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First they battered and beat Stoke. Then they huffed and puffed and somehow held off Sunderland. Both times, the score finished 1-0 to the Arsenal, and both times, the Gunners faced adversity.
Now, no one will mistake this version of the Gunners for the "boring, boring Arsenal" sides of days past, but longtime admirers will recognize—and deeply appreciate—the team's newfound grit these past two matches.
Saturday was especially and unexpectedly satisfying. Arsenal went ahead deservedly through Santi Cazorla's first-half goal following a flowing move. And then, to little surprise, the Gunners misfired.
Inconsistency has been Arsenal's calling card this season, and the blight hit once again in the Gunners' finishing Saturday. Nineteen shots flew in, and eight hit the target, but Simon Mignolet's stellar keeping and Arsenal's own wastefulness meant the second goal would not come.
Then Jack Wilshere limped off early in the second half of another high-quality display. Then Carl Jenkinson was sent off for his second yellow card. Suddenly, all the ingredients were present for disappointment as Sunderland surrounded Arsenal's goal.
But Arsene Wenger's team held its nerve in a way that hasn't been evident often in recent seasons. The defense stood firm, led by the heroics of Bacary Sagna playing out of position in central defense, and whatever they missed, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny cleaned up in his best performance in months.
Said Wenger (per Arsenal.com):
It was tight in the end. It was a game with a high level of intensity where we showed brilliance going forward, but unfortunately we couldn’t score the second goal. We had to show another side in the second half, especially being down to 10 men in the last 20 minutes. We needed to be resilient, committed and deal with everything.
As the Gunners continue to push for a top-four spot, they'll have to bring more of the same.