Arsenal vs. Sunderland: Winners and Losers from Premier League
Arsenal moved up to second place in the Premier League with a 3-1 victory over visiting Sunderland on Saturday.
Joel Campbell fired the Gunners into a 33rd-minute lead, but Sunderland pulled level just before halftime as Olivier Giroud put the ball into his own net. Giroud then restored Arsenal's advantage in the 63rd minute, and Aaron Ramsey applied gloss to the final scoreline with a stoppage-time strike.
Here, Bleacher Report selects winners and losers from the game.
Winner: Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil assisted yet another goal, setting up Joel Campbell for Arsenal's opener in the 33rd minute. That makes 12 assists for the German international this season, the best tally in the Premier League.
Actually, that's the most assists for any single player in any of Europe's top five leagues, per Who Scored. And as Opta's Michiel Jongsma noted, it's also the same number of goals Aston Villa have scored all season.
Ozil is creating chances and goals so consistently it's hard to come up with new words to praise him. As Squawka reported, the German has set up 10 goals in his last nine Premier League matches.
This latest assist showcased Ozil's superior vision, creativity and ability to execute an incisive pass. As Arsenal try to persevere through a difficult period blighted by injuries, their talented playmaker will be even more important than usual. Among other things, his talent raises the game of everyone around him.
"Ozil is insanely good," tweeted Yankee Gunner. "Dripping enough class to get some on everyone in an Arsenal shirt."
Loser: Arsenal's Ability to Hold a First-Half Lead
If it wasn't so predictable, Arsenal supporters might find it amusing. In recent weeks, whenever their team takes a first-half lead, that advantage inevitably evaporates before halftime.
In the 33rd minute, Joel Campbell scored the game's first goal with a low finish past Costel Pantilimon. Arsenal had yet to fully impress, but the strike seemed to set the hosts on course for a valuable win. But an Olivier Giroud own goal leveled the match in the 45th minute, and thus a worrying trend continued for Arsene Wenger's side.
Both of Arsenal's two previous Premier League games featured a nearly identical pattern. Two weeks ago at West Bromwich Albion, Giroud put the Gunners ahead in the 28th minute, but James Morrison leveled for the Baggies just seven minutes later. A Mikel Arteta own goal before the break proved the winner for the home side.
Last week at Norwich, Mesut Ozil fired Arsenal into a 30th-minute lead before Lewis Grabban equalized in the 43rd minute.
In all three matches, then, Arsenal scored after the midway point of the first half, only to concede before the interval. Injuries have taken a toll, yes, but the fact this keeps happening—and at such similar points in the match—suggests a problem with the team's mentality.
Arsenal did manage to recover and win this time, but the Gunners must find a way to hold leads more consistently.
Winner: Joel Campbell
Joel Campbell is one player who clearly benefits from the glut of injuries at Arsenal. The Costa Rican rarely sees the pitch in normal circumstances but is now enjoying a good run in the team.
So it was important for Campbell to mark Saturday's appearance with a goal. He took it well.
Mesut Ozil provided the chance with a typically excellent pass through the defense. Campbell ran on and side-footed past the path of the onrushing Costel Pantilimon.
With so many players out injured, Campbell's importance for Arsenal has increased significantly. Arsene Wenger will hope he can continue to contribute in the coming weeks.
Up next for the Gunners is a trip to Olympiakos in the UEFA Champions League before a game at Aston Villa next weekend in the Premier League. Wenger's men need points to remain competitive in both, and any offensive contribution will be welcome.
Winner: Petr Cech
Petr Cech excelled again for Arsenal in goal, generally providing a steadying presence in goal and keeping Sunderland out with a key save in the second half.
The crucial moment came in the 58th minute, when the score was still 1-1. Ola Toivonen headed on a Sunderland corner to Steven Fletcher, who poked a shot on target. Cech made himself big to ensure his side remained level.
Arsenal took the lead five minutes later and held it from there. Cech's save was thus critical to the victory.
Apart from a rough first game of the Premier League season, Cech has starred in goal for Arsenal this year. His importance to the squad only increases with the Gunners facing an injury crisis.
Winner: Olivier Giroud
Sure, he scored a goal at the wrong end, but Olivier Giroud turned into the match-winner with a good strike in the second half.
Aaron Ramsey played provider, curling a cross into the middle for Giroud in the 63rd minute. The Frenchman stooped to send his header past Costel Pantilimon for Arsenal's crucial second goal.
After conceding the equalizer late in the first half, Giroud could have felt badly for himself and let his frustrations affect his performance. Instead, he netted the winner.
The injury list is still alarmingly long, and Arsenal failed to hold a first-half lead yet again. The performance wasn't particularly impressive, but Arsene Wenger's side won 3-1 to keep pace with league leaders Leicester City and move up to second place ahead of Manchester City.
"Arsenal desperately needed a win there, & they got it," Bleacher Report contributor James McNicholas tweeted. "It wasn't pretty but it was enough."
And, almost unbelievably, the injury list actually lost a few names. Aaron Ramsey scored in his third game back from a lay-off, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott both returned from injury.
"It was important to get back to winning ways, close the gap at the top, and it was nice to do it in front of our own fans," Ramsey said, per BBC Sport. "Everyone is going to be taking points off each other—it is going to be tight all the way through—and we have to try and make the most of this busy period coming up."
Concerns remain, but Saturday turned out to be a good day for Arsenal.