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At times, it was a frustrating evening at the Emirates on Tuesday night with Arsenal still bringing the bants, despite the season being nearly over.
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez combined again to bring great relief to the Emirates on what looked destined to be a 0-0 thanks to Jordan Pickford despite Arsenal battering Sunderland.
A second from Alexis makes sure the Champions League ‘race’ stays alive until the final day, much to the relief of Sky Sports who would otherwise have nothing to talk about with the title and relegation places already decided.
Poor officiating helped the proceedings gather a proper comedy air, but, to be fair, Arsenal didn’t really need the help.
Arsene Wenger opted to against rotating too much and the heavy legs made sure that Arsenal struggled at times. Completely dominating in all areas for large periods, Petr Cech was still vital to keeping Arsenal in the game. But not anywhere near as much as Pickford who made 5 gazillion saves.
Here’s how the players did individually:
Petr Cech 8
Had far more to do than he was probably expecting before kick-off. Saved well at the feet of Defoe and at the near post when N’Dong should have been flagged offside. Yes, that’s right, near post! Made a few other saves too and showed some lovely chest control.
Rob Holding 7
Could have scored but got his header all wrong, but we love him anyway. Are we sure he only cost £2m? Had more shots on target in the first half than any other player.
Shkodran Mustafi 7
Didn’t really notice him much which is a good thing. Or a bad thing. I’m not sure. Then he popped up to hit the crossbar from a corner, denied by Pickford who showed how he will not be at Sunderland next season.
Nacho Monreal 7
Reborn in this new system, be it as a centre or wing-back. His backpass was just for giggles.
Hector Bellerin 6
Took a yellow for the team with a deliberate handball on the halfway line. Could have had an assist, but was selfish and went for goal himself only to smack the near post. Hasn’t blossomed in this role as many thought he would. Perhaps his ankle really is buggered.
Granit Xhaka 7.5
Is there a sweeter left-to-right passer of the ball in the Premier league than Granit Xhaka? No. The answer is no. His pass to Ozil in the build up to Alexis’s goal was just a thing of beauty.
Aaron Ramsey 8
His understanding with Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil is almost telepathic at times. Absolutely thriving in this system alongside Granit Xhaka. Found his passing range from the start and naturally got injured in the second half.
Kieran Gibbs 5
You wouldn’t think Nacho would be the better attacker in a wingback position, but he is.
Alexis Sanchez 8
If there’s such a thing as ‘Arsenal DNA’ then this man does not have it. Usually, a kick at Stoke means a few months out, but Alexis returned just a few days later to start against Sunderland.
Scored a cracker, with a little help from Olivier Giroud’s arm, but as is he isn’t a big English lank, it didn’t count. Spent large parts of the game shouting at people for getting in his way. Then he scored. And scored again. Also tried an audacious chip that almost came off. The usual, really.
Mesut Ozil 7
Had a great game. Combined brilliantly with Alexis to break the deadlock. Ghosted around the pitch like Casper on a turbo cloud.
Olivier Giroud 6
Spent a large part of the game making fans go ‘ffs Giroud’ which is this season’s version of ‘unlucky Theo’. Looked like he was running through treacle at times. Should have a penalty when the Sunderland defender decided he’d like a hug, WWF-style, but Roger East’s hair clearly got in his eyes as he waved it away. Grabbed an assist with an acrobatic shot that was parried by Pickford.
Question – What is a Lucas? He was fit enough to (reportedly travel to Stoke) but again no place for him, even on the bench.
Danny Welbeck 7
Brought his dancing feet and a great save from Pickford shortly after coming on. Lively as always.
Alex Iwobi 6
Looked keen to impress again after being benched for ages. Won a dangerous freekick on the edge of the box.
Theo Walcott NA
Replace Olivier Giroud with 6 minutes left. Still had enough time to make people go ‘unlucky Theo!’