mertesacker is NOT a Squillaci… Jenkinson had a good game, still very puzzled with his positioning… I love the way RvP sometimes switches position with Theo…

  14. cupsui says:

    how good was the long range passing from koscienly?! that guy is on the up and up! he played very well again. Def has the potential to fill in at DM or RB if needed. I still feel with TV5 back koz and TV5 are the best CB combo, with sagna and santos as the fullbacks…

    And i want RvP’s babies!

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