Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland - Daily Mirror match report
Published 22:01 16/10/11 By John Cross
Robin Van Persie went to great lengths in his captain’s column in the Arsenal programme to stress his “commitment” to the club.
He need not have bothered. He could have saved his words on how much he loves Arsenal and even finding his new dream home in London.
The Dutchman proved it on the pitch with his stunning two-goal man-of-the-match display as he pretty much won the game for the Gunners on his own.
It was hardly convincing from Arsenal. They looked good in fits and starts but appeared vulnerable at the back and it was a nervy afternoon at the Emirates.
With Arsenal in need of a hero, van Persie stepped forward. Having scored the quickest goal of the season after just 29 seconds, he showed again he is Arsenal’s Captain Marvel with a glorious late winner.
He now has 28 goals in 34 games this calendar year
Before he struck it seemed Andre Santos, Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott were in a competition to see who could hit a free-kick highest over the crossbar.
With time and hope running out, van Persie grabbed the ball and showed how it should be done, curling a 25-yard free-kick into the top corner of the net.
He whipped off his shirt in celebration – earning a booking – and, in that moment, proved he will give everything to the cause.
Of course, he always drops short of saying he will sign a new contract. That will more depend on what Arsenal do this season. At least they’re now in the top half.
It looks as if it will be another nervous wait for Arsenal fans to discover whether another crown jewel will be sold, having lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer.
And perhaps van Persie promises to be the most wretched and painful saga of all because he has become so important to Arsenal, far more so as a one-man show than Nasri or even Fabregas.
Maybe that is because of Arsenal’s decline. He stands out more now than Fabregas used to because the Spain midfielder had more good players around him.
Van Persie’s opener with a brilliant low shot past Simon Mignolet sparked 25 minutes of the best football Arsenal had produced all season. They passed well, moved quickly and created chances.
Van Persie produced another moment of magic on 12 minutes when he turned Kieran Richardson and chipped Mignolet only to see the ball hit the inside of a post and bounce out. But Arsenal’s bright start faded and Sunderland threatened. Stephane Sessegnon, outstanding as a lone striker, went close in the 26th minute and Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny was grateful to his defenders for clearing the danger.
The reprieve did not last long. Mikel Arteta, again disappointing, needlessly handled and Sunderland’s former Arsenal trainee Seb Larsson curled in a stunning free-kick from 25 yards to level.
Sunderland should have taken the lead – only Lee Cattermole will know how he did not score with a header from three yards.
Suddenly, home fans were becoming restless. The mood was not helped by the succession of appalling free-kicks blasted over the bar. The grumbles became louder.
Andrey Arshavin’s introduction as a 67th-minute substitute turned the tide and his extra quality – including a stunning solo run and shot – lifted spirits.
But it was van Persie who sparked the real celebrations. There was almost a groan as Arsenal got another free-kick. This time it was on the right of the penalty box and perfect for van Persie’s brilliant left foot.
Judging from the celebrations after the goal and at the end, you would have thought Arsenal had won the league.
But with the start the team have had, fans savour every moment. They should cherish every last bit of van Persie’s genius.