Saturday, 21 November 2009

Arsenal keep up dreadful record in the North-East. Match report.

If there was any consolation, this was the first time this season we had really deserved to lose: both the defeats to United and City were particularly galling because we were the better team.

Credit Sunderland. While their performance wasn't out of this world, they did what they had to do. Sure, the goal was somewhat fortuitous, but invariably the small teams will need a bit of luck to beat the big teams.

But as the manager said, "it is a massive setback because you need consistency to win a title. And today we were not capable of doing that and it raises question marks."

This highlights an important point: we caught Villa for fourth place last season. But in the race for fourth place, you can afford to drop points regularly. This simply isn't the case if you're supposed to be challenging for the title. If we'd won today, we'd be have been two points behind Chelsea (if we win our game in hand against Bolton). Because we lost, suddenly a defeat next Sunday would put is 11 points behind Chelsea. In other words, the match has much greater significance and our title challenge is under threat.

But perhaps more importantly, though Sunderland were better than us, they didn't play really well. This wasn't a case of Hull at The Grove last year when they just put on a really good performance. Rather, we were insipid.

Sure, we missed RVP and Bendtner up top and Clichy/Gibbs at left-back. But while we have a thin squad, we could cope with them missing. It was more that Eduardo, Nasri and Rosicky were poor. They didn't create anything: Rosicky and Eduardo had chances but there was no threat to the Sunderland goal in the first half. Arguably, Sunderland edged the first half.

My main gripe though, was Wenger's reactionary substitutions. They encourage the opposition to attack us and though Nasri and Rosicky were piss-poor - particularly in the second-half - they weren't removed until after we were behind. In fact, Nasri stayed on.

Incredible: with the team trailing and Nasri playing relatively deep, Wenger took off the one out and out striker in the matchday squad and put on a youngster who had barely played all season in his place. Remarkable.

Generally, we don't do well up north: one of the perks of Boro + Newcastle going down was that it removed the annual four points dropped at the Riverside and St. James'. Nonetheless, that doesn't mean we need to prove we're crap in the North-East by losing to Sunderland.

And that really highlights the main problem with today's performance. It was as if they weren't trying. The reason the first half was such a dull spectacle was because it seemed the Arsenal players weren't interested. Even after we went behind, really, it took until the last 10 minutes to see us try and win the game.

At risk of hyperbole, our season is now in danger of going belly up. We need a result against Liege, not to prove anything in the Champions League, but to give us some momentum going into the Chelsea game.

We've won 13 games in a row at home. Let's hope next Sunday that number is 15. Then we can all relax once more and say we're back on track.

Keep the faith,

1 comment:

M.J.Y said...

An interesting blog, even if it is about the Gunners (I'm a Foxes fan).

Fancy checking out my blog - including my published sport articles