A guest post from Double Canister.
Sunderland came and earned the point that makes them safe, Arsenal, despite numerous efforts to do more, managed to earn the point that should deliver 3rd place – leaving any chance of closing in on City for second place impossible now on the final day of the season. Wenger made a couple of changes to the team that didn’t weaken it at all, Jack gave a very lively hour of work showing us once again that he still has so much more to give to this club.
We have seen many times before teams who believe they have cracked a system on how to get out of the Emirates with at least a point; frustrate Arsenal: break up attacks, mess around on throw-ins and goal kicks, foul rotationally under the watching eye of a ref who has convinced himself the pitch always needs a slight tilting in the plucky northern underdogs favour (never ever, for the home team!) deep defending in numbers – all that sort of thing.
Sunderland did all of the above, and none very well. I can’t imagine ever seeing a team defending so deep, they were practically lining up the defensive back 6 on the goal line – which explains why some of our shots didn’t go in. Some will criticise the Arsenal team sent out for failing to crack this difficult Makem nut, but I can’t really do so – and neither should any reasonably rational Arsenal supporter. The only realistic way to counter this tactic from away teams at the emirates is to be as patient as hell and keep redoing and redoing the drills and patterns until the bus parking side cracks under the pressure, usually by conceding a penalty or a free kick.
Gibbs and Bellerin could not have had easier days out, both were always right up the top of the pitch acting as auxiliary wingers, and very rarely had to drift back to help out a very comfortable centreback pairing, such was the lack of desire by the visitors to risk leaving their own half of the pitch. When Gibbs or Bellerin had to provide protection their speed made cover for the defence quite easy to deliver. There was no way to counter attack a team who didn’t want to expose their own defensive weaknesses, they had an extra 2 or 3 men between the Arsenal player on the ball and their own overcrowded penalty box, there were no pathways in behind that could be prised opened until the arrival of a very effervescent Theo Walcott. Rosicky’s magic touch for the final 10 minutes could do it either. Perhaps if the Ox was fit something different could have been applied, of one of Arteta imperious quarterback passes over the top.
Were Santi, Ramsey, Alexis and Özil a tad jaded? perhaps so, Old Trafford is aways a hard away match. Giroud wasn’t delivering but he was living on scraps, as as far as I could see John O’Shea was virtually wearing the same shorts as him. Arsene may be a modern manager but the joys of rotation a squad are alien to him at times, perhaps he really does think the players coming back from injury are not really as match ready as us Gooners down the pub have told ourselves? The same old patterns of disgruntlement could be heard upon leaving the Clockend last night after the game from the never-will-be-happy-ever-again-since-we-left-Highbury gang. Certainly none of the long distance shots came anywhere near the target for us either. near post runs were not being made, the best use of the effective width wasn’t being used. Some days it just doesn’t go to plan for you.
All in all a hard worked draw, plenty of opportunities were there to make it a 1-0 night to the Arsenal, none were forthcoming thanks to the luck and lately found tenacity of the opposition. By the way, by my count that’s the 5th time Arsenal have been inflicted with the presence of Mr. Anthony Taylor of South Manchester this season, a statistical anomaly. He must be pleasing his masters mightily with his performances, but he isn’t making too many friends in the Emirates stands. Some decisions were quite inexplicably given against us, and I think when he booked Ramsey for a nothing challenge the rest of the team got the message and just eased-off a little – no one wants to miss a cup final due to a mendacious PGMOL official’s whimsy. He did however equally miss Koscielny using some part of his upper arm (accidentally?) which deflected a rare Makem shot away from our goal.
From what we can see, there is a fair amount of work still to do to prepare for the cup final, but at least we can sleep easier knowing Darth Pulis can’t cause us too much anguish on the last day of the season. Arsenal had effective control of the whole game last night from minutes 1 to 93, however it does look like goal chances have dried up over the last few weeks, is there something lacking with the team like a killer bite or raw aggression? (Courtesy of Hunter’s recent comments) or is it just tiredness? I say the latter.
Is this progress over the last fee seasons, is the team and squad really moving towards a title challenge and a longer stay in the Champion’s League next season?
I really believe so, but a little bit depends on what Arsenal PLC will do during the summer, a few small adjustments might happen to the squad, more emphasis in rest and medial attention to the team will be one of the best benefits of a longer summer break from the Premier (oh do stop that crap for once and for all will you please, Skysports, BT and BBC) League. The unknowable is what our rivals will do, Man Utd. still have hundreds of millions of US taxpayers money to throw away like they did last Summer, Chelsea will look at ways of making Jose’s team even more mean with the ball, City will be desperate to be back on the glory hunting trail and whoever replaces Brendan Rodgers has a massive headache to content with at Anfield.
I reackon Arsène has the nicest job this summer.