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Arsenal Versus Sunderland: Missing The Point

What a different Arsenal team this is from the one which faced Sunderland all those weeks ago. Months ago in fact. I don’t know if your memory stretches all the way back to October when we last played the Black Cats but I had to go and look up the game to remember it – possibly the result of so many hours of footy consumed in the intervening period, possibly the simple degenerative effects of great age, who knows? What I discovered was this starting line up

Szczesny

Gibbs

Mertesacker

Chambers

Monreal

Cazorla

Arteta

Alexis

Flamini

Oxlade-Chamberlain

Welbeck

 

and it made me realise that I have an idea of the Arsenal first team now, an idea I didn’t have for much of the last season or the one before that. Just look at that list. I only count four players who we now consider as first choice and one of those started out of position. What does this tell us? Well not a whole lot to be fair. Just that when Arsène has most of his players fit he isn’t the kind of manager to tinker and rotate for the hell of it. If you get a place in the starting line up then as long as you keep doing the right things you will keep it. In truth the comparisons between the side to which we’ve become accustomed and the one that travelled to the Stadium of Light last year tells us the story of our season.

Back then we were ravaged by injury. Players were on and off the physio’s table, swapping positions, never getting a chance to build partnerships and understandings. There were new faces trying to fit into a disrupted squad and some older faces struggling to find their best form, players were in and out like a dog in a butcher’s doorway. Once things settled down and people began to return from the knackers yard and actually remained fit for more than two games the season took on an entirely different aspect. The embattled, struggling, disparate ensemble of 2014 became the slick, mean winning machine of 2015.

Granted we’ve stumbled in the last couple of games and it would be absolutely peachy if we could get back into the swing and win our final three, that would set up next season just beautifully. As you know I missed the live match on Sunday but I managed to get to the highlights without hearing the score. Sadly some chump did announce that Man U were leading and a glance at the old Timex told me the game was well into the second half so it was pretty much ruined for me as a spectacle. Never mind, it was good to see Theo score albeit through a deflection. Would I have swapped that lucky break for one against Swansea at home? Probably not. If we had to lose against one of those two I’d rather it wasn’t the red Mancs.

By the way if you were listening to the incoherent rambling with which I fill the space in between the music during my radio show you’ll have heard the precise moment at which I remembered that we have a game tonight and I had a blog to write today.  Please accept my apologies therefore if things come across a little rushed and sleep deprived but as I get older I find it harder to function properly on anything less than twelve hours kip per day. How could I have forgotten we were playing? Well I have started to ease away from social media now that all people want to do is fantasise about breaking up our wonderful team and buying everyone else’s players. It’s boring. I can do without reading it and of course I avoid the radio and the papers for the sake of my sanity.

 As far as tonight goes my exhaustive research indicates that Laurent Koscielny’s fitness is in doubt. All I can say is I hope he gets better in time for Wembley. Such an unsung hero deserves the reward of a final, as does young Hector and judging by Arsène’s comments Debuchy’s frustrating first season looks like continuing. He definitely won’t feature tonight and so must be uncertain of playing again before the summer break. Talking of which I am for the first time in a long time looking forward to a bit of time away from the footy. Foreverheady pointed out recently that with the World Cup filling last summer this has been a marathon of football virtually unbroken since August 2013. If Santi looked a little jaded in the first half on Sunday it’s no surprise. I only have to watch him and I’m starting to feel the strain a little. Thank goodness we have the Ashes this summer, it’s just a shame the tour doesn’t start a little earlier.

This is a strange time of year isn’t it? A sort of post pre season period where odd results can and do get thrown up. Aston Villa got tonked the other day as, so I’m told, did Chelsea. There is a sense of players performing with one eye on the deck chair. Blogs are moving over to summer transfer insanity leaving actual football behind them until the autumn and the ribbons are being ironed in preparation for Wembley and the descent of the final curtain. The generously proportioned lady may be gargling the warm honey but our boys still have a job of work to do.

Sunderland certainly won’t come and lie down, they need a point from their last two games to be safe and if they don’t get it against us they have to get it at Stamford Bridge. Of course Hull may do them a favour and lose at Old Trafford but our visitors cannot be certain and so will fight every bit as hard as Swansea did. We will need to be on our game tonight and I’m confident that we will be. Surely we will have better fortune in front of goal than we did last Monday. As much as I love an exciting game I don’t want to go through another night of hammering at the door and fumbling for the key. A first half goal will suit me just fine and of course the over riding prayer is no injuries, please.

Although Sunderland find themselves in danger of going down, they have been in reasonably good nick lately. Of their last six games they’ve lost only one and are unbeaten in their previous four. The league positions can be deceptive, that’s all I’m saying, sides at the bottom can be tough to play against in the final fixtures. Which is why I don’t think we’ll see wholesale rotation tonight. Enforced changes of course but don’t expect to see a Carling Cup line up when we still need a point and are facing a determined, motivated side.

