Sunderland lost 2-0 away at Arsenal in our first of two London games this week. Two goals from Alexis Sanchez was enough to see off Sunderland, who showed an improved performance but unfortunately not to the degree where we could take anything from the match.
Swansea at home, the last Premier League match at the Stadium of Light, will be remembered as a match where neither the players nor the fans turned up. After one of the most pitiful performances in living memory, Sunderland supporters would travel down to London for the first time this week, with an Arsenal and Chelsea double-header to finish off a miserable season.
Lee Cattermole started in place of the ‘injured’ Jason Denayer, While Oviedo also dropped in to accommodate for Anichebe’s absence, 5 at the back. David Moyes suggested this week that a few of his players were feigning ailments to try to get out of playing against Arsenal, which honestly would not be surprising.
Arsenal started predictably well, putting a lot of pressure on Sunderland and retaining possession around the box. The home fans thought their team had gone ahead after the ball beat Jordan Pickford, but the replays would show it clearly struck the arm of an Arsenal player on the way into the net.
Sunderland would rarely get the ball out of their own half, but did manage a shot on target after Didier NDong challenged Petr Cech at his near post. NDong had earlier made a fool of himself by taking a fresh air swing in a good crossing position.
Arsenal’s quality was evident, with Sanchez always the player relied upon to make things happen, and Giroud the danger man from set pieces. Pickford made a series of solid stops to deny their most threatening attacks, though no clear-cut chances were carved in the first period.
The travelling fans would be treated to a collector’s item just after the restart, after Sunderland were awarded an indirect free kick following Cech handling a slack back pass from Monreal. With it being right on the by-line, Larsson had no option but to ingeniously scoop it over the wall of defenders, but Sunderland couldn’t convert as it was headed over for a corner. A very difficult situation to take advantage of, given the angle.
A glancing header from Giroud nearly broke the deadlock after 66 minutes, but Pickford saw it around the post. With the Frenchman having such an exemplary goal scoring record against Sunderland, it would not have surprised me to see that nestle in the corner.
Arsenal began to see the majority share of the ball after that, and it came as no surprise when Sanchez eventually found the net. Ozil slotted Sanchez in for a free shot on goal and he didn’t fudge his lines despite Pickford’s imposing performance.
Arsenal doubled their lead not long after when Giroud volleyed spectacularly towards goal. Pickford made a brilliant stop but unfortunately the ball fell to Sanchez again, who put it into the open net. Two cruel ways to concede after 70 minutes of hard work, but you couldn’t really argue against it.
Pickford had made a series of great saves throughout the match, and topped his game off by making an incredible stop late in the game, tipping a seemingly unsaveable shot onto the bar. Doing this live on Sky TV will hopefully increase his value, which is already estimated at over £20 million. Knowing Sunderland, though, we’ll probably swap him for Phil Jagielka.
The travelling fans had sold out the away end, and it was nice to see the players acknowledge them at the final whistle. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s at least nice to be appreciated sometimes.
Final score: Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: The Fatfield Finisher, Jordan Pickford.
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