You’re going to read a lot of stuff about how “poorly” Arsenal played or that they were lucky or maybe that Sunderland was mugged but it’s not entirely true. Sunderland played exactly the game that the world knew they were going to play; 10 men behind the ball and hope for one chance, if they took it good, if not, they were always only expecting a point. Sunderland was going to be committed, they were going to close down space, and they were going to look for the counter. Credit to Roy Keane, his “brilliant” plan nearly worked.
But it was always The Arsenal who were the better of the two teams and you always thought that no matter what the weather or the commitment of their opponent Arsenal would break them down. I just didn’t expect it in the way it came.
Credit due to Arsene who played a 4-3-3 in an away game “oop norf” with Song and Denilson both in the holding role and Cesc floating in behind the three strikers. I say it was a 4-3-3 but really at times it looked like Arsenal were playing a 4-2-4 and why not? Why shouldn’t they go to Sunderland and play for all three points and put 4 attackers in? Regardless of the formation, it was very clear that the boss wanted both Song and Denilson providing cover and wanted Cesc to go forward and have some shots at goal. This strategy clearly worked because it wasn’t until Arsene pulled off Denilson (who was having a damn fine game) for the more attack minded Nasri that Arsenal gave up the goal.
You know, about 3/4 of the way through the game I was thinking “this is as commanding a defensive game as I have seen from Arsenal this year” and I was fully ready to sing the praises of the two holding midfielders formation. And then, of course, Wenger sacrifices Denilson, Song gives the ball away, and Leadbitter hits a wonder goal, under pressure from Song.
The “good” here is two fold: first, Denilson was magnificent. His work from box to box was superb, his pursuit was often the difference between a Sunderland breakaway and Arsenal regaining possession, his passing was spot on, and his willingness to shoot was refreshing.
Second, the whole squad defended and pressured the ball (with the exception of Cisse’s first shot) even Song, who was at “fault” for their goal, never gave up even after he had made a mistake. Again, goals like that are going to happen (which is why I love seeing players like Denilson shoot) it’s just plain luck but what isn’t luck is watching Song fight to win the ball back. You didn’t see that against Hull and credit to the boys for closing down and taking defense seriously all over the pitch. Defense wins championships.
The last good goes to Cesc, good for him to get a goal, it was great to see him scrambling and fighting for that ball. This is also his first goal of this season and I think I speak for everyone when I say that we are expecting a lot more from him this year than last. I’m so proud of him and the entire team for not giving up when Leadbitter struck that wonder goal. One final note, I don’t think he’s ever gotten a headed goal — if I’m wrong feel free to correct me! — so that was kinda special as well.
Well, the weather was quite bad! But other than that, really, both teams played well, executed their game plan, and even though the ref got a decision wrong when he disallowed RvP’s goal by saying that Theo had played the ball out I thought he had a pretty good game (he was consistent at least). I know a lot of you wanted all three points, but I felt that the one point was a fair result.
I do want to single out a player for this section, because frankly I though van Persie had a miserable game. He phoned that performance in to be honest. It was lazy and uninspired and other than the corner that Cesc found even his free kicks were horrible. I honestly thought that Wenger was going to sacrifice him for Bendtner at the 70th minute and was surprised to see Theo taken off in his stead.
My only other criticism is that this team has to start taking some of their chances. I know that Sunderland had 12 men in the box but God Damn… get the ball on the net fellas!
High fives and hugs before the game? That had to be William Gallas’ idea. Why can’t we have a simple huddle before the game? Why can’t we just come out and play the game all workman like? You know, tromp down the tunnel and stare your opponent down with steely eyed glares.
So that’s it for today. You just hold on, I’m convinced that this team is going to start clicking here pretty soon. Clearly they have the desire to win, and once Wenger finds the right balance of attack and defense, we’ll start consistently winning.
P.S. As always, the Arsenalist has the highlights up already saunter on over there and check them out if you missed the game today. Don’t forget to help him out by clicking a sponsor.