I’m sorry but there really isn’t much more to say. I could guess the starting line up (Theo and Gabriel in, Santi and Kos out) advise Arsène on tactics (score more than the opposition) and tell you next weeks winning lottery numbers (08, 14, 15, 22, 31, 33, 40 bonus ball 19) but you know and I know that all the other Arsenal blogs do that sort of thing so much better than I ever could so what would be the point?

Truth be told I expect a similar experience to that which we enjoyed last Monday evening, and if we can cap the great football with some goals then it’ll be a lot more relaxing to watch. Win tonight and we can all look forward to the visit of Pulis in our pre cup final last game jamboree on Sunday. Actually that scares me more than the thought of losing tonight. The idea of that man sending his troops out to kick our lads before such a massive game is so horrific that I really, really want the job done and dusted tonight. Perhaps then we can encase certain players in bubble wrap and leave them on the shelf on Sunday and let their understudies face West Brom. You never know I might get to see my beloved Tomáš start just one more time. That would be a treat all in itself. Anyhoo,  I’m off to put the coffee on and begin the long countdown to the match.  Hmm, ten hours to go. Maybe I can get in a little power nap between now and kick off – give me a shove if you haven’t heard from me by eight o’ clock would you?

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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75 comments on “Arsenal Versus Sunderland: Missing The Point

  1. Good deeeeeeefence from the visitors.

    Though at time the arsenal midfield could manage to lull the line of nine I the six yard line up towards the edge of the box the just couldn’t find the runner or the pass beyond into the momentary space before the line retreated (back to six yards!).

    Ithis might have been similar to what Villa will be up to in the final after their big defeat to a passing team.

    Good practice for the final.

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  2. At least we didn’t lose! But I am worried about our loss of form so close to the FA cup final. The Villa game plan will be a no brainer so we have to find a way to break down the massed ranks of defenders. I just hope it has not become a psychological barrier on our part.

    Bright spots for me tonight were Aaron, Kos and Ospina. Otherwise there were some tired looking performances by our superstar players tonight, but that’s to be expected occasionally I guess. I hope they’ve worked through that by the time it matters

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m struggling for analysis of that game.
    Arsenal threw the kitchen sink at them in the 2nd half.

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  4. I have the advantage of watching the game now for the first time and knowing the score.

    After 35 minutes however let me make clear, having watched is create chance after chance after chance, I DONT FUCKING BELIEVE IT !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. On another evening we would be 4-0 at HT

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  6. Someone should tell Sanchez that after 50 games, the vast majority of which he has played the full 90, he is supposed to be suffering from fatigue.

    Tonight he looks set for another 50 and a few rounds with Mayweather to whet his appetite

    They just don’t ‘get’ the EPL these foreigners

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  7. where would we be without konscielny? mert had a blinder though….but this laurent…where? how? who? found him?

    if i were wenger…hah! … i woul ddiscipline aaron. tonight his role was dme and his was in the box all the time. a stupid early yellow. nevermind.

    the forwards need to stop playing like silly kids too….noone was making any movement in around the box and the times anyone would move would be to come to the ball when we needed people making runs and opening space..they all wanted to come, pick the ball and be the playmaker…,,its no coincidence theo’s directness offered the only chances to win the game..

    its either that they were tired and mentally coresed or they agreed to share the points in the dugout..everyone happy.. also noone wants to get injured now so motivation is 50-50… all reserving for the final..good boys…

    dc sorry i couldnt make it..had to run …im the boy who cried wolf…

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  8. debouchy will have a very tough time getting back in the team.. bellerin is unbelievable really. so assured and confident in his ability… even if he makes a mistake he will save the day. . ok he had a tough time vs young but he is learning.

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  9. Superb finish by Olivier on 56
    Great save

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  10. I thought we were a bit unlucky there – chance after chance. Admittedly a lack of hitting the target on clean chances, Sunlun verging on the kamikaze on protecting their goal.

    Some great football though, creative, no evidence of fatigue – bit more clinical required

    Liked by 1 person

  11. no not unlucky …just silly…. they all want to come to ball and be playmakers…giroud and ozil were played plenty of times to make the shot..they played it back..always.. ozil knows football but is afraid to take people on/ chances on and shoot..giroud always looks for the flick when at times he should be looking to finish. sanchez is tired mentally and makes the wrong decissions. it is a bit awkward that in the last 4 games wenger has not opted to rest/rotate. without coqlin or flamini we have no structure and its so unorthodox watchign santi as anchor man. ramsey should be more disciplined. thank god for konscielny.

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  12. My impression of Sterling’s agent, Aidy Ward by name, is that he is a raving lunatic. Would any sane football club sign his client with him in tow ?

