Match Report: Arsenal 4-1 Sunderland - Too Many Dreamers, Not Enough Action

Michael Regan

In what was supposedly a good warm-up for Wembley next week, it seems far too many Sunderland players had their minds on the other side of North London as Arsenal battered Sunderland.

Things got off to a terrible start for Sunderland when Olivier Giroud handed the home side the lead after just four minutes.

Having utterly dominated possession from the kick off and Sunderland prepared to sit back and watch Arsenal pass it about, the pressure eventually told when Jack Wilshere wriggled into the box and found Giroud who swept the ball past Vito Mannone from close range.

Slack defending from Sunderland, with Marcos Alonso the most notable culprit as he merely stood by and watched Giroud score rather than do anything about it.

As the opening stages continued, Sunderland were reluctant to learn their lesson from the opening stages and continued for some reason to give Arsenal all the time, possession and space they required, with the next phase of possession resulting in a Santi Cazorla effort straight own the throat of Mannone.

It took a solid ten minutes before Sunderland could string two passes together, and a further five minutes before they entered the Arsenal half with any attacking intent.

Following an Arsenal corner Sunderland managed to break with speed and with men over. Ki Sung-Yeung fed the ball wide to Marcos Alonso who's low cross was intended for Fabio Borini, however a slight deflection off Bacary Sagna allowed Wojciech Szczesny to gather before the Italian could nip in.

Both sides continued to trade blows, with Arsenal landing more of theirs by far. Lukas Podolski used his hammer of a left-foot to sting the palms of Mannone who did well to turn a powerful strike away for a corner. Meanwhile, an Adam Johnson freekick granted Sunderland a corner which was easily gathered by Szczesny.

Things seemed to be leveling off after the initial dominance of Arsenal, but just as seems to be the case with Sunderland down the years they proceeded to immediately shoot themselves in the foot with lazy and sloppy play, giving Arsenal a 2-0 lead.

Passing about lethargically at the back, Santiago Vergini gave it to Phil Bardsley who in turn passed back to the Argentine. Vergini has impressed in recent weeks, but this was an epic blunder as his under-hit back-pass to Mannone was intercepted by Giroud who's first time finish poked the ball past Mannone.

It wasn't long before it was 3-0.

Credit to Arsenal for some wonderful passing and quick touch football, however it was aided massively by Sunderland defenders being stood like lemons -- literally in this seasons away kit.

Anyway Arsenal passed it about with some style and aplomb, eventually leading to Tomas Rosicky being put clean through one-on-one with Mannone with the Czech midfielder chipping the ball over an advancing Mannone.

For all intents and purposes Sunderland were out of this after five minutes. That set the tone for the game and it continued throughout the opening half. The whistle eventually blown for the half with Arsenal holding a 3-0 lead, and it could have been so much worse.

Gus Poyet rung changes at half time with Emanuele Giaccherini and Seb Larsson coming on to replace Jozy Altidore and Adam Johnson, neither of whom had a great half. Not that anyone did mind you. If Poyet could have made ten changes I'm sure he would have.

The changes seemed to have a positive impact. Larsson involved immediately to give the now central Fabio Borini a shooting chance which Wojciech Szczesny fisted away.

Sunderland did their best impression of Arsenal for the first ten minutes of the half, clearly getting some sort of reaction from Poyet's half time tongue-lashing. Things appeared to be going alright... and that's when things always turn for the worst.

A 'clearance' from Vergini was nearly sliced into his own net but thankfully went wide for a corner. Not that it mattered much as from the resulting corner Laurent Koscielny had the freedom of the penalty area to head the ball powerfully past a static Sunderland.

Ten minutes in which Sunderland vaguely threatened to get back into the game, immediately back to square one.

From then on it was merely a procession for Arsenal. Under absolutely no threat, all the fight gone for Sunderland both you, me and everyone else wondered why on earth we were still watching the final half an hour.

In a moment of generosity Arsenal gifted Sunderland the chance to take a shot at goal. A long ball to the back post was met by an on-rushing Ki who saw his effort rebuffed by Szczesny with 20-minutes left to play. Ki did fantastically well to get on the rebound and keep the play alive before Larsson ended any hope of capitalizing on the Korean's good work by giving away a cheap freekick.

In an effort to keep Sunderland fans interested Poyet brought on Nacho Scocco for Ki Sung-Yeung. The Korean hadn't had one of his better days, but it seemed anyone being left on the pitch was merely for the punishment rather than the worst offenders being brought off.

Scocco did very well to latch on to a clearance and put Giaccherini in behind the Arsenal defence. A chance? No, don't be silly. The Italian opting instead to faff about with it before letting Per Mertesacker take the ball off him with ease before even looking like getting a shot away with 15-minutes to play.

Sunderland were presented with another chance when Giaccherini won a freekick in a good position 20-yards from goal. This lead to as close as Sunderland would come to scoring as Larsson flashed the ball with power an inch wide of Szczesny's goal.

The hardy souls who had traveled to London deserved some reward. They actually got some mild reward when the deficit was reduced through an outstanding strike from Giaccherini.

A freekick was whipped into the area and never properly cleared by the Arsenal defence. The ball fell nicely to Giaccherini who was lurking around 25-yards from goal and half-volleyed low into the bottom corner with ten minuted to play.

Scocco attempted to stake his claim for a spot in the side next week but saw an effort at goal sail harmlessly wide, while at the other end substitute Serge Gnabry shot from similar distance straight at Vito Mannone as we entered the final five minutes.

Sunderland found themselves in a promising position with ten minutes to play, however Giaccherini, Scocco and Larsson all combined to fluff their lines and not get a shot at goal.

The three minutes added on at the end counted for nothing. Arsenal merely running out time and putting Sunderland out of their misery by knocking the ball around the visitors like they barely existed, almost reminding them that despite having a couple of chances and giving them a goal, they were still very much in charge of the fixture.

This was the most turgid of turgid performances by Sunderland, who just didn't look up for the game at all and looked entirely more focused on securing their place in the team next week at Wembley. It had completely the opposite effect as on the basis of this, not one of them should even be boarding the bus to London next weekend.

We'll have more match reaction right HERE in our stream later on, so check it out.

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