Sunderland V Arsenal: Rating the Gunners Players
This is the first time I've been asked to rate the performances of the Arsenal players in a game, and I'll do my best to be as fair as possible. It's always that bit easier to rate players when they have won a game, and thankfully Arsenal managed to get a last gasp winner.
The man to score that goal was the legendary Thierry Henry, and it was fitting for him to do so in his last game for them in the Premier League.
The average score out of 10 for a player is 6 in my rating, and I'll try to be as fair as possible in my assessment.
Wojciech Szczesny had very little to do in the first half of the game, but when he was called upon in the second half, he wasn't found wanting. He made two excellent saves from Craig Gardner at a time when Sunderland were on top, and they proved to be crucial.
Despite playing so well, there was absolutely nothing he could do about James McLean's superb finish for Sunderland's goal.
Overall I was impressed with Szczesny's performance, and the score I have given him reflects that.
Thomas Vermaelen has been asked to play at left-back for Arsenal for a while now, and he has performed admirably. He does play in that position for Belgium, but normally he would prefer to play as a central defender. Defensively, Vermaelen was as strong as he always is and he tried as much as he could to join in with the attack too.
He's not a natural wide player, but he did as much as he could to support Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as Arsenal tried to get behind a resolute Sunderland team.
When Sunderland looked dangerous in attack, it was never on Vermaelen's side and he can be happy with his performance on the day.
Bacary Sagna has been missed by Arsenal for the last few months as he recovered from a broken leg. This was his first full game back in the Premier League, and his contribution was one of the factors in Arsenal's strong defensive display.
Sunderland never looked like opening up either of Arsenal's full-backs, and it was great to see Sagna back in the team doing what he does best.
He tried as much as he could to support Theo Walcott when Arsenal attacked, but it wasn't easy to penetrate a packed Sunderland defence. I'm sure his attacking instincts will return over the next few weeks, but it was most important that he got his defending right.
Laurent Koscielny seems to get better week by week in the Arsenal team. He is rarely troubled by the opposition, and he was at his best again against Sunderland. Fraizer Campbell has looked very good since his return from injury, but Koscielny marshaled him so well that he never got a chance to score.
Koscielny also tried to support the team as they went forward, but again his defending was the most important part of his game.
When he resumes a central defensive partnership with Vermaelen, Arsenal will have a formidable pairing to match any team in the Premier League.
Per Mertesacker was having a good game when disaster struck for him with 20 minutes to go. He tried to take the ball under control when there was absolutely no danger, but he went down in agony with an ankle injury.
Unfortunately for Mertesacker and Arsenal, McLean took advantage of his injury to put Sunderland ahead.
The goal was by no means Mertesacker's fault, and he will probably be out for quite a while with his injury. Besides that goal, Mertesacker was solid on the day and rarely troubled by a Sunderland team that showed very little adventure.
Alex Song played the defensive role in front of Arsenal's back four as he usually does. He rarely looked troubled by a Sunderland team that was intent on stopping Arsenal from scoring, and trying to hit them on the break.
Song's passing was a little sloppy at times, as his concentration seemed to wane a little.
He is the first-choice player for Arsenal in his role and he might just need to feel some pressure on his place for him to perform a little better. He dropped back to a central defensive role when Mertesacker went off injured, and he looked comfortable in the role.
Mikael Arteta is Mr. Dependable for Arsenal, as he keeps the whole team ticking over. He plays the pivotal role in midfield, and he is always looking to get on the ball. His passing range is excellent and he never gave up trying to drive Arsenal forward against Sunderland.
It was his deflected shot which led to Aaron Ramsey equalising for Arsenal, and from there on, they were favourites to win. Even with time running out, Arteta never stopped doing the right things and Arsenal got their reward in the end.
Tomas Rosicky has had to wait for his chance in the Arsenal team this season, but he has started their last two games in place of Aaron Ramsey. He was always looking to get on the ball and drive the team forward, but his passing was a little wayward at times.
Despite getting into good positions, he was unable to pick out any killer passes and he hasn't scored in so long that he seems to have forgotten how to do so.
He still played very well in a game in which Arsenal struggled to create chances against a defensively minded team. I'm sure he will see plenty of game time between now and the end of the season.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has eventually gotten his chance in the Arsenal team over the last few weeks, and he has looked up to the task. He found it hard to get any space against a defensively minded Sunderland team, but at least he never stopped trying.
I'm sure he will play an awful lot better in plenty of other games for Arsenal this season and in the future too.
The game will have been a good lesson for him in how difficult life in the Premier League can be no matter how good a player is. Chamberlain got very little space to operate in, and he has to learn how to deal with tight marking in the future.
Like Oxlade-Chamberlain on the other side, Walcott found it hard to get into a match where he was denied space. He is at his best when opponents push up and he can use his incredible speed to run behind their defences.
With Sunderland sitting deep, there was very little opportunity for him to make a break.
He did have one good shooting opportunity in the first half, but his effort was wide of the far post from an acute angle. I was a little surprised that he was kept on for so long, but his replacement was the man who managed to make the winning goal for Arsenal.
Robin Van Persie
Robin van Persie is the leading scorer in the Premier League so far this season and he's in superb form at the moment. He found it hard to find space against a packed Sunderland defence, and his attempts on goal were very limited. He did have one header late on, but it was straight at Simon Mignolet and the keeper wasn't troubled by it.
As always, RVP gave all he had for the Arsenal cause, but it wasn't one of his better games. I'm sure he will score plenty of goals before the season ends, but he never looked like doing so yesterday.
He scores so many of his goals from cutbacks, but the Arsenal wide players never managed to penetrate the Sunderland defence to make those chances for him.
I was a little unsure about Thierry Henry returning to Arsenal on loan from the New York Red Bulls. I didn't know if he would have anything to offer the team, but I am delighted to say that he really proved his worth.
In just over 90 minutes of action for Arsenal, he scored three goals—and two of them were game-winning goals.
He came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain against Sunderland to play in a wide role, but he moved to a central role as Arsenal looked to find a winning goal. When Andrey Arshavin played a fantastic cross in injury time, Henry was where any good striker should be to poke the ball home. He celebrated with the Arsenal fans after the goal and at the full-time whistle too.
It's difficult to judge what influence he had in the dressing room during his few weeks on loan at Arsenal, but his influence on their season could be immense.
The victory over Sunderland was a very important one for Arsenal, and it was Henry who got the crucial goal. The rating I have given him reflects every single goal he scored for the team.
Aaron Ramsey had looked tired in recent games and he was left out of the team last week against Blackburn. I was a little surprised that he didn't return to the starting 11 against Sunderland, but when he came on, he had an immediate impact. He latched on a blocked shot from Arteta to score from the edge of the box for Arsenal's equaliser.
He may have only been on the pitch for 20 minutes, but he had a huge impact, and I think he will start against AC Milan on Wednesday night. As Arsenal tried to grind Sunderland down in the closing minutes, Ramsey showed plenty of enthusiasm and energy, and the break looks to have helped him.
Andrey Arshavin has had a poor season by his standards so far this season for Arsenal, and when he came on with three minutes lef,t I didn't expect too much from him.
However, his contribution was telling in the few minutes he played and his cross for the winning goal was quite superb. He had two Sunderland players on him, but he managed to get in a cross that went over the defender's head and straight on to the boot of Henry.
Hopefully, that assist will be the boost Arshavin needs and he can return to the form he showed in his first season at Arsenal. He was one of three substitutes who turned the game around for Arsenal, and showed the advantage of having a strong bench.
It's not easy to rate a player on a few minutes of play, but his contribution in that time helped.
That's it for today. See you tomorrow.
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