The last captain’s performance we had was from Cesc Fabregas against Aston Villa. That 20 odd minutes that he put in then, inspired us to victory. This time around, Robin Van Persie came up with the goods and delivered a performance worthy of the armband. There were nervy moments in the game but 3 points was the final result and that was what mattered.
Arsene Wenger resisted the calls to move one of Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou or Andre Santos and stuck with Carl Jenkinson at right back. But before Jenkinson could get into the game, he was celebrating a goal with his team mates. Tomas Rosicky released Gervinho on the left and the Ivorian slipped RvP in with the perfect pass. RvP took a touch to control before slamming home with his chocolate leg.
It was the start that we all hoped for. Not giving a chance for the home crowd to get restless. Apparently, it was the fastest goal that Arsenal have ever scored in our Premier League history. The early goal would also help our cause as Sunderland started without any striker and were clearly looking to prevent a defeat today.
We had more opportunities to widen the margin but failed to take our chances. RvP came closest of them all. Dragging the ball away from Kieran Richardson before producing an immaculate chip. It was a beautiful move but sadly won’t be fondly remembered and the ball hit the post and rebounded away from goal. Then, the table turned on us.
Mikel Arteta inexplicably lean in for a header with his hand and we were punished. Sunderland were given a freekick centrally just outside the penalty box. Not the kind of position we would like Sebastian Larsson to be taking his freekicks. Wenger says he’s the best freekick taker in the Premier League and so it proved. The shot had enough curl and pace to go past the despairing dive of Wojciech Szczesny.
The equaliser took the sting out of our play. From having the majority of the possession and looking threatening to score at any moment, we were reduced to chasing after opposition and looking likely to concede. It’s scary how easily our players are rattled. Szczesny then produced a wonderful stop on the line to prevent Sunderland from scoring. He saves at least one sure goal every game, hallmarks of a great keeper.
I was glad that half time came when it did. The breather was what we needed to regroup and refocus. Whatever that was said at half time, it worked. Arsenal came into the second 45 minutes with more energy and drive. Sparked by the change of Andre Santos, who replaced Kieran Gibbs at the 50th minute mark.
The best effort was by Andrey Arshavin who replaced Gervinho in the 68th minute. Producing a mazy run past 4 or 5 opponents but unluckily dragging his shot just wide of the post. As the clock kept on ticking, the nerves were getting to me and I thought we might never get the winner. Thankfully, I was wrong.
Captain Vantastic curled home a beautiful freekick to give us the 3 points. Oddly enough, his laugh direct freekick goal (without deflection) was against Sunderland, back in 2007. It was a finish worth winning any game. He had missed so many before that I was starting to fear he may never score again from a freekick.
It was not the best performance we’ve seen from a Wenger side but at we can only take it as it is. At this moment, points are more important than the performance. There’s a sense of over reliance on RvP now and I’m sure we all dread the day he gets injured. The rest of the team will have to afford him some help as not even RvP can be expected to come up with the goods every single time.
On the whole, a fair few others played well. Rosicky, Jenkinson, Santos and Arshavin all put in commendable shifts. While Per Mertesacker and Koscielny were once again proving to be a very solid partnership at the heart of our defence. Theo Walcott was disappointing but it does not help him when he’s booed on the ball.
The board, Ivan Gazidis and Wenger himself has a lot of work to be done after this. It’s important to tie RvP to a longer deal. If he wants X amount of money, we better give him. If he wants a yacht, we better give him. If he wants the No. 1 shirt taken off Almunia, we better make sure we do it. He’s our best player at the moment and there’s no argument what the management should do next.