Arsenal 2 Sunderland 1

Robin Van Persie demonstrated the difference in quality and leadership on show at the Emirates, conjuring up two memorable goals as Arsenal secured only their third Premiership win of the season. Former Gunner Sebastian Larsson had threatened to rob his former team of all three points with a superb free-kick leveller to Van Persie’s 29 second opener. But as we awaited further goals from the Gunners, a more than spirited Sunderland threatened with Wojciech Szczesny not for the first time coming the rescue his team mates with a fine display of goal keeping of the highest order.

The bad memories of post international breaks of matches past were banished within 29 seconds as Van Persie netted the fastest ever Premiership goal and in an attacking first half, that promised much, more looked on the cards. Tomas Rosicky fed Gervinho and as Van Persie let the momentum of the ball help beat the defence, the Holland striker hit the target with his right foot. The celebration was one of relief over a tense and subdued Emirates Stadium.

The passing game of the past almost came alive with Van Persie seeming to want to see off the visitors on his own. His intelligence to drag the ball back from the attentions of Kieran Richardson created an opening and with the deftest of chips, he had the beating of Simon Mignolet, but agonisingly the upright came to rescue Sunderland and no Arsenal player was alert to a possible rebound. On fourteen minutes, Van Persie again worked an opening crafted from the neat interplay, and his 25 yard pile driver was marginally beyond Mignolet’s upright.

Gervinho, stationed wide on the left then cut in to work a chance that he struck wide with the goal at his mercy, and the Ivory Coast striker almost profited from Mikel Arteta’s corner, but Kieran Richardson tidied up away from the line. But this is an Arsenal emerging from the ravages of having their midfield creativity almost forcibly being removed from them. Larsson has amply demonstrated his talents since he left north London, and when Arteta handled needlessly, the Swede hit a free-kick of pace and precision to level beyond the outstretched dive of Szczesny.

The visitors then threatened the unthinkable. Carl Jenkinson divides opinion on whether he has the ability to be an Arsenal player and his detractors will jump on his error that almost gifted Lee Catermole and Sunderland the potential for a shock lead. Szczesny however was alert to the danger and the quality of the save he produced ensured the scores remained level.

Arsenal enjoyed a brighter second half, but still the nagging doubt of the defence remains. Theo Walcott’s sum contribution of the game was to switch sides with Gervinho – he was that anonymous! – and whatever it was then spread to the Ivory Coast striker in the second half, when he too failed to fire. When he did get going Walcott showed us why he craves a central role as only a foul by Wes Brown arrested the run of the Gunners’ 14. If Van Persie was the star of the show, then the support act will include Alex Song and another muscular midfield showing and especially against the threat of Stephane Sessegnon.

Andre Santos came on for Gibbs who picked up a knock, and his free-kick was optimistic at best. Arteta had also seen another free-kick off target, and when substitute Andrey Arshavin beat four defenders but struck just wide, Arsenal had established the ascendency. Brown gave away another free-kick and should have been further punished to his yellow. This time however, the free-kick was all the domain of Van Persie. From the right with his left foot, he deftly struck with all the precision and coolness of a predator, Mignolet was wrong footed as the ball nestled in the Sunderland net for Arsenal to restore their lead. Arshavin was denied by a fine Mignolet save as the Gunners went about their mission to see out the game, and but for a few defensive wobbles, they did just that, and to much Emirates relief.

It is a win,three more points and lets move on.This will help no end in trying to rebuild Arsenal’s confidence and the stability that is needed for the many challenges that still lie ahead.