22 February 2014

Arsenal 4-1 Sunderland: Player Ratings

After slogging and struggling through our last five or six matches, today's brought some well-earned relief as we went ahead of Sunderland on the fifth minute from a Giroud goal, to which he added a second 25 minutes later, outwitting Vergini to interecept a back-pass and nutmeg Mannone. By the time Rosický reprised il pornogol di Wilshere against Norwich just before halftime, it was all but over. Kos chipped in with a nifty header that left Mannone flat-footed. The only black mark was the goal conceded to Giaccherini, which ended the bid for a clean sheet and saved face a bit for the Black Cats, who fell for just the second time in fourteen matches. With Chelsea stealing a late win from Everton and Man City similarly squeaking past Stoke, both by 1-0 scores, the top of the table remains unchanged for another week. Let's take a look at how our boys did...

Starters
  • Olivier Giroud—9.72: A stellar return to the staring lineup, perhaps thanks to a rest, perhaps as a response to the challenge from Sanogo, as Giroud netted twice, the first a poacher's goal after Wilshere's shot/pass scraped across the box for Giroud to pounce on, and the second when Vergini attempted a back-pass that Giroud alertly anticipated and put past Mannone. He turned provider for Rosický, offering the final flick in a Norwich-esque sequence for Rosický to finish. 
  • Tomáš Rosický—7.99: Buzzing about, Rosický created havoc in all of the best ways. His pressure on Vergini forced the backpass for Giroud; Rosický pressed him but left open a path towards the goal, inviting the pass as the only release. On his goal, he collected a pass on the right flank, cut inside and passed to Cazorla, then running across Cazorla's pass to Wilshere, who laid it off for Rosický, who tapped to Giroud and continued his run into the box to slot home from Giroud's flick. In any other season, a goal of the season. Norwich still trumps it.
  • Laurent Koscielny—7.87: His sharp header to make it 4-0 will grab the attention, and on a day when we kept 65% possession, there would be little for him to do, but he did find time for two tackles, an interception, and two clearances. He only had 30 touches, so quiet was the outing for him. Well, on defense, at least. He exerted himself enough to put a bit of strain on his back, but he should be ready for next week.
  • Santi Cazorla—7.78: His corner-kick to Koscielny was perfectly weighted, curling far out enough from goal and into that Goldilocks zone where the keeper can't risk coming off his line but is still close enough for a teammate to finish. He was lively and productive all match, sending through-balls and crosses in to create chances for teammates and looked quite comfortable playing on the right.
  • Mikel Arteta—7.71: Back to his metromic best, pinging passes all around the pitch, amassing 121 passes and 136 touches (1st in the team) and ten accurate long balls (1st). He was reliably alert on defense as well, making three tackles (1st) and four interceptions (1st). His caution and ability to both disrupt Sunderland's attack and relaunch our own gave Wilshere more freedom to push upfield as well.
  • Bacary Sagna—7.51: Five clearances (1st), three tackles (1st), and a last-man tackle helped to preserve the lead. With most of Sunderland's attack coming down our right flank, Sagna's consistency and stolidity offered few openings, and it's a wonder that Sunderland didn't seek better chances elsewhere.
  • Jack Wilshere—7.28: Still not the kind of defensive display I'd like to see, but an improvement as he did register two tackles. he might have closed down Giaccherini better, but it was a well-hit one-time volley. Wilshere's involvement in Rosický's goal was part of three key-passes (1st), showing his importance to the build-up and in creating chances for others. His 123 touches were second only to Arteta's 136, showing how well the two of them can work together. Unfortunately, Wilshere may have picked up a little tightness in the hamstring, but he had to stay on because we'd already made three changes.
  • Lukas Podolski—6.91: Like Wilshere, he could have done a bit more on Giaccherini's shot, but he otherwise acquitted himself well, forcing a tough save from Mannone with a typically Podolskian hammer-shot. Still, with the amount of possession we had and how much of that went down the left (38%), we might expect more from Poldi than the two shots he took and the three crosses that went begging for a teammate.
  • Wojciech Szczesny—6.9: He wasn't called on to do much but has to be beating himself for failing to claim the cross that led to Giaccherini's shot; punching Larsson's kick sent it to the top of the box, where Giaccherini collected and struck it through the crowd. It appears to have slipped under the diving Szczesny, ending a run of clean sheets in the Prem but that's the extent of the damage.
  • Per Mertesacker—6.89:  Not a whole lot to report for Per, playing mop-up on a day when Sunderland could muster little possession and even fewer attacks. Still, he did make four tackles and made sure that there was very little to report on those rare occasions that Sunderland did make incursions forward.
  • Nacho Monreal—6.4: A very quiet, almost anonymous performance for the man, who came off at halftime due to an apparent ankle-injuy. With Gibbs nursing his hamstring and Arsene perhaps sensing he could get it away with, Jenkinson came on at halftime to allow Monreal to get treatment and stay fit for next week.
Substitutions
  • Serge Gnabry (73' for Rosický)—6.51: Despite making the shortest appearances of the three subs, he had the most chance to have an impact and nearly mad the most of the chance with two well-taken shots to test Mannone. However, this was well in the bag by the time he came on.
  • Carl Jenkinson (45' for Monreal)—6.36: As with most of the defense, not a whole lot to report after a fairly quiet day at the office. Jenkinson looked comfortable playing out of position, though it's hard to truly assess under the circumstances. He put a shift in and that's about as much as there is to say.
  • Mathieu Flamini (67' for Koscielny)—6.13: Versatility matters a bit, whether it's Jenkinson or Cazorla playing opposite their normal side or Flamini dropping down to center-back. Could we convert him to CB and then make Vermaelen a DM? Kidding. As with Jenkinson, a quiet, largely uneventful shift as we were comfortably ahead by the time he appeared.
All in all, a comfortable victory and one that was settled fairly early, which is a nice change of pace from the last few weeks. It would have been fantastic to see our rivals drop points, but that's out of our hands. Making the most of fixtures like this one is a vital ingredient to our own title-tilt, and it's one that we've struggled with in seasons past.