Boom Boom Giroud is Back, Alexis Sanchez Baby, Coq-Elneny our New Wall? Sunderland – Arsenal Match Review

Oliver Giroud celebrates after he scores his second goal and Arsenal’s third.

After a two hour drive through foggy hills of the very sparsely populated west-to-east very north of England, we ended up in sunny Sunderland with an hour to spare. After parking the car close to the seaside we made our way to the ground via the beautifully named Roker Avenue. The street had seen better days and the level of  littering was quite a surprise (thought those days had gone), but it is always nice to see local supporters of all shapes and sizes wearing the home and away shirts, slowly making their way to the ground.

Sunderland is a football city, let there be no doubt about it, and the Stadium of Light is a pretty perfect football ground, especially when the sun is out and sparkles everything into bright colours and the playing service looks like snooker-cloth. You would expect there to be a lot of unhappiness given the miserable position in the league table and the dire football on display, but the Black Cats supporters are thick-skinned and used to being in this position. They clearly were looking at this game as a bonus of some sort, already anticipating that bigger – my Sunderland supporting ex-colleague even used the word ‘harder’- games lay ahead for them. With that they mean games that they are supposed to win if they want to survive in the PL this season.

I said to my father in law that the warm weather is a blessing for us as it will make the game significantly less ‘up-northy’ for the players. In fact, the north east had about the warmest weather of the whole of the UK on Saturday afternoon and the Gunners were red hot from the start. After a minute silence, immaculately observed by both sets of supporters which in itself gave me a warm and teary-eyed feeling, the game was kicked off. Sunderland set back and tried to disturb our flow of passing but also tried to hem us in in our half by playing a high line at times.

We became sharper in our passing as the game went on and Alexis was steeling the show with his energy and creativity. He set the scene for us in the first minute by chasing the keeper down and getting the ball wacked into his face from close range. The Chilean is our dynamo, our first soldier in attack, who gets everybody going. It was no surprise that it was him who opened the score, even though it was with a Giroudesque header from a classical, speculative cross from around the corner flag. When the Ox put the cross in we did not expect anything else but a clearance but when you have the energy and anticipation levels, combined with bottomless confidence, of the Chilean, anything can be turned into a goal. How he got in front of the defender I still don’t know, but his header was brilliantly directed into the far corner leaving the keeper with no chance. We all went berserk and 5000 or so supporters sang the never tiring ‘Alexis Sanchez Baby’ song. Sunshine and smiles everywhere.

To be fair to Sunderland they did not sit back totally after that and tried to breach us on our left side. Everybody in the world knows there is no way through on Arsenal’s right side of the defence with Coquelin, Bellerin and Mustafi bossing the area, but on the left side we have shown vulnerability time and again this season. Wenger is giving Gibbs a chance now whilst our fantastic Nacho man is nursing a ‘Wenger-injury’ in his head. Fair play to Kieran who looked really up to the task and for the first time I saw a man on the pitch rather than a promising talent.

Kieran got some support from the regularly alternating ‘mid-wingers’ but it was Eleneneny who became his closest defensive friend, next to the beastly Koz of course. The beauty about Elneny is his awareness of space and filling the gaps intelligently with his runs and presence; and when he has the ball he is calm and passes it on with simplicity and efficiency. During the first half we still had some defensive breaches on our left but we looked less vulnerable than in other games, and during the second half we were very much a solid defensive unit. The combo of Coquelin and Elneny might not be as sexy as it can be to many, but it was perfect for this game. They bossed the midfield and kept the Black Cats in their own half most of the time and they fed the attackers with simple and efficient passes constantly.

Unfortunately, Arsenal did not push on enough for the all important second goal. Ozil could have had another hat trick yesterday and others, such as Iwobi and Ox, missed composure and technical control to kill off Sunderland for good. Nobody cared too much about Ozil’s wastefulness as the supporters’ favourite song on the day was without any doubt ‘Mesut Ozil, Mesut Ozil, I just don’t think you understand….’. We were missing another regular/natural goal scorer with Theo out and Giroud bench-grooming his beard. Luckily the latter was regularly warming up along the sidelines and the away support warmed him up further with the ‘Nananana’ song, which he really appreciated.

And then came the expected unexpected… we gave away a penalty out of nothing and the score was level. We should have had a penalty a minute earlier and it took an uncharacteristic mistake – was it a slip? – by the German man-hugger Mustafi, to somehow let them back into the game, but we did it to ourselves… and that is what really hurts.

