Three points and back to the top of the table but it was no walkover despite two early Arsenal goals. The first was an incredible Robin van Persie free kick which was hit so hard that Craig Gordon only reacted after it went over the line. Reminiscent of the one he scored in the World Cup for Holland but hit even more fiercely. The second came from Philippe Senderos he stuck out his left leg when the ball broke in the box and wrongfooted the defence and the keeper for the ball to lope over the line.
What might have turned the game into a similar scoreline to Derby was Abou Diaby’s goal which was wrongly ruled out for an offside in the build-up. At 3-0 there would have been no way back but those are the kinds of things that turn matches and Sunderland made the most of it. They scored before half-time through Ross Wallce after Almunia had made a good save from Kenwynne Jones and then equalised early in the second through a Jones header which Almunia might have done a bit better with.
We had chances to go ahead again. Kolo Toure hit the post with a long range boomer and then Theo Walcott completely miskicked after some great work by Hleb set him up. However, the young man had a big hand in the winning goal. His brilliant touch and turn from Eboue’s pass got him behind the defender, a quick ball to van Persie allowed the Dutchman to take a touch and then poke it home for the winner. Almunia still had to make a good save from a long range Anthony Stokes effort and Theo himself hit the post after more good work. Sunderland’s job was made all the harder by Paul McShane getting a red card for trying to crush Hleb’s testicles and in the end the three points were ours.
Afterwards the manager suggested that at 2-0 up part of our ‘mental focus’ went. I suppose that can happen to any team and it’s not deliberate but how often have we seen a team a couple of goals up and cruising get pulled back? What was very encouraging was the character and desire shown to go on and get the winning goal. Robin van Persie said:
We scored two goals and after we became a bit sloppy. It was our own fault but Sunderland were unlucky to lose today. At half-time we told each other, we had to get in there and fight for three points.
And so they did. It’s been a nice run for van Persie too. A winning goal against West Ham, a winning goal against Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League and now the winner against Sunderland. That’s seven for the season for him now and the important ones are beginning to tot up. It was nice to see Theo Walcott come on make a contribution too. It can be quite difficult to come on and make an impact but he seems to be able to do that in these kinds of games. His quick feet really made a difference yesterday and his turn for the van Persie goal was first class. Hopefully this will give him a bit more confidence which he can take into the games that he starts.
With regards to the team that’s 10 wins from the last 10 games and we sit 2 points clear of United at the top of the table and with a game in hand. Our form is fantastic which is why it’s such a pain in the arse that we now have a two week break due to internationals. It’s never easy picking up where you left off but hopefully this break won’t prove too much of a distraction.
So, that’s the Arsenal on the back burner for the next two weeks because of these internationals. As usual we hope the players away will come back in full fitness. But what are we going to talk about? I suppose we could talk about Bacary Sagna’s hair. He appears to be have de-Floella Benjamined his hair. It certainly makes him less distinctive, doesn’t it? Horrible as the braids were at least you could pick him out easily. I think he should wear one of those viking helmets with the horns sticking out. Probably not good for heading the ball but still.
In other news the Times reports on more controversy surrounding Alisher Usmanov. Did we see/hear any protests from RedAction during the game?
It’s going to be a long two weeks till our next game.