Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Workhorse Win, Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland

Not every win will be glamourous and glorious.  Not every victory contains the stuff of legend.  However, the workhorse wins and "ugly points" are what it takes to win championships.  Arsenal earned themselves such a win Sunday afternoon.  Those three points lifted Wenger's men out of the cellar of the Premier League and Arsenal are finally sitting at the top half of the table.

Every fan loves goals, there's no doubting that.  But players like Robin Van Persie cause loyal fans problems, leaving supporters kicking themselves for missing by moments the opening of the game.  The goal was scored in the first minute, but lets be a little more accurate:  the goal was scored before 30 seconds had ticked off that big clock on the wall of Emirates!!  The official had barely finished with the opening whistle when Gervinho slipped a delicate pass to RVP who cooly fired the Gunners ahead long before the sellout crowd had even taken their seats!!  Clearly football is a team sport, but in the opening quarter hour of the match, Van Persie was taking on the visiting Sunderland side almost singlehandedly.  On twelve minutes, the Dutchman scuffed the inside left post with a chip reminiscent of his preceding Arsenal legends.  The ball drifted haplessly square across the goal line and was regrettably cleared by a scrambling Sunderland defence.  Arsenal, with tempo and possession were quickly hemming them in.  Three minutes later another RVP strike ripped by the upright.  But this game was not without twists.  With half an hour gone, Sunderland had become the beneficiaries of a handball called against Arteta.  It just so happened that Sebastian Larsson is set piece specialist and given the chance he tied the game by putting the freekick beyond Szczesny's reach.  The effort was laudable, however, it hardly seemed just that the two were on level terms.  Sunderland looked to capitalize on their momentum and pushed for the second goal.  The Gunners left the pitch looking rather sheepish as the first half concluded.

Thankfully, Emirates witnessed a stronger more determined Arsenal emerge from the tunnel.  The home side began to dominate once more and the Professor's attack minded substitutions added aggressiveness.  The tone was set, the roles defined.  The hosts played at arsony, and Sunderland were left desperately putting out flames. The visitors gifted Arsenal a free kick just outside the box with only seven minutes remaining.  The resident clinical finisher took his place and Van Persie confidently scored his seventh of the campaign.  The final minutes featured surprisingly end-to-end football and perhaps both were relieved by the final whistle.  Arsenal had eventually found a way to victory and the unimpressive win certainly nudged them in the right direction.

Onwards & upwards in the EPL!
The win and the points were a relief, but it was the start of a big week for Arsenal.  Wednesday held a trip to Marseilles and a crucial group stage tie in the Champions League.  With confidence and a few more able bodies back from injury, the Gunners toasted the win but began preparations for entering enemy territory.

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