Luckily, the ‘here we go again ‘glass half empty supporters’ favourite train of thought was quickly derailed with a blitz-krieg brace by super-sub Ollie. First he resolutely connected with his left thunderbolt foot with a fine wing-cross by Gibbs from around the edge of the box to put us in front, and a couple of minutes later he put the game to bed with the finest, almost delicate, of diagonal headers over the scrambling keeper from a fine corner by Mesut. 1-3 to the mighty Red and White North Londoners, and then Alexis added another with some very cheeky close control and finish right in front of the goalmouth.

The Sunderland support had enough and we wished them a good homecoming with the ‘cheerio’ song. The added ‘your f*cking sh*t’ song lacked collective levels of empathy and wasn’t for me, but there you go. We should have scored more after that but 4-1 was a pretty fine result that sent us top of the league, which we reminded the most loyal Black Cats supporters of with gusto of course.

On the way back, my FIL and I listened to the radio and were amazed and well pleased that both Spuds and Manure did not manage to take three points from their home games. The return of the fog around the hills did not dampen our spirits one iota. It is quite telling that those who some see as our biggest competition for the title, Citeh and Pool, also managed to thump their opponents with four away goals. Still early days of course, but after ten games we are joined top of the league with those two teams and have a very similar goal difference: are the three of us, all committed to good, attacking football, going to fight it out for the title?

This week we have two more big games to play. Away to Ludogorets FC we will need our full focus to get three points and probably qualify for the next CL round – a not to be expected but never impossible loss there, is to be avoided at all cost. And then of course we play the NL derby for a six-point gab opportunity and to go into the November interlul break with the warmest of feelings. Ooh to be…

By TotalArsenal.

20 thoughts on “Boom Boom Giroud is Back, Alexis Sanchez Baby, Coq-Elneny our New Wall? Sunderland – Arsenal Match Review

  • Good summary T,
    If only Giroud was availabale as a sub last week. Crosses were our only hope then. There was a large element of fortune on Ollies second, but just making contact gives you a chance always.

    A word about Alexis. As i will continue to remind you, Total, you were right, but not just because he’s scoring. His passing, assisting and all around play has gone up TWO levels from very good. His affect on matches, regardless of goals, also has. Playing fairly deep middle, he gets better opportunities to break up plays, tackles, interceptioms, and also more breakaways when le coq or someone else recovers the ball and gets Alexis off and running through the middle. His passing choices and accuracy are much better than we saw from him on the wing.

    I wish Arsene had tried it sooner. He is so improved, that deep down, I know Arsene is sorry that he didnt play him there 2 seasons back.

    And you have to admit, though there’s still plenty of room for improvement, Oxlade is slowly starting to have more effect on games. A bit more productive and under control in his play.If he continues this way, with his raw physical talent, we will have the best English player on our hands.

  • I forgot, also want to mention Gibbs.he’s been excellent. A perfect example of someone making the most of his sub appearances, staying sharp, hungry, and even improving. I don’t know who Wenger considers first choice , probably still Nacho, but im leaning towards Gibbs. He’s been even more dynamic and solid defensively.

  • Hi Johnnie, how is your Sunday in NYC? What do you do when you have a Sunday off (out of interest)?

    Was there luck involved in Giroud’s second? I did not see any but will have a look on in a bit.

  • All agreed re Alexis – he was superb in every aspect.

    Re Ox, is he improving? A bit maybe but I would like to see more of him to give him that. I feel he tired quickly after 60 minutes or so, which is understandable given his involvement midweek. He still is in and out of the game too much for me and his final decision making is still not at Arsenal first team level. But he produced a fine cross for our first goal and had good spells.

  • Great report from the man at the match…Cheers! I really like the reporting on the various songs from the away end…

    Sunderland’s tactics weren’t quite park the bus so they were still in the match after the first goal. They didn’t appear too threatening so letting them score with our one mistake was dispiriting. Luckily they tired and Giroud (and Ramsey) looked very sharp as substitutes. It will be very interesting how AW integrates them into the team moving forward. It seems like you might want both of them on the pitch for the critical parts of the NLD this time next week… The midweek match should give us some clues…

  • If I could add to JNYC’s comments re: Alexis…

    To me, I think it’s less about where he’s playing and more about just thinking about finding the final ball a bit more quickly. The one may have triggered the other, of course. He just looks like he’s prepared to find a teammate (or an attempt on goal) much earlier than he did when he first arrived at the club. Maybe it’s just a function of trusting his teammates a fraction more… The bottom line is that I think his improved play will continue whether or not he has to share the top of the pitch with Giroud…

  • Total , i forgot to mention ! You quoted radiohead. “You do it to yourself, and that’s what really hurts” great song called “just”. You should see the brilliant video on youtube.

