Santi Cazorla’s first half goal coupled with a staunch rear guard performance ensured that Arsenal came out of a tense game with all three points against Sunderland at The Stadium of Light.
Sunderland 0-1 Arsenal
Defensive injuries meant Arsenal had to make a few changes to their line-up, the most notable of which was Carl Jenkinson coming in at right back and Bacary Sagna having to deputise at centre back because of the injury to Laurent Koscielny that was sustained in the warm up.
The Gunners started the game on the front foot and Olivier Giroud had an early chance to put the Gunners in front. Nacho Monreal won the ball in midfield and Jack Wilshere picked up the ball. His pass was deflected into Giroud’s path and the Frenchman did well to get to the ball before John O’Shea but his shot across goal went just wide of the far post.
Arsenal did eventually take the lead in the 35th
minute. Wilshere took possession of the ball near the centre circle and he drove at the Sunderland defence, powering passed two players before passing the ball to Theo Walcott. Walcott then laid the ball off to Cazorla who hit a powerful, low drive passed Simon Mignolet.
Arsenal should have doubled their advantage not long afterwards through Aaron Ramsey. Giroud cut inside and dinked the ball into Ramsey’s path but the Welshman’s shot was saved by Mignolet from close range.
Wilshere had his match cut short early in the second half after a collision with Alfred N’Diaye and his removal from the game was the catalyst for the shift in balance in the match as Sunderland became the more attacking team for the rest of the game and Arsenal were forced to withstand heavy pressure.
Arsenal’s cause wasn’t helped in the 62nd
minute when Jenkinson was sent off for a second bookable offence after he brought down Stephane Sessegnon with a rash challenge. The dismissal showed the relative inexperience of a player who turned 21 just yesterday and it caused Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to reshuffle his pack and move Ramsey to right back.
Despite the fact that they were down to ten men, Arsenal could have been two goals up when Walcott was played clean through on goal after Cazorla’s perfectly weighted pass but his dinked finish was unfortunate to hit the post.
Wojciech Szczesny was called into action as the game drew to its conclusion. First he made a big stop with his feet after Per Mertesacker’s attempted clearance was blocked by Steven Fletcher whose shot was saved by the Polish keeper. The save was all the more important as Fletcher appeared to have handled the ball when he blocked it.
The second save was even more impressive however. The ball came to Fletcher 6 yards from goal and his header looked destined to ripple the net before Szczesny got a big hand to it and tipped it over. From the resulting corner Szczesny again clawed out a Sunderland effort before Titus Bramble put the ball wide from close range.
It’s a result which sees Arsenal leapfrog Everton into 5th
, 4 points behind North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Sunderland meanwhile go into 13th
, 6 points clear of the relegation zone.