If you’re a Arsenal fan today, you’ll be buzzing. Nothing beats coming from behind and winning by scoring in the final minute of the game. Especially when it’s an away game and we weren’t firing on all cylinders. Especially when the winning goal was scored by one of the club’s greatest ever player. Nothing quite beats the euphoria of celebrating what is possibly one’s last ever Premier League game for Arsenal Football Club with the winning goal.
Thierry Henry will be on the lips of everyone today and rightly so. He will be on so many column inches (those that are not talking about the Suarez-Evra incident anyway) and rightly so. I’ve had my doubts on his loan signing right from the start and today, it’s not worth to talk about it in perspective. It’s not easy to look at it from a broad spectrum and decide whether his loan stint was a successful one. Not when his contribution yesterday gave us such a massive lift.
With the win, we’re now up in 4th place. Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool all lost and that is only good for us. We’re still a good 10 points away from Tottenham. It’s not a small gap by any margin but the priority right now would be to continue to win our games and see how that turns out in the end. We can’t be worrying about their results yet. We’ve got to take this opportunity to start to build a little distance between us and the other 3 chasing teams.
We come back to the Stadium of Light in a week’s time. Hopefully by then we’ll get to see a much better state of the pitch. Yesterday it was horrendous. It was cut up and rough patches everywhere. Passing was difficult and the bounce make it hard to make accurate judgements. It’s not the only cause but some fault could probably be laid at the condition of the pitch that lead to Per Mertesacker suffering a ligament damage.
The big German had a solid game. He spread himself well and read every situation in a calm composed manner. There was a possibility that the referee could’ve given a penalty when he handled inside the box in the first half. Luckily it wasn’t given and we’ve seen how some of those are given. Thankfully the referee saw that he slip and the ball inadvertently bounced onto his hand. Get well soon Per.
It was his injury that lead to Sunderland taking the lead. Mertesacker went down clutching his leg and James McClean drove on with the ball. I have no problem with that. Yes, in the interest of fair play, perhaps McClean should have kicked it out for Mertesacker to receive treatment. But nothing was standing between him and Wojciech Szczesny, I don’t hold a grudge against that boy. It was a thunderous and precise low shot across goal. I don’t think Szczesny got his positioning wrong either. So, it was a good goal for them.
Speaking of Szczesny, he’s had a wobble lately. In the first half, he came running out of goal when he should have waited for Laurent Koscielny to pass the ball back to him. It created confusion and with Sebastian Larsson bearing down on him, I was glad the ball was cleared. But the Polish No. 1 redeemed himself in the second half. Two tremendous saves, both to stop Craig Gardner from scoring. The first was more spectacular than the second, having probably only seen it at the last moment. Preventing Gardner from scoring. Szczesny has reached another level in my heart.
A goal down with 20 minutes left in the game. We could be forgiven for thinking that this was another one of those days. That we would not be capitalising on results elsewhere. That we would have the monster share of possession and frustratingly not take advantage of it while conceding. This was not one of those days.
Interesting decisions were made when Mertesacker went off. Alex Song was pulled back into the centre of defence and Aaron Ramsey was brought on. The easier decision would’ve been to bring Kieran Gibbs on and move Thomas Vermaelen into the centre. Arsene Wenger went for it and shackles were released in midfield. It was a substitution that worked. Instead of 1 holding player and 1 semi-holding player (Song and Arteta respectively), we now have 2 attacking midfielders.
Tomas Rosicky, who had a another fine game yesterday saw his shot blocked but the rebound fell kindly into the path of Ramsey. The Welsh captain wouldn’t refuse the invitation to shoot. There was agony watching the shot because it came off both posts before rolling into the net. For a moment, I thought it was going to bounced out. 5 minutes and we’ve leveled the game.
Another 15 minutes to go and there was still plenty of time for either side to find the winner. However, from that point on, we were the only side that looked like winning. Yet, Wenger only played his last cards 5 minutes from the end. Andrey Arshavin and Henry for Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The younger pair were decent but could not find any headway during their time on the field.
The much maligned Arshavin was the one who delivered the inch perfect cross for Henry to tap in. Just the right pace and height with immaculate accuracy. Every time Arshavin received the ball, he just drove at Phillip Bardsley. He was direct and dangerous. Not quite back to the old Arshavin but this has to be an encouraging sign.
Then it was a matter of holding on for the win. That we did with ease. Everyone knew their role and we hung on. The significance of the goalscorer of the winning goal is undeniable. But the bigger significance is the 3 points and what boost it can give to the team. First of 3 in a crucial week out of the way. Perhaps there’s one more hurrah for Henry in Milan. One could only hope.