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A few thoughts on the Sunderland league match

May 21, 2015

The math was simple. Arsenal five points behind Manchester City with a game in hand. Arsenal win both matches and City lose at home to Southampton and Arsenal would come second.

First Arsenal had to navigate Sunderland, the game-in-hand. Sunderland also needed just one point to secure another season in the top flight and leave Hull City and Newcastle fighting out the remaining relegation spot this coming Sunday. So I think we all knew how Sunderland were going to play this game.

Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny , Gibbs, Cazorla , Ramsey, Wilshere (Walcott), Ozil, (Rosicky), Sanchez, Giroud. Gibbs in for Monreal. Jack in for Coquelin.

The first half was all about Arsenal having the ball, coming forward in waves, Sunderland clearing the ball and Arsenal coming back in waves yet apart from a few chips over the top from Wilshere for Ozil and Giroud Arsenal never really came that close to breaking down a stubborn Sunderland defence. For me it was typical Arsenal and how bloody frustrating it all was. Yes sometimes you have to patient as a fan, but when you have seen this over and over and over again, enough for Paddy to have stood up a thousand times it all becomes the same old, same old. Is it good to watch? Well the football and passing in certain parts of the pitch, maybe yes – if that’s what floats your boat. However, what’s the point of it all if you’re not going to make chances and take them. You may as well take the goals away that Arsenal are attacking and simply watch the lovely passing moves that come to nothing.

The second half was not a great deal better.  It starts with Koscielny getting the benefit of the doubt form Referee Taylor for a handball shout from Fletcher’s pass to Defoe, who would have been in on goal.  Fletcher then has a shot blocked by Ospina and that was followed by Ospina again saving Arsenal’s blushes with a save from Aanholt. I really cannot see why people dig out Ospina so much. OK! he might not be the worlds best, but right now surely he is doing a good job for the team.

Finally Arsenal made an effort when a good low cross by Bellerin was flicked on by Giroud only to see Pantilimon make a good save and then a couple of minutes later saved again from a Gibbs header. Sanchez had a shot blocked by Coates, then Defoe plays in Fletcher and once again Ospina is the saviour as he pushes wide Fletcher’s chipped shot. Fletcher is then clearly offside but the officials waved play on and you wonder how Fletcher managed to put the ball over the bar. Walcott had a chance but after beating his man he lifted the ball over Pantilimon and agonisingly past the far post.

Arsenal best chance came from a Sunderland player as a cross going nowhere saw Jones heads the ball onto the post with Pantilimon beaten but Sunderland cleared. Rosicky came on for Ozil, did a one-two with Walcott and could only put his shot wide of the far post. Ramsey and Theo both have chances but alas nothing comes of them as Pantilimon saves and the defence cleared. Sunderland were still keeping Arsenal out. Pantilimon saved again from Theo, yet another Keeper coming to the Emirates and choosing a good day to play his best game of the season.

Referee Taylor blows the whistle and it’s 0-0. Arsenal played their third successive match at home, over sixty shots at goal and failed to score. So much attacking play, so many play-makers and yet no goals. It’s all to bleeding obvious and teams are finding it easy to shut us out and our failure to take our chances only helps. I’m not a negative supporter though I was dubbed this on twitter the other night, because I dared to say that our football on the night was poor, average at best. It was about the Sunderland game, maybe even the Swansea game, where we simply look to run out of ideas once we get to within twenty yards of our opponents goal.

How many passes can you make across the area? How many times can you reach the twenty yard line and then come back on yourselves? How many times can you pass the ball across the area and then as soon as you make that pass forward, you simply lose possession of the ball? How many times can you do a one-two on the edge of the box and instead of shooting, pass again? I’m sure many of you were feeling the same frustrations as me on the night. Too many Indians and not enough Chiefs .

OK! having said this, it would seem that after getting a top four place the team shut down somewhat and still have a Cup Final on the horizon. It can also be said that baring a complete meltdown the point against Sunderland will see Arsenal finish third and avoid the need to play those two pre-qualifiers to get into the Champions League proper at the start of next season which is only seventy-eight days away.

Has it been a good season? Well another Cup Final (hopefully victory) and one place higher than last year would be a slight improvement for me. Yes we may have ended with fewer points, but then so have other top sides as the Premiership gets harder each year.

Hopefully we can now end on a high beating West Bromwich Albion in the last league match and defeating Villa in the final. Then it’s down to the club to get the right additions in place to make a better and more sustained challenge on the title and Champions league next season.















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