Sunday, 30 October 2016

Arsenal Beat Sunderland As Giroud And Alexis Shine

I wrote a preview for Arsenal's trip to Sunderland on Friday evening and just had to add the finishing touches before posting it on Saturday morning. Unfortunately I went to a 21st birthday party on Friday night and ended up struggling home at 4.30 in the morning. When you're my age it takes a little longer to recover and I barely managed to struggle out of bed for the kick off with my preview going by the wayside.

In that preview I mentioned how the return of Olivier Giroud from injury would give the team an extra option in attack which was missing against packed defences in particular. I doubt if I was to only one to consider this or mention it, but he most certainly did so when he came off the bench yesterday. I can't ever remember a player scoring with his first two touches after being introduced from the bench, but that's just what Giroud did yesterday.

Arsenal had been wasteful in front of goal and the Sunderland equaliser from the penalty spot threatened to put a spanner in the works. Alexis Sanchez put Arsenal ahead with a fantastic header from a very good cross by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after a great 22 pass move. It was all set for Arsenal to go on and punish the bottom club, but Mesut Ozil in particular missed when he should have scored.

There's always a chance the opposition will get back into the game if you don't finish them off and Jermain Defoe's penalty was their only effort on target in the whole game. I worried about another two points dropped at that stage, but the introduction of Giroud soon put an end to those worries and Alexis finished it off for a 4-1 victory. Aaron Ramsey came off the bench too and the squad is actually looking stronger going into a month which has sometimes proved difficult for us in the past.

We coped very well without the injured Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott yesterday, but I still think we need Santi Cazorla back as soon as possible to make the team tick. The return of that trio and Granit Xhaka being available again after suspension will give Arsene Wenger some real selection headaches going forward. Kieran Gibbs has to be very close to keeping his place in the team after Monreal's recent struggles while it was good to see Chamberlain fit into the team and perform well too.

From here on things get a bit tougher though with Ludogerets away on Tuesday night followed by a game at home to Spurs on Saturday. There's a dreaded international break after that game and we follow that with a trip to United and PSG at home. Those three games in a row will be a real judge of where we are this season and what our chances are domestically and in Europe. A win on Tuesday night should mean we're through to the last 16 of the Champions League, but the crunch group game could be at home to PSG where a win would see us win the group and potentially get an easier opponent in the last 16.

The game against Spurs is a huge game with them only three points behind us and the only unbeaten team in the league. They have a very good defensive record and the goal they conceded against Leicester was the first goal they conceded from open play in the league this season. It would be fantastic to put an end to their unbeaten start on our own patch and open up a nice six point gap over them too.

United are really struggling at the moment and Jose Mourinho is finding it hard to cope, but he seems to relish playing against us no matter what team he is in charge of. If we could put another nail in his coffin it would surely dispel any thoughts of November being a bogey month for us. It's a long way from here to there though and for the moment we can at least be happy that we're only behind the league leaders on goal difference with 10 games played and some tough challenges to come.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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