In a fiercely contested match at The Stadium of Light, Arsenal won a classic Premier League encounter courtesy of a Santi Cazorla first half winner. The Gunners went to wearside knowing that it was going to be a tough assignment well aware that the Blackcats at home this season had beaten the champions, tied with Liverpool and given both Manchester United and Chelsea very tough examinations before ultimately losing to them both plus the Gunners themselves were held to a 0-0 draw in the opening game of the season at the Emirates back in August.
In the first half the Gunners were totally dominant and bossed the game, playing slick, pass-and-move football creating numerous chances and there was no surprise when Cazorla finished one of the Gunners’ moves scoring with a powerful left foot drive through a mass of legs on 35 minutes after Walcott amongst others had been involved in the eye-catching attack. The only surprise was that Arsenal did not manage to add to their lead.
Martin O’Neill shuffled the pack at half time sending Seb Larsson on for Lee Cattermole and Sunderland did start the second half in better fashion. It was not long before they got a couple of morale boosters as firstly Wilshere had to leave the field on 50 minutes following a nasty looking collision with Blackcat’s French midfielder N’Diaye and was replaced by the finally fit Abou Diaby; then secondly Carl Jenkinson was sent off after receiving his 2nd yellow card just after the hour mark for a clumsy challenge on Sunderland forward Sessegnon. Jenkinson had not been due to start but was pressed into service after Laurent Koscielny injured his calf muscle in the warm up, with Baccary Sagna moving to centre half and Jenkinson assuming his preferred right back position.
Sunderland enjoyed more and more possession as the second half progressed but the Gunners still managed to create some clear cut chances and on 74 minutes man of the match Santi Cazorla put Theo Walcott through on goal with only Belgian keeper Mignolet in the Sunderland goal to beat and Walcott did beat him but unfortunately he did not beat the goal post as the ball hit the upright and bounced away to safety. Olivier Giroud also had a superb chance but selfishly fired over the bar from the edge of the area when he should have given it to Cazorla who had made a lung busting run to get open on the left hand side of the penalty area.
With 5 minutes left in the game, Szczesny brilliantly saved a Steven Fletcher header and then denied Titus Bramble as he tried to bang in a rebound. Sagna was most excellent at centre half, making numerous key clearances and interceptions and Ramsay, pressed into emergency service at right back after Jenkinson’s red card also played well. The referee’s assistant signaled for 4 added minutes giving time for Szczesny to make another great save from a curling Adam Johnson shot from outside the penalty area which lead to a string of Sunderland corners with O’Neill sending goalkeeper Mignolet up into the box for the final corner in the dieing seconds of the game but it was all to no avail as 10 man Arsenal held on for the victory and secured 3 vital points which became all the more important since the teams around the Gunners in the table also won.
Fortunately, the word coming out of the Emirates is that Jack Wilshere’s injury is just a knock and he should not be on the sidelines for a significant length of time, if at all – this is a big relief as the thought of “our Jack” being seriously injured again is too much to deal with.