Arsenal put in another solid display against Sunderland on Tuesday night to continue their push for a top 4 position
The Gunners endured a frustrating first half filled with half chances and some fine saves from Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and Arsene Wenger’s side were definitely made to work for their victory.
However, a fine second half performance was enough for the hosts to see off the already relegated visitors and pick up precious three points, with Manchester City also winning their match against West Brom 3-1.
Sunderland had a few chances early on through Didier Ndong and Jermain Defoe and looked like they could threaten Petr Cech’s goal but as the game wore on, Arsenal slowly wrested complete control of the match.
They were finally rewarded on the 74th minute for their resolute performance, with Mesut Ozil putting in a brilliant cross for Alexis Sanchez to slot away. The Chilean superstar was on hand just 8 minutes later to put the game beyond doubt when he slotted past Pickford, who could only attempt to parry the ball.
It was an important victory for the Gunners who will have to wait until the weekend to learn which European competition they will be playing their football in. We take a look at some of the key talking points from the game.
When the Gunners look like they are back to their best, Mesut Ozil does as well. The German is definitely a player capable of individual brilliance, but he is truly at his magnificent best when his teammates are raising their level to match his creative ability.
The midfielder was simply phenomenal last night. Everything positive flowed through Ozil and the German completed two dribbles, had 111 touches of the ball (the most of any player on the pitch) and made a quite ridiculous 12 key passses last night.
His assist for Sanchez might not have looked particularly spectacular but the decision-making that preceded it as well as the technical ability it needed were quite simply sublime.
1: The decision & weight of the pass to Xhaka
2: The Spin & footballing picture
3: The Acceleration
4: The half volley assist pic.twitter.com/rNzu03mQXA
— Woz (@wozthegooner) May 17, 2017
Sanchez and Ozil have combined several times this season, and the duo share an almost telepathic relationship on the football pitch, which just goes to show what Ozil is capable of when he has real quality around him.
Should the German World Cup winner decide to stay at the Emirates next season, it would be something approaching a travesty for Arsene Wenger not to surround him with more quality as this not only makes Ozil a poorer player, it is detrimental to the entire team.
Just how many times has Alexis Sanchez been the man to rescue Arsenal this season? The Chilean is their best player by far and he was on hand yet again to score both Arsenal’s goals last night, on a night that looked like it could quickly become a disaster for the Gunners.
Despite carrying an injury and reportedly only passing a fitness test 5 hours before the match, Sanchez was still his usual energetic, tenaciously brilliant self. Sanchez completed 4 take ons and scored two goals on a night that he wasn’t a 100%.
The Chilean looks almost certain to leave Arsenal at the end of this season so Gunners fans should enjoy his final game of the season as much as they can. It will be a shame to see a player who shows so much passion for the game leave the club, especially when it is filled with players who have consistently shown a lack of passion and fight over the last few seasons.
33 – Alexis Sanchez has been directly involved in 33 PL goals this season (23 goals, 10 assists), more than any other player. Update. pic.twitter.com/UBsD3PWNfg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 16, 2017
Along with Jermain Defoe and Didier Ndong, Jordan Pickford was one of the only players who actually looked like they were trying to get a result at the Emirates last night and the Englishman most definitely does not deserve to go down with the Black Cats.
Pickford made a ridiculous 11 saves last night. Some were brilliant, some were expected but one thing is for sure – the Sunderland goalkeeper will definitely not be short of suitors this summer and it is highly likely we will see him plying his trade in the English Premier League again next season.
Sebastian Larsson was tasked with the unenviable job of trying to stifle Mesut Ozil and the Swede failed at that spectacularly. While he is not known for his defensive duties, he showed a complete lack of fight and was his performance was symbolic of Sunderland’s performances as a team this season.
For a player who was once known for his passing and shooting ability, Larsson also looked like those tags were completely unwarranted last night. The midfielder did not attempt any take ons, had no shots on target, made no key passes and made no tackles against the Gunners. Simply not good enough.
Analysis of impact
This performance showed that Arsenal can be solid with their new 3-4-3 formation – something the Gunners fans will be hoping they can carry into next season. However, next season could be a very different one for the Gunners.
Given how the results around them went, it seems as though Arsenal will have to settle for Europa League football next season. Manchester City do not look like they will drop points, while Liverpool should easily dispatch Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Despite this, there were positives in the performances of several of Arsenal players on the night and the Gunners must use the example of the last few weeks to build a successful title challenge next season.