Sunday, 21 February 2010

Eboue and Nasri shine as Arsenal make hard work of Sunderland victory

More than 24 hours have passed since we beat Sunderland and it's about time I gave you my thoughts on the match.

Overall you can't be anything but happy with a win on the same day as Manchester United dropped three points despite taking the lead at Everton.

The team was set up well. Despite thinking when I wrote my preview piece Wenger would stay with pretty much the same side who lost to Porto, he in fact rung the changes.

Six fresh players into the starting line up, against a Sunderland side who pressed us whenever we had the ball.

Almunia back in goal, Eboue and Silvestre into defence, midfield saw Ramsey and Song brought in and Walcott for Rosicky was the change in attack.

The first 15 minutes were eventful with Theo Walcott all over George McCartney and easily putting the defender in his pocket. It's still his decision making which lets him down, though. And I suppose all that time out earlier this season hasn't helped his development at all.

Emmanuel Eboue, who was excellent all game, made some fantastic contributions and the Sunderland defence were unsure as to how to play him.

It was the Ivorian who made the first goal. From his position on the right, he drove at the defence chased by Darren Bent. He made for the by-line and crossed for Nicklas Bendtner to slot home unmarked at the far post.

There were plenty of other opportunities for us to double our lead, but we lacked that clinical cutting edge in open play which would have got us a goal.

by Guardian Chalkboards

With Eduardo and Arshavin out, Bendtner led the line and although his overall contribution to the game was good, he was unable to put the ball in the net when it mattered later in the game.

At 1-0 there was nervousness around the ground and a second goal would have lifted the crowd's mood.

This defence can be split open at any point and with another new partnership (Vermaelen and Silvestre) things weren't steady at the back with Almunia having to make two good saves to deny the Black Cats.

There were times in the second half when Arsenal were camped inside the Sunderland half.

Nasri - who was my man of the match - buzzed around like the player we brought last season.

He drove at their defence, dribbled with urgency and persistence, shot when the opportunity allowed and was a nuisance to Steve Bruce's men all afternoon.

The second break through came in the third minute of injury time.

Referee Steve Bennett, who was awful all game for both teams, gave the penalty after his assistant signalled that Cesc had been bundled over inside the box.

Not since Andrey Arshavin was awarded a penalty in Arsenal's 2-0 victory at the Grove over Stoke City in December, have Arsenal handed a penalty in the Premier League.

On that occasion, Cesc's effort was saved. There would be no repeat of that scenario this time.

The captain tucked away the spot kick and it sealed a 2-0 victory that Arsenal deserved.

Now there is a six-day break in football for us until next Saturday evening when we face Stoke.

It's great to be going into work tomorrow with three points in the bag, two points behind Manchester United and still six behind Chelsea.

The manager says one or both of those will drop points and he's right. Lets just hope we can capitalise on that and make the league title ours this season.

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