Sunderland 1 Arsenal 2
The positive vibes continue to grow and a one-nil down, two-one up, injury time victory only makes things more encouraging. One team came to play football at the Stadium of Light yesterday and, while we couldn’t convert our domination of possession into clear-cut chances, Arsenal deserve real credit for not being thrown off course by conceding first.
Am I the only person to find Sunderland’s goal unsporting bordering on the shameful?
There was a debate in midweek on Radio 5 about the most sporting gesture people had ever seen on a football pitch and I struggled to think of any recent examples. Coming on a day dominated by the escalating Evra-Suarez enmity, the reaction of James McLean in exploiting Mertesacker’s obvious injury was – without wishing to go all Daily Mail – another, albeit smaller, example of behaviour typical in a sport that no longer values sportsmanship. Though having said that, had the tables been turned and we’d scored that goal I expect there would have been an outcry.
All three substitutions by Wenger were good decisions but the one that stood out was picking Ramsey to replace the BFG. Although you might think it was natural to start chasing the game having just gone a goal down, I thought he may have been tempted, with still 20 minutes to go, to bring on Gibbs in anticipation of the home side finding inspiration from taking the lead.
Instead, boldness paid off. We continued to take the game to Sunderland and, thanks to the invaluable contributions of the two other subs Arshavin and Henry, grabbed a very satisfying win.
We live in a fickle world, of course, and had Sunderland come out of their shells and scored again I would no doubt have been bemoaning Ramsey’s arrival. And had Henry not managed to pop up with his goal, I would have been lamenting not taking more than a point from a match we dominated. But these are the fine margins we operate in and currently things are going our way.
This was the first of eight or nine tricky fixtures and we’ve started in the best possible way. Fourth spot remains achievable if we continue to build our confidence and avoid the kind of brain-freezes that cost us points at Swansea. You can’t escape the feeling the spirit that pushed us to victory yesterday remains brittle and one ‘devastating’ defeat could quickly lead to two, three or four.
But for now we are on an upward trajectory and the Milan game on Wednesday is one we can look forward to.