Trouble before the whistle
Laurent Kosciely who supposedly to start the game, had his name scratched off from the starting line-up list because of a calf problem picked up during the warm up. Carl Jenkinson came into the breach with Bacary Sagna moving to a central role. Otherwise, the rest of the position are to be expected, with no real surprise. At the start, it was worrying that an out of form right back was asked to play centrally when a “potentially” good young centre back in Ignasi Miquel was on the bench. We’ll come to how the worry was for nothing later.
Early cards set the tone
Lee Cattermole and Carl Jenkinson were both shown early yellow cards and were made to walk the rest of the match on a tight rope. The former fouls a few more times afterwards but largely, able to keep his cool for the rest of the match. The same could not be said of Jenkinson, whose mistimed challenge on Sessegnon, gave him an early night off. It was poor in the way he allowed the Sunderland player to get past him which made the tackle/foul necessary. Still plenty to learn for the young right back.
Chances after chances goes begging
We were either making Mignolet look good or we were very poor in front of goals. Theo Walcott fluffing early chances to put us ahead but Mignolet’s excellence was hard to ignore. How he managed to save Aaron Ramsey’s shot when his view looks to be completely blocked off, was nothing short of miraculous. The Welshman was to be denied again towards the end of the half, this time from just steps away from the goal line. But by then, we’ve already scored the crucial goal.
One did go in
Santi Cazorla provided the finish as Walcott lay off and the number of players blocking Mignolet’s view, provided perfect cover. It was no more than we deserve, having wrested control of the match and not giving Sunderland a chance to leave their own half. It was the right pressure and possession that we like to see. Cazorla was in his element today and so many times after we’ve gone a man down, became the outlet and his ability to hold on to the ball was influential.
There were lots of chances in the second half too
It turned out that we didn’t have to regret not getting the second and/or the third goal. However, the manner in which we failed to increase our lead has to be looked at. On another day, we might have conceded a goal and we would have wasted getting all 3 points. The ruthlessness that we showed against Newcastle at home was missing. Players seemed to be more selfish than usual and gave up at the chance of putting in a team mate in a better position.
But we held on admirably
The final score was flattering because of the number of openings we created but yesterday’s win was down to our defensive brilliance as well. Ramsey slotted in at right back after Jenkinson’s dismissal and rarely look out of place. Per Mertesacker kept his position well to stop Sunderland’s advance. Ignacio Monreal had a few moments where he let his man pass but proved that just like previous left backs, he has that power of recovery. When all else failed, there was Wojciech Szczesny. The Pole had one of his best games for us in a while and was decisive on crosses.
But one man had an even better game
One early header lost to Steven Fletcher apart, Sagna was in his element today. Being at the right place, at the right time. He cleared everything that came to his path, he made it look like he has played as a centre back all his life. Shades of Lillian Thuram and Eric Abidal about Sagna in yesterday’s game. Perhaps there’s even a chance to move him there permanently in the future (if both parties can come to an agreement about his contract). Hopefully this herald a change in fortune and acts as a confidence booster to the player.
Wasn’t all positives
A show of hands, how many hearts stopped beating when you saw Jack Wilshere going down and signalling to the bench for an immediate change? Mine did and boy was that scary. I would take him being able to walk off the pitch and his somewhat non-depressed mode on the bench for the rest of the game, as the positive signs that it is not an injury that would make him miss a lot of games. After his midweek exploits, precaution needed to be taken with Wilshere but we needed him in this match. Just as Koscielny earlier proved, injury happens anywhere.
Yet, protection is lacking
…from the officials. It’s been quite a few games now that we’ve seen Wilshere being targeted. The future captain of the universe has taken knocks off every pitch that he has played since his return. I’ve seen past incidences where the referees are intent on protecting big England stars like Frank Lampard or Wayne Rooney. The same treatment isn’t afforded to Wilshere (they really don’t like us, do they). Here is a player who’s becoming better and better with each passing month. If the officials doesn’t protect him from overzealous tackles, then sooner of later, it’s going to destroy young Jack’s career.
Just have to keep at it
In the end, it was a good win for us. One which doesn’t allow Spurs to creep ahead after their win against Newcastle earlier in the day. The hard work is done and with the visit of Blackburn next week, there’s a lot of time for tired and bruised legs to recover before the Bayern Munich clash. In fact, I’d rest all the players who are going to play the Champions League finalist last season.