Where to start, where to start?
Ultimately, in the immediate aftermath I felt a lot of rage. I sat there and watched last week in amazement as the ref for the United vs Everton game blew up just as it looked liked Everton might score on a counter attack. Yesterday, I watched Sunderland take a corner in 94th minute, have it cleared… only to be allowed to have another crack at scoring, which they did.
I hate to blame the referee. I find it incredibly dull reading headlines from bloggers all over the web talking about this big underground conspiracy against Arsenal because we have foreigners playing for us, but on this occasion, I’m absolutely livid about the performance of Dowd who was so incredibly inept all game, I wondered if he was on the take?
We’ll take this back to the start… because though the result was stolen from us, we can’t pin all of this on Phil.
The team shaped up the same as it did for the previous game. Chamakh led the line up top with Jack retaining his place in the middle of the park with Cesc and Song.
Arsenal were immediately on the back foot with Sunderland pressing well and playing at a much higher tempo than us. Cesc chased after a lost cause down the other end, Anton Ferdinand larruped it, Cesc flew a speculative foot out to block the shot, the ball connected and sailed towards goal, over the keepers head, into the top corner! What a goal! Even Chelsea, the kings of the deflection must have looked on with envy at that little beauty! Steve Bruce’s face, taut through mass over eating looked close to bursting on the sidelines.
The bitter-sweet of that goal was that our Captain damaged himself in the process and had to come off ten minutes later with a suspected hamstring strain. I spoke to my pal in the know and without any concrete news, he suspects the substitution was precautionary.
Sunderland were undeterred and continued to pressure us. They went close with a missed header in the 6 yard box. Marlbranque tried to win a penalty by running into Kozzer and a little later, Bent tried to con the referee in the same way.
Jack Wilshere was guilty of losing the ball in a sloppy manner on 3-4 occasions. He needs to keep it simple when things aren’t going well, not try to do ever more daring things and lose possession.
Almunia was having a solid game in goal coming for crosses and generally proving to be safe pair of hands. Song was showing careless disregard for playing within the rules. He was powering around making needless fouls and needed to be careful after picking up a booking for his third or fourth stupid challenge. Clichy was having another bad game, I tweeted that he was due his customary ‘Senderos’ moment
The second half started and we needed to improve on what was mainly, just a solid defensive display. Almost immediately Jack was played in but fluffed his lines. Then Rosicky did well to dance through the Sunderland midfield passing to Song in space who slipped Arshavin in who misfired wide.
That was Song’s last contribution to the game. He body checked a Sunderland player and gained a second yellow. Some say it was harsh, I’d say it was deserved when you consider the previous he’d had in the game.
Now we really were on the back foot, and for 30 minutes.
What really did rankle with me was the unpunished challenge Bramble made on Jack Wilshere. That didn’t even receive a yellow card? There were countless other worse fouls from Sunderland players that also went unpunished. Shocking inconsistency.
Bent blazed over after a well worked corner, Clichy had to make a goal line headed clearance, we were struggling. The Frenchman was continuing to expose his poor form by getting caught out of position, making sloppy passes, getting the wrong side of his man and slipping over. It was worrying how much the Mackems were getting from corners.
We were fighting though and looking dangerous going forward. All our players were working tirelessly and the centre back pairing were looking very solid.
We went up the other end, Nasri tried to work his into the Sunderland box and he was tripped. Penalty. Surely game over?
Interestingly, Rosicky stepped up to take the spot kick. He took a long run up and smashed it Alan Shearer-esque… over the bar. Terrible for a player of his calibre. A miss that you felt really fired up the home crowd. I’d hope Chamakh takes them in future…
Gyan came on from the bench and immediately had Almunia off his line making a clearance. Up the other end Denilson’s strike just went wide. In the last minute, they won a corner, we cleared it… the ref surely had to blow, he didn’t, Zenden puts the ball in the box, Clichy tries to clear with his right foot, makes a hash… Sunderland fire home.
Deflated… disgusted with the referee. Gutted…
I can’t sit here and pretend we deserved our 3 points for being the dominant side. However, I thought we showed bundles of fight and character today. Key players who needed to show their mettle more than did so and we battled hard for 30minutes against a good team with only ten men.
To lose a goal in 95th minute was a real deflating moment. I think it was so unjust, that it will have the reverse effect on our players. We’ll come back against WBA (I doubt many first teamers will be out for Spurs) on a mission! Us against the world!
