Arsenal barely held on. Reduced to 10 men thanks to Carl Jenkinson’s second yellow card in the 62nd minute, the Gunners did what many of their supporters didn’t think was possible: defend a one goal lead. Wojciech Szczesny and Bacary Sagna were the heroes, the latter playing Centre Back after Laurent Koscielny injured his calf in warm ups. Sunderland’s woeful finishing played a large role in the final result as well, with Titus Bramble somehow missing the net from two yards out late in the game.
The only goal in this one came from Santi Cazorla, who finished off a superb three way passing play from Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. Borrowing an idea from Backhand Shelf’s Justin Bourne, lets take a look at how it was scored. A warning before we start: the production values of this post don’t hold a candle to Bourne’s.
We begin with Jack Colback and Alfred N’Diaye chasing down Jack Wilshere. They aren’t going to catch him. Three Sunderland players are left to stop the English star: Lee Catermole (left), John O’Shea (middle) and Danny Rose. Theo Walcott lurks amongst them, waiting to make a run. Cattermole has a choice. Commit to Wilshere or anticipate a pass and track Theo.
Five Sunderland players are now on the wrong side of the ball. Walcott has several options, including laying off for Aaron Ramsey, firing an ill advised shot at Simon Mignolet or turning Black Cat defender Titus Bramble and playing the overlap on the left. A few years ago an immature Walcott might not have made the best choice.
Walcott easily turns Bramble. Just out of shot is Cazorla, streaking in to take advantage of the overlap created by Wilshere’s great run. Laying off for Ramsey is no longer a viable option. Shoot or pass to Santi is the final choice for Arsenal’s £100,000 a week man.
Walcott passes to an unmarked Cazorla. Olivier Giroud employs a basketball style pick on Craig Gardner as Bramble tries to get in the way of the shot. Mignolet, who kept his team in the game during a first half onslaught from the Gunners, had no chance. 1-0 Arsenal.
There you have it. In all its grainy, youtube screen grab glory. Arsene Wenger should be extremely pleased. His team stood strong, defending when they needed to and in turn, making Cazorla’s goal stand up as the winner. The Gunners creep past Everton (they’ve yet to play this weekend) into fifth, and trail Spurs by four points. Fourth place trophies forever.