Arsenal vs. Sunderland: Winners and Losers from FA Cup

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterJanuary 9, 2016

Arsenal vs. Sunderland: Winners and Losers from FA Cup

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    Arsenal's FA Cup title defense started with a 3-1 victory at home to Sunderland on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium.

    Sunderland took a surprising lead in the 17th minute as Jeremain Lens capitalized on an error by Laurent Koscielny, but Arsenal drew level eight minutes later through Joel Campbell.

    The hosts piled on the pressure in the second half and finally went ahead via substitute Aaron Ramsey in the 72nd minute. Olivier Giroud wrapped up the win three minutes later with Arsenal's third.

    "It was a test for us to come from behind," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, per BBC Sport. "There was a great mental response and there is a special solidarity in the team."

    Here, Bleacher Report selects winners and losers from the match.

Winner: Alex Iwobi

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    Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger gave 19-year-old Alex Iwobi his big chance Saturday, selecting the Nigerian in his starting XI. Iwobi impressed in a central attacking role tucked behind center-forward Olivier Giroud, completing what could be a breakthrough performance.

    The youngster quickly showed he was up for the occasion, taking a few good early touches and showing he was up to the speed of the game. His quick feet and strong decision-making served him well as he orchestrated a few chances in Sunderland's end.

    In the 25th minute, his pass to Theo Walcott on the left resulted in a chance that Joel Campbell converted for the opening goal. In the second half, he set up Campbell for another chance with a nice through ball, but Campbell couldn't finish.

    By the time he had made way for substitute Aaron Ramsey in the 67th minute, Iwobi was earning rave reviews. 

    "The pace and precision of Iwobi’s passing is very impressive," tweeted Arseblog.

    "Iwobi looks to make things happen every time he gets possession," tweeted Bleacher Report contributor Dean Jones. "(I've) been pretty impressed."

    If he continues in this fashion, Iwobi will see his first-team chances increase steadily.

Loser: Laurent Koscielny's Defensive Error

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    The result was comfortable for Arsenal in the end, but an error by center-back Laurent Koscielny in the first half could have turned this cup tie into a headache.

    In the 17th minute, Kieran Gibbs won possession outside Arsenal's box and, under pressure, passed back to Koscielny. With Jeremain Lens applying pressure, Koscielny tried to dribble out of the situation and instead gave away possession. Lens promptly fired in the opener past Petr Cech.

    Under such pressure, Koscielny should have simply cleared the ball into touch. It wouldn't have been beautiful football, but in this case, it was the correct move.

    The error didn't prove ultimately costly, but on a different day, it could have had deeper repercussions.

Winner: Hector Bellerin

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    Hector Bellerin tormented Sunderland throughout the match with speedy runs down Arsenal's right flank. His pace and precision crossing made him a potent weapon for the Gunners, who took full advantage.

    In the 72nd minute, with the score 1-1, Bellerin rolled a pass to Campbell and continued his run into the box. After receiving the return pass, he pulled back for an unmarked Aaron Ramsey, who side-footed into the net with the winner.

    Three minutes later, Bellerin was at it again. This time he sprinted down the right touchline to reach an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pass before rolling another accurate cross to Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman applied the finishing touch to seal the points with Arsenal's third goal.

    With blazing speed and dangerous crossing, Bellerin has made himself indispensable to Arsenal's attack. Mathieu Debuchy currently has no chance of winning back his spot in the team.

Winner: Joel Campbell

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    Joel Campbell scored Arsenal's first goal, applying a calm finish in the 25th minute following good work on the left from Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott. The strike was vital for the Gunners after falling behind, and Campbell showed excellent composure to side-foot into the net.

    The Costa Rican then contributed to Arsenal's second goal, freeing Hector Bellerin with a pass on the right before Bellerin provided the final ball for Aaron Ramsey. As this performance showed, Campbell continues to improve game-by-game. He's becoming a fixture in Arsene Wenger's plans. 

Winner: Aaron Ramsey

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    As impressive as Alex Iwobi was on this day, Arsenal needed a spark in the second half. Aaron Ramsey, his replacement, provided that spark upon his introduction in the 67th minute.

    The Welshman made instant impact, immediately giving the Gunners a new dimension with his energy and running. It was no surprise when he popped up in the box to score Arsenal's second—and decisive—goal, applying the final touch after making a late run into the area.

    It was a typically smart run from Ramsey, who used great timing and hustle to put himself in position to score the winning goal.

Winner: Arsene Wenger's Record in the FA Cup 3rd Round

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    Saturday's victory extended Arsenal's long unbeaten run in the FA Cup and maintained manager Arsene Wenger's impressive record in the third round.

    As Opta Joe noted before kickoff, the Gunners have not lost an FA Cup match since Feb. 2013, against Blackburn Rovers. That's an amazing run for the two-time defending champions.

    Even more impressive, however, is Wenger's streak. Since joining the club in 1996, the Frenchman still hasn't lost in the third-round, the point at which Premier League clubs enter the competition.

    Winning a third straight Cup will be difficult, but Arsenal clearly won't relinquish the trophy without a fight.