    17, i will say, maybe some credit can go to Arsene for Alexis looking up and finding his teammates more, but I’m astounded by the quality of his passing with people on both sides of himself to choose from. The choices and the touch and accuracy. All That, plus his hard work, means … pay the man.

  • Cheers 17HT, I reckon Wenger was keeping Ollie and Rambo fresh for the November fixtures and he is unleashing them this week. It is like doping really: the team needs that extra shot in the arm and bringing on two Euros 2016 stars is just magic right now. It is also OGAAT for me this week: a win in Ludogorets is important as it will put a lot less pressure on the two remaining fixtures, which are both losable. And once that is over we can prepare for the Spuddies’ game.

  • I reckon the Chavs made a big statement today with beating the Saints. Those are three important points for them and keeps them right near the top.

  • TA, this is ringside reporting. I love it.

    Giroud was so pretty, it’s even gotten Wenger thinking of 4:4:2!! Or does he move Ozil wide (which he also mentioned as an option) and leave Sanchez centrally at the hole behind the striker Giroud. Sanchez’s energy, provocative style, and ability to set the high tempo pace for the team is best harnessed in the central forward areas (not tucked away wide).

    If Giroud comes into the starting team it would mean somebody has to give way. At the moment I’d say Iwobi who is beginning to look as if he would grow better if his induction is conducted at a slower pace.

    But then, in the sense of how Wenger summarized it, why fix what ain’t broken. Me? I would demand he keeps fine tuning. Maybe that’s my nerves. Wenger l guess knows how to keep his.

  • Sorry TA for not commenting earlier, dog issues.

    I love your report, as PE above put it, from the ringside, as it really does give the full flavour of match day. Sadly, I have to go back a long way to remember both the excitement, as well as the odd distasteful stuff that can go with it. You certainly picked a good game to go to, as it had it all.

    From a football perspective, if I am honest, I generally prefer the full match reviews, rather than ‘match day’. The problem I have with it, and I get the impression that you were sitting at a fairly low level, is the action near to you stays in the memory recall the stronger? So I will be very interested in any additional comments you may make if you get to see the whole match video?

    How things develop on the pitch from here will be interesting, and the Ludogoret”s game should reveal more clues. Key for me is finding the right substitutes for the ‘key players’. So far we no problem in these areas, playing the swift pass and move style;
    GK – Cech and Ospina
    LB – Monreal and Gibbs(good health continuing)
    But then it gets complicated:
    RAM – Walcott and Ox. It worked well Saturday, but not as like for like.
    RB – Bellerin and Jenkinson(sorry Waldo). Again, solid in one game, and linked well with Ox.

    From here on there is a need for other changes to be made, and/or slight change of style? Eg:
    CF – Alexis and/or Giroud? A confident Giroud against a tiring defence, brilliant. A less confident Giroud against quick tackling, where snapshots tend to be less precise ..mmmm? Together, they will compete for the same box area. Interesting that Giroud’s goals went to the right side, of the goal? Could this be the training ground solution?
    CAM – Free role Ozil and ??? Every solution here is inferior.
    LAM – Iwobi and ? Options yes, but nobody does what Iwobi does brilliantly, and lack of that brilliance has a knock on elsewhere. His quick feet, and off ball movement to make himself available to Alexis, Ozil, and Monreal as a safe ball is something they will miss from whoever tries to take his place. Defence, and the need for tracking back would be the trade off?
    DM/B2B – Options a plenty. Getting the balance right for different opposition styles has been problematical, and against stiffer challenges to come, it needs to be spot on. Apart from the regulars, I thought Ox put himself there, as a possible Cazorla sub? Different style, but he drives forward at pace … Plan A requirement. Then there is Maitland-Niles as a developing force. Ramsey may get his chance to prove his B2B credentials in the upcoming CL match? All three have to dislodge one off the following; Cazorla, Coquelin, Elneny, and Xhaka, and when balance is the key, this is still a problematic area?
    CB – Koscielny. Peerless. But we will pay a heavy price if we overplay him!
    CB – Mustafi and/or ? Holding or Gabriel? The latter might be a risk in the CL? We may yet see a need for the much maligned Mertersacker, as a sound choice. Possibly the most crucial of all?

    The team selection for this away leg CL game may well have a big impact on who plays Spurs on Sunday?

    Sorry for digressing away from your post TA, but that game and the one to come, will answer a lot of questions regards to the next 8 weeks. Injuries and suspensions are still a big worry? Especially the totting up of unnecessary yellow cards!


  • Well impressed with Gibbs display Saturday, I believe this is all down to Wengers man management skills, handing him captains arm band for EPL games has been a master stroke, he has shown his implicit trust in Gibbs.
    Regarding Giroud 2nd goal did anyone else clock Ozil shouting to him where to move to, to? then executing cross with such assurance, that boy is a genius.

