First things first: After a rough five-game stretch that included Arsenal's two main title rivals, and saw our lads get a mere six points on fifteen possible, it's great to get a win, even if it's against a team as relegation-ready as Sunderland. We did our usual TSF crew post-game emailing and came up with our collective banter on what was good, bad, and ugly. Here are our perfectly reasoned HOT SPORTS TAKES.
Alexis, You Guys: I, for one, am loving the Alexis era, and his brace in the Stadium of Light just adds to the ever-building lore. Flamini told the post-match press corps, "He could be as good as Henry," which sort of demands a "Slow your roll, pal," but also clues us in to how much the squad is digging the Chilean. Opponents, be warned: Do not dawdle or goof around with the ball when Alexis is near. Alexis will make you pay.
The Last We've Ever Seen Of The 4-1-4-1: I'm trying to type that into manifestation. Even though it was Flarteta in the double pivot, the more familiar 4-2-3-1 was a welcome sight and helped defensive shape, which leads us to ...
A Clean Sheet: And not just a clean sheet, but a clean sheet where an opponent only had three shots on target the entire match.
Arteta and Nacho's play: We made Nacho our somewhat-surprising Man of the Match, and we generally thought Lego Hair played a solid match.
Schadenfreude: While Arsenal was taking care of Championship-bound competition, City lost to a frisky West Ham, United tied Chelsea on a late equalizer, Spurs lost to a Newcastle team that stole the Sounders' jerseys, and Liverpool and Hull drew 0-0. That all helps us in the table, and with our most ardent rivalries.
Whatever Ox Was Doing While On the Pitch: C'mon, Ox, you're better than that.
Offensively Unproductive Offense: Here's a stat -- 63 percent possession and two shots on goal in the first half. The second half involved lots of Spaining it around the field until someone got jittery in the final third and dumped it into a stripey jersey. I apologized to my City friend watching the match with me, and we'd just seen his team get Big Sammed. Take away Alexis' ability to pounce on mistakes, and we're looking at 0-0 and two more dropped points.
Chambers at Right Back: Some days, it works. On Saturday, it wasn't great.
Cazorla's Impromptu NFL Trial: Santi Cazorla's two late-game skyballs into Row Z would have been gorgeous if they'd been splitting the uprights over at Wembley for yesterday's Lions vs. Falcons NFL action. Instead, they were aggravating misses on what could have and should have been game-clinching goals. Is this really the same player who free kicked Arsenal out of the Valley of Darkness in the FA Cup Finals?
Mannone's Late Game Howler: While his mistake ultimately allowed Sexy Beast to put the game away for Arsenal, Vito Mannone is one of those Arsenal alumni you felt good about moving on and getting his chance. After giving up 10 goals in two games, and with Cesar Pantilimon as Sunderland's goalkeeper-in-waiting, that late-game derp might have been the one to sentence poor Don Vito to the bench.