5th December 2015: Win over Sunderland sends Arsenal second

Saturday night salutations. We secured our first Premier League win in four today, as goals by Joel Campbell, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey helped us to a 3-1 win over Sunderland at Emirates stadium to lift us up to second in the table.

I didn’t catch the opening half-an-hour of the action, thanks to a failed ignition coil in my car which resulted in me having to drive at Per Mertesacker-pace as I returned home from the shops, but from what I’ve read and heard, that wasn’t such a bad thing as the visitors enjoyed the better of the opening third of the match.

Just as I’d found a stream and settled down, Mesut Ozil picked up possession and sliced Sunderland’s defence wide open with a perfectly-weighted through ball on the left, to allow Campbell to guide home our opener without breaking stride after 33 minutes. Apparently, the Costa Rican had begun the game on the right but had swapped flanks with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shortly before scoring, so it was a timely switch of position to say the least.

From the 15 minutes or so of the first-half I saw, Sunderland were far more adventurous than I had anticipated before the match and drew level on the stroke of half-time as Giroud found the net at the wrong end, clumsily slicing his attempted clearance into his own net following a Sunderland free-kick from our right. It was unfortunate for the Frenchman if I’m honest, with one of their players stepping over the delivery, leaving Giroud with little time to adjust his footing.

Thankfully for the striker and us, he made amends by heading home our second just past the hour mark from a left-wing cross by the typically-industrious Ramsey. After that, Sunderland looked dangerous and created a few openings as the game swung from end to end and both sides gave the ball away with regularity in midfield, but we settled the contest in stoppage time when substitute Calum Chambers fired in a cross-shot from the right and the ball eventually fell to Ramsey who scored via a deflection off their keeper from close-range.

Cue a little hop, skip and jump from Arsene Wenger on the touchline as the Gunners leapfrogged both Manchester City and Manchester United, who lost and drew respectively today, in going second in the table behind an annoyingly consistent Leicester City, who swept aside Swansea thanks to a hat-trick by Riyad Mahrez.

After the game, the boss discussed the game as well as the surprise league-leaders Leicester, telling the BBC:

We started a bit nervous and edgy in the first half. We were unlucky to come in at 1-1, so I was positive. I told the players they still had 45 minutes to win the game, and play with more pace and different angles. You see this Premier League is a battle. Sunderland played a dangerous game on the break. It could have been one of those days, but we kept our determination and the mental aspect was good. We have lost players in the heart of our game, so we had to find a balance again. It took us time to get going. [Premier League leaders] Leicester have been very impressive. The best you can do is to win games, and hope that they drop points, but that is not happening. We go to Olympiakos in midweek, which Leicester don’t do, so they have an advantage in that way too.

I have to say, as much as I’ve been impressed by the Foxes this season, I really can’t see them keeping up this form for the rest of the season. So in terms of the title race, I think it was far more important that City lost, United drew and Tottenham also dropped points today, because I think those teams will eventually prove the bigger threat to both our title and top-four hopes by the end of the season.

Time will tell obviously, but for now, we can stay upbeat, despite all our injury woes, as we look ahead to our crucial midweek date with Olympiacos in Greece.

Til tomorrow.

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