You have to give it to the boys. It is not easy playing catch up when the games are running out. Sunderland had nothing to lose and Moyes showed that he can still instruct a team to give a much better team a hard time. For a long time Arsenal struggled to find the opening despite trying very hard. It looked like it could be one of those days, but then a moment of quality between three great players – Xhaka-Ozil-Alexis – broke the deadlock.
It really is not easy to keep believing we can still finish in the top four and to play with conviction and a high tempo after so many games in quick succession, but all eleven selected players were up for it. And if it was not for the magnificent, young and clearly very talented Pickford, we could have won with a monster score tonight. I am very proud of the boys for their attitude and the tempo they played with. That is all we can ask for.
I thought Xhaka was the anchor in midfield. He positioned himself brilliantly and had a lot of the ball. His natural desire to sit back a bit and control play from there is vital for the new formation and the team. He always knows what to do next and his passes are quick, sharp and attack-minded. Rambo makes the physical connection between midfield and attack with his energetic and aggressive runs and Ozil always makes himself available to help the two out. I thought Mesut played a superb game and was my man of the match.
Alexis had both the goals, and to me it is clear he is our CF going forward. He still loses a lot of balls through his relatively poor passing ability (especially attacking ones), so why not play him as our main man up front? Having said that, Giroud also played a good game in the centre tonight. He got very close to scoring himself, but it was his team play and hard graft to create space and connections for others that pleased me most.
The wingbacks disappointed tonight in terms of creating and taking opportunities. This is the position we need to invest in if we want to get full value out of the ‘three at the back’ system… but that is for next season. Bellerin can still improve but Gibbs is really struggling to add incisiveness to his attacking play. Still, he worked hard and he is Arsenal through and through. At the back we were mostly solid with Holding looking confident and sharp and Mustafi and Nacho adding a lot of bite to our game.
This win will keep the pressure on Liverpool and to some extent Man City in the very last PL game of the season. But more importantly for me, it also keeps our momentum going towards the imminent FA Cup final. I wrote a while ago that I am no longer watching CL games as a result of dubious refereeing and the competition being devoid of any romance. So qualifying for the much more exciting UEFA league is not a bad thing at all, especially if we can finish the season on a high by winning FA Cup for a record thirteenth time.
It is great to be a Gooner and a big thanks to Arsene and the players for finishing the season on a high.