Arsenal 3 Sunderland 1: Joel Power – FA Cup holders show their class

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There was much anticipation for Arsenal’s FA Cup opener against Sunderland. With Arsenal currently leading the Premiership race, many pundits and fans alike tipped Arsenal to become the first club post 20th century to win 3 consecutive FA Cups. The side that Wenger fielded included a few surprises;  Alex Oxlade Chamberlain was allowed the opportunity to prove himself in the centre midfield  role that he’s always claimed to be his strongest and Alex Iwobi was given the monumental task of deputising for the  omnipotent Ozil. Despite this Arsenal were still expected to dispatch of Sunderland and progress to the 4th round.

The game began slowly; Arsenal’s passing was disjointed and lacked tempo whilst Sunderland were happy to forfeit the ball to us. Olivier Giroud managed to slide Gibbs through for a half chance but other than that nothing of note was created.  Although the reigning champions weren’t creating much in the way of chances they looked the better team with Sunderland providing very little in the way  of offensive threat. This changed in the 16th minute; Kieran Gibbs managed to to recover well to tackle a marauding Watmore and layed the ball of to Koscielny. He then made an uncharacteristic mistake, failing to dribble past an on rushing Lens would dispossessed him with ease,. Len’s composed himself and fired a powerful shot past an ill prepared Cech. It could be argued that Gibbs played the ball towards Koscielny’s wrong foot however with the position of Lens, Gibbs’ decision to play it to Koscielny’s left foot was justified.

Alex Iwobi had a promising game, constantly in the thick of the action

Iwobi was bright in 1st start at the Emirates

A poor start prompted the Gunners to abandon their complacency and 9 minutes later they leveled the score. Koscielny made a trade mark pass in between the lines to Iwobi who turned in one touch and then found Walcott out wide. Theo took the ball to the byline leaving Yedlin dumbfounded as he cut the ball back to the arriving Joel Campbell who finished expertly.  Every stage of the move highlighted the gulf in class between the two teams and Campbell’s deft finish was his second opener against the Wearside team this season.

The first half continued but other than a few nearly moments from Arsenal neither side were able to create any chances of note.  Although the midfield trio of Chambers, Chamberlain and Iwobi looked bright it was clear that Arsenal’s midfield lacked the experience to capitalise on Sunderland’s defensive frailties.

The beginning of the second half saw a change of mentality. The midfield was zipping the ball around with a bit more urgency and Joel Campbell began to impart more influence towards Arsenal’s build-up.  Iwobi played a penetrating ball behind the Sunderland defence to Campbell who was unable to find Walcott with a ball across the oppositions 6 yard box. Moments later Chamberlain was yet again unlucky to find the woodwork, Walcott flashing the rebound just wide.

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Ramsey celebrates putting the Gunners ahead

Although Arsenal appeared to be in the ascendency Sunderland created a fantastic chance which acted as a warning to us. Yedlin received the ball deep inside the Arsenal half; beat Walcott and floated the ball on the head of the towering Fletcher who thumped his header against the Arsenal cross bar. Watmore was unable to divert the rebound into the net and Arsenal managed to survive the scare.

Despite the isolated chance Arsenal continued to dominate without being able to capitalise. Campbell was again involved playing a fantastic one two with Walcott, with his shot smuggled by the promising Pickford.  The introduction of Arteta and Ramsey in particular was the turning point and the Welshman involved himself immediately. Ramsey linked up well with Gibbs who came close to finding Olivier Giroud for a trademark near post goal. Minutes later Gibbs found himself in a similar position, this time pulling the ball back to Walcott who was indecisive with his finish. Arsenal were knocking on the door and a goal for the gunners seemed like an inevitability.

It only took 5 minutes after Ramsey’s introduction for the Welshman to provide the breakthrough.  A fantastic give and go down Arsenal’s right side allowed put Bellerin in behind the Sunderland defence. Bellerin squared the ball to a free Ramsey who applied the finish to break the deadlock.  Arsenal made sure they didn’t make the same mistake Sunderland made when they scored their opener. Unlike Sunderland who conceded soon after taking the lead, Arsenal  extended theirs. Oxlade Chamberlain provided and exquisite outside of the foot pass to the tireless Bellerin who delivered a perfectly weighted cross come pass to Giroud who was arriving on the far post.

Theo gives young a fan his shirt after the game

Theo gives young a fan his shirt after the game

We continued to push for more goals but in the end we were unable to find one. We’ve began our defence with a good win and in addition, we’ve seen promising performances from the likes of Iwobi, Chambers and Chamberlain.  It might be a bit premature to start talking about a possible treble however after the performance of our squad players today, the double should definitely be achievable.

One happy fan experienced a moment he’ll never forget; Theo intervened as stewards attempted to stop the lad from approaching the forward and did the customary Mertesacker jump, before handing over his match shirt. Pure class. But then, that’s The Arsenal.



Guest Writer

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