Arsenal 2 (Bendtner 27, Fabregas pen 90) Sunderland 0
For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t able to watch the match in full, so can only really comment based on extended highlights. The good news was twofold – a) we got back to winning ways, and b) United lost for the sixth time this season, and are now just two points ahead of us. The bad news is that Mark Lawrenson now thinks we can win the league, which given his prediction record ends our challenge right here.
Having not seen every second of the action, I can’t give a blow by blow account, and given that it is now Monday morning, you’ve probably seen that elsewhere anyway. So instead, here are a few thoughts:
It is strange to think he was ridiculed only last season. When called upon this campaign, he has been bright, skilful, direct and dangerous. And he seems to have lost his bonkers side, or at least hidden it well. Right now, he is a viable alternative to Sagna when we need our full backs to roam forward, and is an extremely valuable squad player.
Not everyone’s cup of tea, you cannot deny that he brings something different to our play. Whenever he returns from injury, his touch is heavy, but that will improve with time. Good to see him get his goal, as it has been a while since his last, a fact that can play on the mind of a striker.
Watching the extended highlights, it was clear that Walcott was having an up and down day. Terrorising McCarthy one minute with devastating pace, he was fluffing a good position the next. Match of the Day presented a completely different story – by omitting Theo’s worst moments they made his performance look electric. That he is worrying opposing defenders again can only be a good thing, but he has some way to go yet. Hopefully he will continue in the right direction – we know he is about a lot more than just pace when his game gets going.
We could have had six against Sunderland, but equally they could have had three. Nice to see Almunia return with a clean sheet, and he had to make a couple of very decent saves to preserve it. But we cannot allow the likes of Sunderland to waltz through so easily. Silvestre was having a nightmare at the back, which can’t have escaped Wenger’s mind. But console yourself with the knowledge that the veteran is actually fifth choice now when everyone is fit.
Our title challenge
Is definitely on. Chelsea are in the box seat, but face City next (not that they looked particularly threatening against Liverpool yesterday), and have plenty of tough fixtures to come. We have Stoke at the weekend, but will for once be more rested than our opponents, who face an FA Cup replay on Wednesday night. United dropping points was a lovely bonus.
It was a penalty, and it was given. I’d forgotten what it was like to get one, after the ridiculous number we’ve had denied in recent months, but it was a good way to complete the game. Steve Bruce’s complaints about the decision was classic deflection from the shortcomings of his own team.
Another seven days without a game, our second such gap in quick succession, should give the players the breather they need to head strongly into the latter stages of the season. Following the Chelsea defeat, we all agreed that an unbeaten run was required. We’ve started it well.