Arsenal should have won this game in a walk, but once again the fragility of their defense and overall lack of team confidence saw them just holding on to a 2-1 victory at the Emirates. In the first fifteen minutes of the match, it looked like Arsenal were going to run away and hide. Van Persie scored just 20 seconds in the game, and squandered two more gilt-edged chances seemingly before Sunderland ever had possession of the ball. Sunderland eventually settled into the match and tied it, unexpectedly, on a beautiful free kick by former Arsenal-man Sebastian Larsson. Once again, the Gunners proved susceptible to a set piece. That goal visibly deflated the Arsenal team's confidence, and only a fine save by Wojciech Szczesny kept them level at 1-1 as they limped into halftime.
In the second half, Arsenal dominated possession almost as much as in the early going of the first half, but Sunderland looked more dangerous throughout on the counterattack. Finally, Van Persie gave Arsenal the victory with a beautifully taken free-kick from just outside the box, after he was fouled. The Dutchman, who outperformed every other player on the pitch, is looking more and more like Dennis Bergkamp (which is about the greatest compliment I could bestow on any player). But going forward this season, he's going to need more help. The young Gervinho looked good in the first half; and second-half sub Andrei Arshavin looked like he's finally beginning to round into some decent form. Alex Song provided strong presence in the middle of the field, although his passing was a bit off today. I'm still waiting for Mikel Arteta to show a bit more offensive aggression as he settles into his job as midfield quarterback for the Gunners. But I've long since given up waiting for Theo Walcott's game to mature. They say you can't coach speed. In Walcott's case, apparently, you can't coach passing or shooting either. I think it's time for Wenger to give the younger and more promising Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a chance on the wing.
Arsenal are still in search of a comprehensive victory to boost team confidence and their prospects for a Champions' League place for next season. Their home game next Sunday at Stoke should provide a decent opportunity.