Still, the fact is, we shouldn’t have needed a referee to win the match today. Song should have been more professional in the middle of the park. Getting yourself sent off for silly unnecessary challenges is very immature. Rosicky should have placed that penalty and Clichy really shouldn’t be making elementary mistakes like that at his age.
Still, there are loads of positives to take from today and like someone pointed out yesterday, we’ve taken 4 points from Blackburn and Sunderland away… last season, we took a total of zero. I think it’s also pertinent to point out that by the final whistle, we were missing RvP, Cesc, Ramsey, Vermaelen, Walcott and Bendtner. Tell me anyone in the top 4 who could have the equivalent of half their first team out and play as well as we have been?
It all bodes well… Rambo is kicking a ball in training, Nik B is close to a return and shortly after that we’ll see Theo and Robin… all in time for Christmas rush!
Almunia: He did everything well today. He looked a safe pair of hands at the back and delivered every time he was called upon to make a decision. Too many people are going overboard about his performance, much in the same way fans of Song do when he makes a 12 yard pass (SLA’s: Song Lovers Association). If Seaman had played like that, you’d call it standard. Al plays like that, people are talking about him as the next Spanish number 1. Take one game at a time. Draw some perspective. He’s doing no more than what is expected. 8
Clichy: The criticism of Clichy has been here for the best part of two years, however, I feel it’s all of a sudden gone mainstream and people are going overboard. According to people in the know, Clichy is well aware he’s been playing badly, so he’s not in a Fabianski world of denial. His mistakes seem to be getting more and more frequent. His positional sense is way off kilter and he’s making fundamental errors he shouldn’t be. Lets not throw the baby out with the bath water though. The guy tries his heart out for Arsenal and he’s never looked for a move when he easily could have. He needs to be rested, Gibbs needs to come in for a bit. His mistake cost us 2 points today… however, he’s not solely to blame. 4
Sagna: A solid performance from our right back. He’s looking very powerful at the back these days and his delivery is getting better. 7
Squillaci: Slipped in the back door and into the team virtually unnoticed. His positional sense is excellent, he reads the game incredibly well and he never finds himself on the end of skinning. His integration has been seamless and I prefer him to Gallas. His partnership with Kozzer was excellent today as was his battling performance. 8
Kozzer: I’m really taking a shine to this chap. He’s made two high profile errors so far but he hasn’t let them phase him in the slightest. Today he was putting his foot in at every chance, he’ll place his head on anything he can get close to and again, he reads the game far better than Willy G or Kolo ever did. He’s an incredibly hard worker in training as well. We’ve got a class act on our hands here. 8
Song: I’m not his biggest fan and today he demonstrated perfectly why. He isn’t agile enough or quick enough to play against speedy opposition. All his fouls were unnecessary and a result of poor positioning. His passing wasn’t great and he needs to get it into his head that he’s supposed to sit in front of the defence, not be our creative force up the other end. 4
Nasri: He helped win us a penalty but was largely anonymous in the first half. He improved with the second and he has plenty about his game. I just wish he’d impose his character on the team a little more when the chips are down. 6.5
Cesc: Great goal. Gutted he went off injured. Hoping it’s not serious! 7
Wilshere: Needs to cut out that sloppy play when things aren’t going well for him. He improved with the game, he just has a tendency to go a little Hollywood when he’s not playing well. He’s improving though and I like seeing his name on the team sheet. He definitely gives us an edge. 6
Arshavin: When you’re receiving poor service it’s pretty difficult to make an impact on a game. I thought he threw his weight around well, trying to involve himself in the game. Ultimately, not his day. 6
Chamakh: A hard fought performance from everyone’s favourite Moroccan. He battled, he defended, he chased lost causes, he involved himself when it would have been easier not to. He is everything Nik B should want to become. 7.5
Rosicky: Came on and played really well. He looked sharp until he stepped up and blazed and ugly penalty over the bar. Costly. 7
Denilson: I thought he looked good when he game on. He was more direct than usual and very attack minded. He’ll be fresh for the Spurs game next week. 6.5
P.S. I heard that Carlos Vela was hammered in training on Friday by the players regarding the tranny story in the Sun. Everyone was ripping into him, led by Sagna. The story was a load of rubbish apparently (There weren’t 15 hookers) and Wenger won’t be taking any action against the Mexican. The spirit within the Arsenal camp is apparently fantastic and everyone is getting on!
Good to hear!