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  13. Passenal

    Are you going to the FA cup screening at the Emirates?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The Sterling Network (Brand Raheem) will be a joy for any club to deal with!

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  15. I going to profer some tika-tactical masala to last night’s game, please indulge me:

    I made the comments on Chambo and Welbeck before the game. Not just for mental freshness and rotation because I thought the balance was just off? Too many lefties in forward areas last night? Just a thought.
    Alexis was the only right forward, on the left. This resulted in some but not enough runs to the bylines or simply runs behind.
    Ozil switched to the right for a spell second half, no sure about the first, overall I think Alexis roamed the left and centre so I think it was an instruction for him to leave the right for others.
    Ramsey when he plays there mixes it up, can run outside by usually only a couple of times as he’s looking for excuses to get closer to goal or the centre.

    There was another classic bellerin defensive moment last night when a Sunderland forward in the clear on their left just gave up out of fear for the onrushong hector and made a poor pass forward to koscielny – very funny, not the first an definitely not the last time we’ll see that.

    But Debuchy’s experience and leadership would’ve been invaluable against the likes of Monaco. It’s all good, I didn’t complain when Monreal was signed and I’ve quite enjoyed having two CL quality LBs who can cover for each other when injured or fatigued: I think the younger Gibbs finds it easier to find his rhythm when coming on or into the team after a break, that might be enough of a reason for Nacho to have the nod at the moment ahead of him, he’s in good form and there’s no need to break his momentum.

    No need to worry about FBs at the Arsenal. It’s all good.

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  16. And with a much more experienced Jenkinson to add to the pot come the start of next season Fins

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  17. bellerin ..plenty of momments ..my favourite one is first half ..he receives ball …thinks to go forward ..goes a bit ..and a man is chasing him ..he stops..muscles him off…gets free with 3 dummy/truns ..passes to mert…receives again..and starts the attack. it felt like watching a 28-30 year old hero of war who has won 5 champions leagues and 8 league titles and 2 world cups….so assured and confident.

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  18. But Debuchy’s experience and leadership would’ve been invaluable against the likes of Monaco.

    and the mert of yesterday would have been invaluable against monaco…immence…backheel control-pass to kos ????? wtf? and back-headers with precission of snooker player …. blew my mind

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  19. defence was very good last night ospina too made one or two crucial touches…it was in front of the defence that it was a bit of a playground, no roles/structures, just kids chasing a football up and down ..and up front where they seemed pretty tired and all of them way too kind and generous…yes its a team sport but when the team is semi-dysfunctional someone needs to act with individual flair/charisma and do the job.

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  20. Definitely true about not hiring the byline often enough coming inside becomes predictable and easy to crowd out. Add to that the amount of times our players wanted one extra touch instead of moving a slow defence around at pace
    pants was drinking coffee while waiting for crosses to come in and Oliver must of made about 200 runs without receiving the ball no wonder he looked knackered towards the end.
    I thought Sunderland looked very shakey the first 20 and certainly didn’t defend well however the longer we went without a goal the more they grew in confidence and the more impatient we got with just about everything we did. The introduction of Fletcher definitely gave them a cutting edge and on another day or without the intervention of Ospina they would have scored on the break.
    Theo made a difference and of course so did the wonderful TR7 although his introduction was far too late.
    On a frustrating night Alexis was again my chief tormentor and for all his brilliance in games where the clock is running down I believe its him who should be withdrawn first.
    The last thing I have to mention is the 3 minutes of added time. Larssons injury alone was over that and I think the ref just wanted to home, knowing both teams would take the point and not complain. The last, last thing is another ref spraying the line at a free kick and then letting the defensive wall encroach anyway. A brilliant idea destroyed by simpletons.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Hi Georgaki, yes I’ll be there – we’ll have to catch up if you’re around

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  22. There was a some controversy about the three minutes added on time last night and it did look a bit, though not excessively, short. As far as I understood how TAO is supposed to work the 4th official is the one who tots up the stoppages in the half to the nearest minute and then puts that on the board. After that the referee can, if he decides, can add on more but that would be if he thinks the 4th official has made an error, or if in time dded on another stoppage occurs.

    Having watched 93 minutes last night however would another two minutes have cracked it – Or would we have been up to 30 shots and Pantmillon still in charge?

    We shall never know !

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  23. Hey George,
    I am trying to email you the match report. Struggling with wi-fi hotspots at the moment.

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  24. The content of the TAO doesn’t matter, you cant say if ARSENAL had all night they still wouldn’t of scored so its not worth adding much time on just as refs should not have said manure score lots of late goals so will add a little bit of extra Fergie time. The point is its bad officiating on something that is easily controlled. Id of thought the amount of difficult decisions refs have to make and get lambasted for that the basics would be sorted to make sure they can deflect criticism. Refs are always saying they need help well they have clocks and spray to help them if they ignore these tools they have no defence.

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