It was a game that both teams needed to win for different reasons at the opposite ends of the table. It was a familiar situation for both teams as well as we were trying to stay in the top four/three (as usual) and Sunderland were trying to get out of the relegation zone (as usual).
So unfortunately for us it wasn’t a game that you want to play at this time in the season as it is easier to play against teams with nothing to play for with West Brom on Thursday being the prime example.
There were no changes from the team that beat West Brom as Giroud, Ramsey and Mertesacker all kept their places in the side but we did amazingly have Jack Wilshere back on the bench who hasn’t played since the FA cup final last year! How long will he stay injury free this time?
We started the brighter team with Iwobi coming closest but then Sunderland got into the game and could have scored when they hit the crossbar from a free kick.
It was a closely fought game before there was some controversy with both teams claiming they should have had penalties from handballs. Firstly Sunderland appealed when ex Spurs player Defoe’s shot hit Mertesacker but he was right next to him, it wasn’t deliberate and the referee got it right.
We then had an appeal just before half time when Iwobi’s shot struck their defender on the arm but this was very similar to their claim and the referee got this decision right too.
The first half ended with chances for us to open the scoring with Alexis Sanchez’s free kick well saved from ex Arsenal keeper Mannone before Sanchez had a header cleared off the line in what was a tense end to end half.
The second half started like the first with some chances as Cech saved us a few times but ultimately neither team could score.
Giroud in particular didn’t have a good game but he had few chances to score. He now hasn’t scored for 14 games which is his longest league run without a goal but he hasn’t started all these games as he has come off the bench. He was eventually replaced by Welbeck who I think should have started and he instantly showed why when he came on, arguably doing more than Giroud had done the whole game.
On the other end Defoe could have scored again when he looked to have lobbed Cech but fortunately for us it went wide.
As both teams looked for a winner Wenger brought on much criticised Walcott who put some good crosses in and Wilshere replaced Özil near the end and looked good. Will he go to the Euros? Sanchez and Welbeck both had shots saved and it annoyingly ended 0-0 which wasn’t what either side wanted.
The result was enough for Sunderland to get out of the bottom three though and we remained in 4th on the same points with City in third but they have a better goal difference. We are also only 5 points ahead of Man United who have a game in the hand so we are in for a crucial last three games.
Next up for us is Norwich at home next weekend before we play Man City away which should determine which team comes 3rd and 4th. This is important as whoever comes 3rd avoids the dreaded champions league play off game in pre season and is also at risk of missing out depending on what happens to Man City and Liverpool in Europe.
I don’t think we should be aiming for top four every season obviously but it is hard in the premier league and it could be a lot worse. I do think though that we should be competing for the league more than we have done and it might be time for a change soon if things don’t improve.
Will we finish in the top four and if we do is it good enough?