Good morning Positivistas,
Not quite the match review that I anticipated writing, with three points safely loaded onto the bus and resumption of third place in the Premier League, but instead the sharing of the spoils with our feline friends from Wearside. It is as it is. The home side and their supporters understandably delighted ( see above).
Like the manager said Arsenal had a good first half, plenty of inventive, speedy play which left Sunlun a bit dizzy, but we did not translate out dominance on the pitch to goals. Inevitably, having survived the storm, the home side gained some confidence after half time and came back into the contest. We knew they would be a nut that needed cracking. For a few minutes toward the end it was us clinging on and me feeling a bit dizzy as Jermain Defoe peppered the Arsenal goal with some very decent finishing. He is now 33 years old and the man can still cause defences a quiver with the ball at his feet. ( I know a nasty moment for all of us when that lob arced over Cech and toward the empty goal). Were we struck down with a collective tiredness after Thursday during that phase when we could have lost the game? It seems doubtful as going into the final few minutes of the game we were strong and on the front foot. Concentration went though, for sure.
If I cannot gurgle about the result then what of the Arsenal players ? As I said yesterday another impressive display from Elneny who worked hard all afternoon and was intelligent in his use of the ball. A total of 87 passes and a 94.3% success rate from the hairy Egyptian according to the men with pointy heads, and our most impressive performer on the day. Petr Cech was also crucial in the second half, where for five minutes Sunlun had transformed themselves into a fearsome attacking force, with the Czech fighting them off almost single handed. Having had an opportunity to reflect over night on the game I also have to say the full backs both put in decent display, and Alex Iwobi also had an excellent first half. And Jack of course ………Welcome home son. Just ten minutes but ten good minutes.
To leave the Stadium of Light with just a point is therefore less than I hoped for, to have that point is however the least we earned. A set back then but no severe injury.
I look onward, as we all must, toward Norwich and Saturday late afternoon. I shall be there. A useful fixture that, subject to victory, would bring us three points ahead of Citeh, who have a tricky game at St Mary’s on Sunday, and eight points ahead of the red Mancs who entertain the Champions elect at Trafford Park, again on Sunday. The red Mancs have game(s) in hand but eight points and a ++goal difference gap is a hell of a gulf this late in the year.
I have no idea if Arsene will go with Danny or Olivier up front on Saturday, or maybe both or neither, as scoring goals is the rock on which our PL and FA Cup prospects were sunk since January. What is galling is the apparent ease with which other clubs seems to rattle in 3-4 goals. It’s Norwich though – come on.
Even more important than cementing CL football next season Shotta is in town for the game. We shall have to ensure he enjoys his weekend at the finest football ground in the world and watching our team.
I therefore usher you gently into the new week. Work hard.