Arsenal v Sunderland: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Michael Regan

Reviewing Arsenal's 4-1 win over Sunderland

On Saturday, Arsenal did something they haven't done all season: they dispatched a clearly inferior team with minimal fuss before 45 minutes were up. Arsenal's two biggest wins this season have been 4-1, and both have featured jaw-dropping team goals.

The Good

  • Olivier Giroud returned to Arsenal's line-up after a two game stint in Arsene Wenger's doghouse for some extracurricular activity. While it was only Sunderland, Giroud looked fresh and sharp in a way he hasn't since late October. He took his two goals well, with his second a particular fine finish after good pressing and anticipation, and a nice cheeky nutmeg of Vito Manonne. His flick for Tomas Rosicky was also nice, and quite a more of those came off. A fresh Giroud is an important asset for Arsenal: while he may struggle to convince against the best sides, and there is a reasonable suggestion that Mesut Özil's best football in the last month, last weekend against Liverpool and in the first 15 minutes against Bayern Munich, is partially because Yaya Sanogo looks to stretch play and go beyond defenders, Giroud has won matches this season, and 16 goals in 35 games is nothing to sneeze at.
  • News that Tomas Rosicky is signing a new contract is quite welcome. The period of February to May is when the Czech has shone in the past two seasons, and he looks to be doing so again, after an excellent display on Saturday. Wenger was particularly complimentary, saying "When he arrived, he was less a tactical player and more the Mozart from Prague," Wenger said. "He was purely a creative, offensive player. But today, he is a real organiser as well. He gives a real structure to the team. He is one of the players who plays the game of give-and-move and he is a great accelerator of the game. He always makes things happen, not with individual dribbling but with individual acceleration of his passing and his runs. His goal was one of the top goals we have scored." Rosicky will be important in the run-in, especially with Arsenal's upcoming fixture list. He tends to play in the big games, precisely because of his style of play, and there's an argument to make that he should be a guaranteed starter when Arsenal travel to Chelsea and host City next month. While his goal record isn't great, his energy and the way he quickens the tempo would make him a valuable asset, perhaps on the left, instead of Santi Cazorla, who has struggled in big games during his time at Arsenal.
  • Bacary Sagna played three positions on Saturday, and played them all well. It's nice to have that level of commitment and versatility in the squad (see Rosicky), and it would be great if he stayed.

The Bad

  • Keeping a clean sheet is always nice, and while Szczesny couldn't do much about Giaccherini's strike, he'll be annoyed. But if you allow long shots to happen, as Arsenal do, one will occasionally fly in. On the other hand, they're better than shots from the 6-yard box.

The Ugly

  • Arsenal finished with a back four of Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Bacary Sagna and Mathieu Flamini, which is less than ideal. If Arsenal are going to sustain their Cup run and Premier League title chase, they'll need everyone to remain fit. Injuries to Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny, though minor, will have caused more than one Arsenal fan to panic while their side were 4-0 up.
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