The weather clouded over as the morning wore on, for some reason, it felt like a sign, like this was going to be a troubled day of football.
The defence lined up with Jenkinson and Gibbs as opposing full backs, Mertesacker and Koscielny lined up in the middle. The only other surprise was that Rambo had a slight hamstring strain (young player with a fatigue injury shouldn’t be a surprise).
The first opening of the game started from a duffed Jenko pass, Rosicky picked up the ball and chipped to Gervinho, Robin readjusted his run, picked up the Ivorian’s simple pass and placed his shot clinically under the body of the Sunderland keeper. All within a minute!
Robin was on fire, his next bit of outrageous skill came when he dragged a pass wide of his full back, looked up and chipped the keeper only to be denied by inside of the far post. That little beaut drew a standing ovation!
The first bit of worrying defending came when the ball bounced loose in front of the back 4 and no one made a challenge on the midfielder who let off the type of shot that more often than not finds its way into the top corner.
Koscielny took creative matters into his own hands hoofing the ball outwide to Gervinho, his first touch cut inside the fall back, he followed in but lacked the composure to hit the target. The Adebayor of the wing…
Sessegnon took advantage of a wandering Jenko down the right, Chezzer came out from his box to challenge, the player and ball passed him, luckily the cut back found a red shirt!
Sunderland found their way back into the game when a high loose ball found Arteta’s arm just outside the box. A Stupid handball when you know who is taking the deadball. Larsson easily looped it over the wall to level things up… quite superb.
Arsenal lost all shape after that. Panic stations as always. Jenko summed this up when he was easily bullied off the ball out wide, Sessegnon powered into our box, chipped to Cattermole whose 4 yard header was parried away by the cat like reflexes of Chezzer. Lucky us but torrid defending by Jenkinson.
We had a problem, no attacking penetration from midfield and no real threat from anyone outside Robin. Our efficiency in the final third has been like this all season.
A miserable first half was capped for Jenkinson when he was beaten to a header by all 3ft2 of Larsson, the cut back was nearly turned in.
The 2nd half started with a sub, Santos was brought on as Gibbs was injured, again, obviously. He announced himself on the scene by spooning the worst freekick of the afternoon over the bar.
Bookings for Vaughan, Song and Larsson in short succession intimated the game was dirty… It wasn’t, Howard Webb was losing control though.
As we chased the game frustration grew with Theo Walcott and his poor decision-making, our inability to beat the front post from corners also began to grate.
Sunderland were fighting for their lives… niggly fouls all over the park were breaking up our play.
Robin went close with a near post strike, Alex Songs unmasterful attacking display was summed up when he played a through ball to no one. The very fact he had to take responsibility as the creative hub showed how desperately short of creative spark we are.
Yossi and Andrey came on to save the day, they both added some excitement, especially Andrey, but you do have to ask the point of having a striker on the bench you can’t all upon to chase a game. I mean, they are the supposed to be the goal scorers, right?
We won a freekick from a Wes Brown edge of the box foul, Robin elected to take the strike and he was duly rewarded as we all watched it sail into the top corner! The first in a millennium!
The match restarted, we started to panic, but Robin calmed the side down, we played out the win and took a vital 3 points.
What’s that? Top half of the table? You better believe it!
I love winning, I do. I eventually enjoyed the result yesterday, but don’t kid yourself, that team is not going anywhere fast if it continues to play like that. The first few games it seemed like the lack of creativity was down to confidence, but the longer flat performances like that continue, the more reality sets in that actually, the days of creating 26 chances a game are long behind us. We don’t appear to have the speed of thought or the know how to carve out quick through balls. Up top, we’re dying on our arse if Robin Van Persie picks up and inevitable 2 monther.
I thought Jenkinson looked very weak in the first half, his game brightened up in the 2nd, mainly due to the fact he didn’t need to defend too much. His crossing was pretty good and he looked far more comfortable. I like him, as does everyone else in the ground, he’s a tryer… I just can’t help but think he needs a months loan somewhere to sharpen up and get the mistakes out of his system. Apprenticeships shouldn’t be served in our first team.
Song was pretty solid in the holding role, however, he shouldn’t be bounding forward as our most advanced midfielder. That type of nonsense works for Barcelona because they’re all exceptional players, it doesn’t work for an Arsenal side that needs players to play their roles.
Arteta slipped into the background again, his weak handball didn’t do himself any favours, but generally speaking, his play was very average. I can’t see what he brings to the side at the moment. He’s ok at defending, he’s ok at passing, but where is the exceptional in his game? I can’t see any hint of Cesc replacement in his football? At the moment we need our experienced players to stand up and be counted, I don’t feel we’ve had that from the Spaniard yet.
Theo Walcott reverted back to infuriating yesterday, the lack of natural instinct for the game was on show for all to see yesterday, poor crossing, badly timed runs and just shoddy all round play really gave us final third efficiency problems. The same has to be said of Gervinho, he’s as good at going round players as he is at running into them and falling over. Though he bagged an assist early on, his contribution greatly faded as the game wore on. I shouldn’t be calling for Oxlade Chamberlain, but he seems like our most efficient forward player outside Robin at the moment.
I’m obviously overjoyed that we took the win, but I’m not willing to ignore the fact we made one of the worst teams in the league look pretty good at times. We needed to deliver a trouncing yesterday because Stoke, sadly will be far more clinical and far more nasty than the Mackems.
A win is a win though, we’re 10th in the league and for me, the only way is up, unless it’s down, but we don’t want to consider that!
P.S. I just wanted to say that the general moaning and griping is far, far worse in cattle class than it is in club level. I’ve never sat near someone who comes in 23 minutes late, bitches and moans, then leaves 12 minutes early. I mean honestly, what is the point in having a ticket if that’s your attitude? Still… at least he turned up. A terrible amount of empty seats considering a Sunday 1330 kick off is one of the easiest to turn up for.
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Chezzer – Solid performance from the keeper. Not much he can do from class like that. My Gooner pal suggested he’s no good from long-range. He has the ‘David Seaman’ problem… debatable. 7.5
Jenko – A very weak first half where his mistakes could have cost us 2 goals against decent oppo. Grew with the second half from a defensive point of view. 6
Mertesacker – Assured performance from the big man. Confidence has grown, he was chasing down loose balls in front of the defence and he dominated in the air. 7.5
Koscielny – I really like him as a player but he is gaff prone. A good game today, covered right back well at times. 7
Gibbs/Santos – Didn’t really see too much from Gibbs bar a few sloppy passes. 6 Santos looked a yard faster than he did last time, he was very busy and he looked pretty solid to me. 7
Song – Stick to sitting in front of that back four. I liked the fact he was trying to force the game, I didn’t like the fact he needed to. 6.5
Arteta – Has to bring more to the game than he is at the moment. That handball was dim… 5
Rosicky – Played solidly, he was sparky and he worked hard without ever delivering anything devastating going forward. 6.5
Robin – His genius keeps us away from completed averageness at the moment. I hope he’s sleeping in a cotton wool chamber being fed some sort of £2000 a litre life elixer to keep his body from disintegrating. 8.5
Walcott – A very poor game from the man who wants to be central. Everything was off for him today, the crowd are over the age thing with this contract dispute brewing and he has to start delivering consistently. 5
Gervinho – As I said earlier, the Adebayor of the wing. Must sharpen up in the final 3rd. 6