A trip to the Stadium of Light to take on a Sunderland side that have yet to win a match sounds like a recipe for disaster, or at least it did in years past. Reason being is that this is your typical banana peel fixture for the old Arsenal. An Arsenal that we’ve known and seen to be mentally weak in the moments where you’d expect them to smash their opposition.
How normal would it be for the Gunners to drop points, or even possibly come away with no points in this fixture?
As much as we want to think that Arsenal should come out on top given Sunderland’s current form or lack of form, there’s always that possibility. How will I get over them dropping points at Sunderland, seeing as they have yet to win, and have a shocking two points from nine matches played? Although I hate to admit it, that was my initial thought before kickoff.
Thankfully Arsenal supporters were able to relax and enjoy being at the top of the table, even if just for an hour or so. But, I think we can all admit that my thought mentioned above crossed your mind when Defoe leveled the match from the penalty spot. Am I wrong?
Arsenal with a penalty claim at one end, which I think should have been awarded, yet, Sunderland get the call moments later. That’s the type of sh*t that happens to them in these fixtures. The improbable all of a sudden becomes the probable and expected. Of course Arsenal isn’t going to win this match was starting to float around in the back of my mind, but I tried to keep it way in the back of my mind. Well, that weak mentality we’ve all moaned about in years past now seems to have left the squad.
Having conceded that equalizing goal, the pressure would have got to them. They would have slowly crumbled, dropped points, possibly got a red card, and Arsene Wenger would be on the hot seat. In his post-match presser he would have blamed the match official, defended his players, and next match we would have all seen #WengerOut signs. Those days seem to be gone, at least I hope.
With their backs against the wall and approximately 30 minutes remaining, the lads kicked it up a notch, with lowly Sunderland not being able to keep up. Three goals in seven minutes completely buried the Black Cats. Suck on that David Moyes!
As we enjoy the run of 14 matches in all competitions without tasting defeat, there were a lot of positives to take from that performance. One that certainly stands out is the fact that with a fit Olivier Giroud, Arsenal’s offense gains a completely new dimension.
Olivier Giroud Provides A Plan B
The big & beautiful Frenchman tends to get a lot of stick. We all know he’s not the quickest, nor is he the flashiest of strikers, but he is capable for getting the job done. Last season in the Premier League, he featured 38 times, and found the back of the net on 16 occasions. Now, obviously we aren’t expecting him to score 25+ goals each season, although it would be nice. But, if there could be other somewhat consistent scorers in the squad, 16 goals could go a long way.
Last week against Middlesbrough, the squad desperately needed Giroud. His physicality in the box would have caused issues for a defensive unit that sat deep. Apart from that, having decent service into the box would have hopefully found an out-and-out striker in the box, which is what Giroud is. Instead, they tried to work the ball into the box, which is clearly our plan A, yet it wasn’t working.
On Saturday, after Sunderland pulled even, you just got a sense that Arsene Wenger would need to change things up a bit.
Iwobi wasn’t all that impressive, and they needed someone to keep the defenders busy while Alexis was doing what Alexis does.
With the Chilean out on the left side now, Giroud didn’t take long to get on the scoresheet. A play started by none other than Alexis, ended with a great left-footed strike from Oli, putting the Gunners back on top. Not long after that, the bearded Frenchman struck again, this time with a well placed header from a corner kick. This is what we can call a plan B.
When you can’t pass the ball into the net, they need to be more direct, and that’s what Giroud can bring to the table. With four appearances in the Premier League this season, but still not having played 90 minutes combined, he already has two goals. If Arsenal are going to be successful this season, not only do they need plan A to provide goals, but they need Giroud to contribute as well.
Welcome back Giroud!
Does Anyone Work Harder Than Alexis Sanchez
To be honest, I’m not sure what else can be said about this guy. His lack of consistency and injuries last season can very well have been the difference for the Gunners, but he looks to finally be back to his best. Not only does he work hard when on the ball, but even off the ball, he is tireless. It’s absolutely incredible how he has all this energy.
Arsene Wenger’s plan to move him to a more central role has worked wonders thus far, with the Chilean scoring six goals in 10 Premier League appearances already. Last season, he scored 13 in 30 appearances, so he’s nearly halfway, with a third of the appearances.
He not only is scoring goals, but he’s also allowing others to get involved further up the field. One beneficiary of Alexis playing a central role is Mesut Ozil.
The German is now finding space in behind defenders, something he doesn’t get to do much with Giroud leading the line. With this new offensive freedom, Ozil could have snatched a goal in the first half, but his chip over the Sunderland keeper didn’t have enough height on it.
These are the things your going to get from Alexis. He opens up space for teammates, he heckles opposing players, and you can bet your a** he’s going to give you 110% every match. Even if he’s not having his best performance, he will not stop running, which is amazing to watch.
In his new role, he’s giving Arsenal a different offensive dynamic, which most opponents will struggle to contain. Proof of that is their 14-match unbeaten run. With an in-form Sanchez, Ozil & Giroud at the top of their game, and limited injuries, who knows what the Gunners could achieve this season.