An Alexis Sanchez double late in the second half was enough for Arsenal to beat Sunderland and keep up the pressure on Liverpool going into the final week.
Alexis Sanchez renewed Arsene Wenger’s hope of sliding into fourth place in the final week as he struck twice in the second half to hand to turn the tide firmly in favour of an Arsenal struggling to break down the already relegated visitors. The Sanchez double came in the final twenty minutes just when it looked like Arsenal had blown their chance with Man City winning their concurrent game against West Bromwich Albion comfortably at the time.
Both Sanchez’s goals were simple tap-ins, first off Ozil’s ball and then off Giroud’s, despite Pickford’s best efforts. The Sunderland keeper put in another impressive shift, making several big saves as Arsenal peppered their goal. The Gunners were desperate to score as many as they could, seeing as it could all go down to the wire against Liverpool, who remain two goals to the better in terms of goal difference. Until the Sanchez double, it looked quite likely that the Pickford might even carry his team through. But the Chilean was not to be denied in the end as Arsenal intensified their search for the winner.
11 – Jordan Pickford made more saves tonight vs Arsenal than he had in any other Premier League game (11). Potential.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 16, 2017
Arsenal will now need to make sure they win against Everton on Sunday while hoping Liverpool stumble against relegated Boro. The final matchday presents a several possible scenarios in which either team finishes with the coveted final Champions League spot. And that includes an interesting situation if perchance both teams finish level on points, goal difference as well as goals scored – a fourth-place playoff. Even if it’s improbable that things will come to a play-off, it charges up the dynamic considerably. And looking at the patchy attendance at the Emirates, it’s easy to see who’s under the greater pressure.
Poor turnout at the Emirates underlines the mood among Arsenal supporters at the end of a trying season
It’s not all too surprising to see Arsenal supporters agitating over the season’s performance or the uncertainty over the future. The “Wenger-Out” grows by the day as the season winds down. Doubts over whether the club can keep ahold of their only two superstars in Ozil and Sanchez has fuelled flames. The subdued atmosphere at the Emirates on Tuesday night was loud in its mirroring of the mood of supporters. And the players’ struggles on the pitch up until the Sanchez double compounded the bleakness.
Plenty of empty seats at the Emirates this evening as the players shake hands before kick-off. 👀 pic.twitter.com/LFWojkpf9o
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) May 16, 2017
While Sanchez did manage to beat the in-form Pickford in the late stages, Arsenal’s 18 attempts at goal didn’t flatter. A lack of decisive finishing up front plagued the Gunners for most of the night. And struggling against an already relegated Moyes side will not appease fans much. It’s too late now in the season for Wenger to lift the mood at the club. But it’s clear that it’ll take something drastic – whether it be his exit from the club, or his making sweeping changes geared to the loftier ambitions of his detractors – to dispel the clouds gathering at the Emirates.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the struggle to get a goal before the Sanchez double:
“We had plenty of shots on goal but we needed to be patient, and were frustrated at half-time not to be leading.
“We made 71 points and were second. But we now have 72 and want to go to 75. After that you deal with what happens.”
On the scrap going down to the final day:
“We’ve got in on the final day many times. Sunderland fought and you want that in the Premier League – that’s what you want from every team.
“We had a difficult patch after the Bayern game because it was difficult to recover. On the other hand it was a good mental test and we responded in a strong way.”
Arsenal had a whopping 36 shots against Sunderland tonight; the most they've managed in a Premier League game in any of the last 6 seasons. pic.twitter.com/abOz5meDAu
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 16, 2017
Sunderland Boss David Moyes on his team’s performance on the night:
“We were full of character and commitment and made it difficult for Arsenal for long periods and had good chances. We played well but Arsenal had the class to make the difference.
“Saturday’s game against Sunderland was not like I’d seen in the last month or so. Against Arsenal we got a good performance and if we got the first goal it could have been completely different.”
On Sunderland’s doomed trajectory this season and the road ahead:
“After I got in in August I didn’t think we had a squad capable. But it was what we’ve got, you have to try and ultimately we were just short.
“I’ll speak with chairman Ellis Short over the next few days. I’ve given him an indication of what we need to do and we’ll look to see if that’s possible.”