What would we do without our captain? This afternoon Robin van Persie put this Arsenal team on his back and carried them to victory single-handedly, scoring both goals in a crucial 2-1 win against Sunderland. It was essential Arsenal walked away with all 3 points today at the Emirates; any other result against this lacklustre Sunderland squad would have been disastrous. The Black Cats are really struggling this season and lack any significant firepower up front so anything but a win would have sent the Arsenal faithful home shaking their heads and muttering curses once again.
In the programme before kickoff van Persie put an end to the speculation concerning his future at the club: 'I am committed to Arsenal, and that's how it is, despite people (in the media) making up stories.' It's wonderful to hear those words from my favourite player but I haven't been losing any sleep about the prospect of him joining Manchester City in the near-future. Stories like this are 99% gossip most of the time and we'll cross that bridge when we come to it anyway. I have no worries that Robin will leave us and I expect him to sign another contract. You can read more about his pre-game programme notes here.
It didn't take the Dutchman long to back up his words: 29 seconds to be precise, the fastest goal of the Premier League season and what I believe ties the record for fastest goal in Premier League history. Van Persie let a sharp pass from Gervinho roll across him until he got it onto his right foot before unleashing an unstoppable drive into the bottom corner leaving Sunderland 'keeper Mignolet helpless. 1-0 to the Arsenal and just the start we needed. Ten minutes later and the captain nearly doubled the lead, and in the most spectacular way imaginable. On the edge of the penalty area, van Persie received the ball onto his left foot with his back to goal, before suddenly spinning away from Kieran Richardson and audaciously chipping the ball over Mignolet with his right foot. The ball hung in the air for an age before it hit the inside of the post and crawled away from goal to save Sunderland's blushes and preventing what would have been an absolute classic of a goal. The move to free himself from Richardson was incredible, Bergkamp-esque in every way, and if the ball had just drifted slightly to the right it would have been one of the best goals in Arsenal's history. Watch it here, mesmerising stuff...
Unfortunately the Gunners couldn't grab that important second goal and whadda you know, Sunderland go down the other end and score. Former Arsenal man and current darling of Swedish football Sebastian Larsson curled in a delicious free kick that instantly made me regret us ever getting rid of him. It really was a peach of a goal and credit must go to Mr Larsson because he didn't celebrate the goal; you could see he really made a point of showing respect to his former club. If I'd have been in his situation I'd have gone absolutely mental with joy at having scored such a brilliant free kick. Within five minutes of going level Sunderland nearly took the lead, but for a marvellous save from Szczesny, saving what should have been a certain goal, point blank stuff. The young Pole kept us in it for sure.
With Arsenal being typically wasteful and consistently suspect in defence, the game had Sunderland stealing a late winner written all over it. Yet it wasn't to be and it was the home side who were destined to grab the late lead, Arsenal scoring the winner with only minutes left. With roughly eight minutes left and the score level, van Persie had a free kick from just outside the box. He proceeded to produce a trademark beauty, curling his left peg around the ball which whipped over and around the wall and into the top corner. Cue celebrations and huge sighs of relief all around, Arsenal had finally taken the lead to make it 2-1 and it was all down to that man again, captain van Persie.
Overall a much needed 3 points and a morale lifting victory. Van Persie has been on fire this season and if he can just stay healthy this Arsenal squad will be so much better for it. Without him we are sitting ducks, dead in the water, and our hopes of playing European football next year go out the window. God forbid anything happen to our star striker and my favourite Gunner. I will literally cry...
Thanks for reading.