Arsenal battled it out to the very end in grinding out a hard-earned 1-0 win at Sunderland on Saturday Feb. 9 even though they were down to 10 men after 62 minutes. They controlled the match in the first half, but started to lose the plot a little after the break as Carl Jenkinson received his second yellow card of the game just after the hour mark.
Sunderland started to put the pressure on after that and created some glorious chances, but Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczesny managed to keep a clean sheet with some sensational saves. At the other end of the pitch, Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet was almost as good to keep the score respectable.
The game started on a bad note for manager Arsene Wenger when Laurent Koscielny got hurt in the pre-game warm up and he moved Bacary Sagna to centre back and used Jenkinson at right back. Arsenal created some fine chances in the first half, but Mignolet was equal to all challenges.
However, he was finally beaten in the 35th minute when Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott set up Santi Cazorla who hammered a low left-footed shot past the Sunderland keeper. Mignolet then made a couple of more important saves before the half ran out to keep the score 1-0.
Wilshere left the match after 50 minutes following a foul on him by N'Diaye. He didn’t seem to be seriously injured though and spent the rest of the match watching from the bench. Things got worse about a dozen minutes later when Jenkinson lunged at Sessegnon and was sent off for his second yellow card. He received his first one after just nine minutes of play when he brought down Jack Colback. Aaron Ramsey moved to right back to replace him.
The Gunners still created chances with 10 men, but also had to endure some scary moments over the final 28 minutes. However, Szczesny saved the day with a fine series of stops before the final whistle. The three points were well earned and necessary since both Chelsea and Tottenham won their games to stay ahead of the sixth-place Gunners. Arsenal could gain two or three crucial points on fifth-place Everton though as they travel to Old Trafford to take on league-leading Man United on Sunday.
Arsenal’s next game is a fifth-round FA Cup tie against Blackburn at home on Sat. Feb. 16 and Wilshere is expected to be back by then.
Arsenal Player Ratings against Sunderland Feb 9
Wojciech Szczesny 8.5
Made some superb saves today, especially off of Fletcher. The best was with five minutes to go when Fletcher was alone in front of the net and had a free header. Struggled on a couple of crosses, but had a great game particularly in the second half.
Carl Jenkinson 4.5
Let the team down with two yellow cards, which of course turned into a red after the second one in the 62nd minute. He lunged in on Sessegnon for the second card and was deservedly sent off. Was mediocre while on the pitch.
Bacary Sagna 7.5
One of his best matches of the season after playing centre back when Laurent Koscielny pulled out of the team after suffering an injury in the warm up.
Per Mertesacker 5.5
He was fine when defending without the ball, but when he had it, his decision making was questionable at the best. Get on with the game and move the ball up the pitch not continuously back to the keeper!
Nacho Monreal 6
He didn’t start the game too well, but settled down as it went along. Nothing spectacular and no major mistakes.
Jack Wilshere 7
Played reasonably well and helped set up the goal, but needs to focus on the match and not whining at the referee every time he’s tackled. Play the game and let the referee ref it! Came off after 50 minutes, probably more out of tiredness than anything else and was replaced by Abou Diaby.
Mikel Arteta 7
A decent game from the Spaniard both attacking and defending.
Aaron Ramsey 7
Played well and had a couple of good chances, but couldn’t bury them. Helped the team out by playing right back once Jenkinson received his marching orders.
Santi Cazorla 8.5
One of his best games of the season. Scored his ninth goal of the campaign and seventh on the road. Was creative and should have had an assist when he sent Walcott in alone with a superb pass, but Walcott hit the post.
Theo Walcott 7
Not his luckiest game of the season, but he was still impressive and created space and chances for himself. Helped set up Cazorla’s goal and when Cazorla tried to return the favour Walcott’s shot hit the post. Came off in the 87th minute for Miquel.
Olivier Giroud 6.5
Missed his chances in Sunderland’s end, but made up for it by playing a good defensive game in his own end.
Abou Diaby 6
Came on after 62 minutes for Wilshere and played a steady game. Had a glorious opportunity, but basically sent a back pass to keeper Mignolet instead of blasting it.
Ignasi Miquel N/A
Came on for Walcott after 87 minutes.