  • Apparently, I was trying to type ‘Nana Nana, Giroud’, and I tried to stop myself from doing so, but failed. Oh well.., but he is such a super-sub that everyone loves him. Make him start against Ludogrets, and he will score a hat-trick, and bring him on as a super-sub against spuds, and score a hat-trick. Best dream ever.

    Rocastle07, I think you have made a typo error there.. It should be EFL, not EPL.

    Gerry, Bosscieny has a good understudy in Holding. so he is not peerless.
    And the free role goes to Rambo and Elneny. Santi is good as a B2B player, but the free-role line for him is so thin to the point that he is a mixture of both.
    The rest of what you mentioned is agreeable by me.


  • A little bit nerve racking but ultimately positive performance by Arsenal versus Sunderland. Based on their individual performances I think Bellerin (only 1 tackle, 1 interception and 1 key pass) and Iwobi (2 off target shots and no key passes) risk losing their starting position versus Ludogoret. In light of Giroud and Ramsey’s return to fitness and Arsenal in the midst of another 3 games in 8 days, I would like to see a little rotation for the Ludogoret match. Maybe:

    GK: Ospina
    RB: Debuchy
    CB: Mustafi
    CB: Kosicelny
    LB: Gibbs
    CDM Coquelin
    CDM: Xhaka
    RW: Ox
    CAM: Ramsey
    LW: Ozil
    CF: Giroud

    With that line up I’d be expecting lots of accurate crosses into the box from the likes of Debuchy, Ox, Gibbs and Ozil to target Giroud’s aerial strength and Ramsey’s surging off the ball runs into the opposition’s penalty box. That line up would also provide The likes of Cazorla, Alexis and Walcott some good rest ahead of the North London derby.

  • JK, I think we have a misunderstanding over the meaning of ‘peerless’. I mean that there is probably no equal in the whole of the EPL regarding Kos. Not that he cannot be replaced.

    Indeed, on the next line, when considering Mustafi I say Mustafi and/or.
    The ‘and’ means replacing Kos with Holding or Gabriel, but with Mustafi.
    The or’ means replacing Mustafi with either of those same players, but with Kos.
    However, there may come a time, either separately or together that Mertersacker will be a useful option to have, rather than Holding with Gabriel?

    I am slightly surprised that our CL game is still on for tomorrow and not Wednesday, given the Spurs game is on Sunday, Both at the convenience of BT Sport I dare say. It will be a quick turnaround for players who played the full match on Saturday though?
    I cannot see AW getting Alexis to sit out a CL game though. Gibbs too, would be on a run of three, along with a few others, but he is looking good right now, and was selected for the first leg for good reason. It will be no surprise to see Ramsey start, but Xhaka will have the freshest legs? Walcott is another, but might be saved for the coin tossers?
    That is the thing, it will never be about just the immediate game ahead, but for the players selected it will be OGAAT..

    This upcoming game will stretch AW’s little grey cells, and there may not be a ‘right’ solution, just a least worst scenario as he juggles his options?


  • Waldo, I think that is a highly possible line up … err, except for your one man promotion for Debuchy?
    With Jenkinson having played a full game in the EFL last week, and sub on Saturday, against someone who has only trained with the squad since pre-season defies logic to me?
    Any explanation you can offer would be helpful?

  • Chees Gerry, I watched the game again and I have nothing to add tactically. It is all in the original post. Alexis and Giroud were great and the rest did their job. The midwingers lacked intensity to make a difference in the game even though they had their moments. Ox produced a very good cross and Iwobi had a few good attempts that lacked precision/technical control. Elneny was quietly superb and le Coq added the fire in the spine that Alexis offers up front and KosMus at the back. A mature performance over all with some great goals. Really good to see Ollie and Rambo back.

  • It’s pretty simple Gerry, Debuchy is a better defender and his attacking output is superior to Bellerin and Jenkinson. If you look at all three players’ comparative per game career stats in the key metrics of tackles, interceptions and key passes, Debuchy is superior in all areas.

    1. Debuchy
    – Tackles – 3 per game (pg)
    – Interceptions – 2.3 pg
    – Key passes – 0.8 pg

    2. Bellerin
    – Tackles – 1.7 pg
    – Interceptions – 2 pg
    – Key passes – 0.6 pg

    3. Jenkinson
    – Tackles – 1.3 pg
    – Interceptions – 0.9 pg
    – Key passes – 0.5 pg

    Debuchy’s ongoing exclusion from the first 11 baffles me completely.

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