Arsenal took three valuable points after a hard-fought, and very tight, win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light today.
There was good news as initially Laurent Koscielny was passed fit to start, but the French international suffered an injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Carl Jenkinson, with Bacary Sagna moving to the centre-half position.
There were early chances for both teams, with Theo Walcott forcing Mignolet into a smart save with a left footed shot, while Lee Cattermole was booked for a typically clumsy challenge on Ramsey in the build-up.
Moments later Walcott hit the target again, but once more Mignolet made the save. Sunderland were obviously instructed to get heavy tackles in, and when Carl Jenkinson responded in kind the youngster picked up a 9th minute yellow card.
Stephane Sessegnon provided a moment of danger when he ghosted past Monreal into the box, but his cross shot was cleared. Theo Walcott then broke well down the left but couldn’t find Aaron Ramsey with the final ball.
Olivier Giroud then had a chance to open the scoring. The ball broke to him in the box, he pulled away from the defenders and on his good side fired a shot which went inches wide. The game then settled down a bit with both teams finding it hard to make chances.
Aaron Ramsey fired in a great shot which deflected, but again Mignolet saved. Arsenal opened the scoring moments later. Jack Wilshere went on a great run through midfield, he flicked a ball to Walcott who held it, laid it off to Cazorla who drilled home a left-footed shot to make it 1-0.
Arsenal continued to dominate and make all the chances. It was almost 2-0 through Theo Walcott. Sunderland lost it in the left back position, Giroud played it across the top of the box to Walcott, he took a touch then fired a shot which went just wide of the near post.
Again, Mignolet was the hero after a Giroud run and pass fell to Ramsey but from point blank range the Sunderland keeper prevented Arsenal doubling the lead just before half-time.
In the opening minute of the second half Sunderland were looking for a penalty when Sessegnon dived past Monreal, the ref waved the appeals away but nor did he book the Sunderland man.
Arsenal suffered a blow after just 5 minutes of the half when Jack Wilshere went off after another industrial challenge which went unpunished by a yellow card. Abou Diaby replaced him.
As Sunderland stepped up the pressing, Olivier Giroud shot just wide from the edge of the box before Steven Fletcher shot wide after Aaron Ramsey was dispossessed in midfield. Sunderland’s best chance of the game.
Santi Cazorla was the next Arsenal player to shoot just wide, just before the Gunners were reduced to 10 men. Carl Jenkinson picked up his second yellow card of the game for a foul on Sessengnon, he could have no complaints, even if the referee was abysmal all game long.
Aaron Ramsey was shunted to right back, and Abou Diaby should have scored after being set up by Monreal but his sidefooted shot was straight at Mignolet. Cazorla then shot over the bar, before Theo Walcott hit the post. Theo was set up by Cazorla, keeper came out, he lifted it over him and saw his shot cannon back off the post.
At the other end Wojciech Szczesny made a brilliant save from Fletcher after the referee ignored an obvious handball on the edge of the area. And the Polish keeper kept Arsenal ahead making a wonderful save from a Fletcher header. From the resulting corner Titus Bramble put the ball wide from 2 yards after it had bounced around the six yard box.
The home side piled on the pressure, Arsenal brought on Miquel for Walcott, and should have scored more. Giroud failed to pass to Cazorla, and the Spaniard returned the ‘favour’ moments later, but some brilliant defending, particularly from Bacary Sagna saw us hold on and take the three points.