There was a point in the 88th minute when Sunderland substitute, Jack Rodwell, picked up a loose ball just inside the Arsenal half and started to wander with it. He looked nervously and fruitlessly for a teammate, making a run ahead or him to pass the ball to. I caught myself looking nervously too, but in my case, at the clock banner at the top left hand corner of the TV screen.
That is not the way I am supposed to be feeling two minutes to the end of a game against a relegation threatened team – even if a Sam Allardyce team – at home, with a goal up. There should be something here complimenting Big Sam for how he has seemed to transform a dire team, but I will be the last person to give that man any credit.
I suppose that is what injuries can do to any team, and as evidenced by Man City’s recent struggles, it can happen to the best of teams, no matter how many players you buy in the summer. More on that later.
With all the aforementioned injuries, the team literally picked itself. Laurent Koscielny returned after the slight knock against Norwich, Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain was deployed on the left for the energetic Chilean and Flamini in the centre of the park for Santi.
The entire first half could be written off for Arsenal, bar the opening goal. Something seemed to be awry for the team, passes weren’t coming off, runs weren’t been made. Luckily, the only chance that came Arsenal’s way was promptly finished off by the rapidly improving Joel Campbell. Someone needs to have a word with him about that sucker he keeps putting in his mouth. I don’t mind that he scores but who knows where that thing has been.
The assist for the opening goal came from utterly impressive Mesut Özil. Again and again, the wiry German continues to prove that he is the best of his kind. Dinking past opposition players at will, splaying passes all over the field, it seemed inevitable that he would be the one to provide the way to the breakthrough. We are so not worthy.
Before the end of the half though, the most Arsenal of Arsenal things happened. An own goal conceded when a player tried to clear what would have been an easy save with the wrong foot. Typical.
The second half was slightly better though. Özil seemed to take more control of the game but the true saviour was probably Petr Cech, who made an improbable save from a corner when Steven Fletcher clattered his knee into the post. With the score at 1-1 at that time, it would have been difficult to see how Arsenal would come back from that. Particularly with Sunderland playing with three at the back.
Olivier Giroud made amends soon, directing an Aaron Ramsey cross past the Sunderland keeper before he had time to react. That seemed to bring out the away team out of their shell; any competent team would have probably equalised. But alas, it was only Sunderland.
By the time the third goal came, the relief was palpable, the manager even doing a little jig and dance. It wasn’t just relief at the result and the three points but that finally this Arsenal team is taking advantage of the teams around them dropping points.
Whoever wins the league this season, it seems it’s going to be by default. With every team seemingly unwilling to charge of the title race, it will essentially come down to who drops the least amount of points.
It will be a tight one but I still think this team can still nick it.