Arsenal closed the gap on Chelsea in fourth with a last-gasp, come from behind win at the Stadium of Light today.
Arsene Wenger started the same team that played against Blackburn but the games could not have been more different. This is an exact summary of the entire first half: Arsenal had the ball, Sunderland got all their men behind the ball. Sunderland would come forward a bit, do nothing much, then get all their men behind the ball again. They obviously had bought a new bus and wanted to park it where everyone could see it.
The second half continued in much the same vein, until Sunderland sparked the game into life with a spell of pressure. When a corner was cleared just outside our box, Wojciech Szczesny had to go full stretch to stop the ball going into the bottom corner, and he did it again a few minutes later when a Craig Gardener effort was headed towards the other corner. They were big saves from a keeper who has had a few hairy moments in recent weeks.
Typically though, Arsenal fell behind, although the goal was hardly a demonstration of our defensive flaws. Per Mertesacker looked to be in control when he seemed to get studs caught in the horrendous pitch and went down injured. James McClean took the ball on and from a difficult angle fired home an impressive strike across Szczesny and into the far corner.
Mertesacker was unable to continue and stretchered off, replaced by Aaron Ramsey. And it was the Welshman who equalised just two minutes later. Mikel Arteta’s initial shot was blocked, it fell to Ramsey on the edge of the Sunderland box, he lashed in a low shot which hit both posts before going in.
Arsenal threw on Arshavin for Walcott, having already replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain with Thierry Henry, and it was the under fire Russian who made the injury time winner. With the ball at his feet out left he faced two Sunderland defenders, but managed to find space to cross for Thierry Henry to poke home from inside the 6 yard box.
It was Henry’s 229th goal for the club on his last ever Premier League appearance. Whoever’s writing the scripts is doing a fine job.
There was no time for Sunderland to get back into it, although there was time for Henry to make the talky-talky gesture at a bleating O’Neill on the sidelines, heh.
Arsenal came back from behind to win away from home, that’s actual mental strength Arsene. And dammit, it was good to see.