Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Sunderland was satisfying, but should have been far less stressful.
It took until the 90th minute for Cesc Fabregas to put the game to bed after Nicklas Bendtner opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark. But it should have been done and dusted by that point with a host of chances going begging from the likes of Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky.
That it should have been a far more comfortable afternoon for our boys didn’t change the fact that Sunderland also had chances. Good chances, too.
The returning Manuel Almunia made two excellent blocks on Frazier Campbell and especially Darren Bent, while lanky striker Kenwyn Jones wasted a clear-cut chance by shooting wide in the first half.
For us to have so much ball and still give away three one-on-ones was disappointing but indicative of the disruptive nature of Sol Campbell’s absence and Mikael Silvestre’s return to the team. While his commitment cannot be faulted, Silvestre’s lack of pace meant that as long as the scored stay at 1-0, Sunderland were always in it.
After hitting the bar through Bendtner and creating a couple of other chances, our opening goal came from a superb assist from the best player on the day. Emmanuel Eboue, brought into the team in place of Bacary Sagna to provide more attacking thrust, drove forward from his position at right-back and drew three players before feeding Bendtner with an unmissable opportunity.
It wasn’t the first time Eboue would get forward with purpose and he was supported well on the right by a bubbly if inconsistent Theo Walcott. His brain doesn’t seem capable of keeping up with his feet just yet but this was something of a return to form.
Other strong performances on the day came from Aaron Ramsey, Samir Nasri and the increasingly vital Alex Song.
The team’s only defensive midfielder dominated the centre of the pitch all day while Nasri played with far more purpose than in recent weeks. Meanwhile Ramsey showed why he should remain ahead of Denilson in the midfield pecking order with a performance of determination and desire. He might only be 18 but the presence he exerts is that of a 25-year-old.
The final word goes to the captain who both won and converted the penalty that sealed the game.
Cesc seemed despondent after the midweek loss to Porto but showed again that he is the main man in this team, grabbing the ball once he was fouled and making sure of the points. That he had the confidence to step up after missing our only other penalty this season, against Stoke, just shows what a composed and responsible leader he has become.
So another three points gathered and with United losing to Everton and Chelsea hosting Manchester City next weekend we remain well and truly in it.
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