Arsenal Left Frustrated By Black Cats


Sunderland needed at least a point from their final two fixtures against Arsenal and Chelsea to secure their Premier League safety as Arsenal needed only a point to all but guarantee automatic Champions League qualification.  Maybe both teams had this in mind as whoever was in charge of bringing the shooting boots to the Emirates clearly decided to take the day off.

The Arsenal side saw a couple of changes as Kieran Gibbs got the start at left back and Jack Wilshere took the place of Aaron Ramsey on the wing, thus shifting the Welshman into a deeper role in mid-field with Francis Coquelin making way.

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The first big chance of the match came in the 14th minute, on the Sunderland goal.  A dominating run of play from Arsenal saw Alexis Sanchez do brilliantly to find Wilshere, darting down the right, with a cross field pass.  Wilshere took the ball all the way to the 6 yard box, but it was here that Costel Pantilimon’s best impression of Lukasz Fabianksi began as the keeper shot out of goal and collected the ball from the feet of Wilshere.

Arsenal again got a look only a few minutes later as Jack Wilshere again was on the end of the chance.  Mesut Ozil found Ramsey just inside the Sunderland penalty area.  Ramsey thought about shooting, but in the end laid it off for a surging Wilshere.  Unfortunately though, the ball wasn’t easily dealt with and Wilshere’s shot was sent miles above the crossbar and into the seats.

Arsenal continued their first half dominance in the 30th.  With Wilshere sitting on the ball just outside the box. Ozil made a run past his man and in on goal.  A sumptuous chip of the back line fell to the German’s feet but his powerful shot curved just outside the near post.

The very next minute the exact same run of game played out on the left, instead with Wilshere and Olivier Giroud.  Wilshere once again made it look easy as he chipped the defense and Giroud brilliantly controlled the pass under pressure and got the shot off.  He shot low and the ball slid only just wide of the far post.

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Despite Arsenal absolutely smothering the Sunderland goal for the first 45, the Gunners just were not able to find the back of the net and the scoreline at the break was still 0-0.

It didn’t take long for the action to pick up after halftime with Sunderland missing at least one, probably two must-score goals. The 50th minute saw both Patrick Van Aanholt and Steven Fletcher played in on goal.  Both were 1 on 1 with David Ospina, but both spurned their chances and fired straight at the keeper.

Arsenal tried to break the deadlock just six minutes later and very nearly did just that.  Hector Bellerin, coming in from the right flank let loose a beautiful cross into the area.  The ball fell brilliantly, just where Giroud has proven he likes them and he fired a powerful poke towards goal on the volley.  Yet again though, Pantilimon proved his worth to the away support and was able to make the stop.

Arsenal’s best chance came just two minutes later. Once again Bellerin put in the cross from the right side.  This time though the ball was deflected by the Sunderland defense and flicked across goal.  The deflection went straight towards Kieran Gibbs and the left back was able to send a powerful header towards the near post. In what was becoming somewhat of a recurring nightmare for Arsenal though, Pantilimon and his giant frame was just able to get to the shot and kept the scoreline level.

Real end to end stuff continued in the match as the clearance from Sunderland saw Steven Fletcher on a break away at the Arsenal goal.  Despite being trailed by two Arsenal defenders Fletcher ended up 1 on 1 with Ospina and the Arsenal keeper had started to come out of goal; he got himself caught in an awkward position.  Fletcher need only to chip Ospina or go around him.  He was basically on an open goal.  In the end, thankfully, Fletcher didn’t have it in him to score and Arsenal survived a real scare to keep it 0-0.

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Fletcher again spurned a must-score chance in the 68th.  With nearly the whole Arsenal back line drawn towards the left of goal Fletcher made a run towards the far post and the pass found him easily.  Ospina too was going the opposite direction and all Fletcher needed to do was get solid contact and put it anywhere except directly at Ospina.  Or put the ball over the cross bar, I should have said that one too, because amazingly that is exactly what he did. 0-0.

Instead of sounding like a broken record I’ll just start the analysis now.  With the exception of a Billy Jones clearance, or “whatever” (thank you Arsenal commentators), that was an own goal just saved by the woodwork, the last 20 minutes played out just like the first 70.

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Arsenal continued to get chance after chance, but just couldn’t finish them.  Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky both came on and seemed to make a tangible difference, but both couldn’t make the difference either.

The result, while certainly disappointing because of our dominance, does all but guarantee automatic Champions league qualification.  In addition players performances seem to be staying quality.  Mesut Ozil continues his good form, Aaron Ramsey had the most touches of any Arsenal player, pulling the strings from midfield, while Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny bossed the defense.

Jack Wilshere, though looked especially good to me. Even starting in an abnormal position to him, on the right wing, the Englishman created chance after chance and did everything in his power to get forward and test the opposing keeper.  If it were me I’d continue to give him starts, particularly in the cup final.

Gibbs looked good too.  After a disappointing return several weeks ago, I wasn’t sure how he would handle himself today, but he did well.  I don’t think he did enough to really challenge Monreal for the starting position, but nonetheless, it was a good shift.

It’s almost over boys, so lets try to enjoy the last couple of fixtures before the black void of football, also known as the summer begins. Until next time, #COYG