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Sunderland vs. Arsenal Match Report (with opinion by James Cook)

by on February 19, 2012

Sunderland vs. Arsenal Match Report

“How we respond is the most important thing.” The words of Arsene Wenger before Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to Sunderland. The Gunners had come back to England after their ‘worst Champions League performance’ in a 4-0 defeat to A.C Milan.

They started the game promisingly, winning a corner within the first minute. However the game took a turn for the worse when Francis Coquilan pulled his hamstring, resulting in Sebastian Squillaci coming onto the pitch; a sight Arsenal fans have grown to dread.

The first goal came from Kieran Richardson in the 39th minute when Johan Djourou gave away a needless free kick. Sebastian Larsson whipped the ball in, Thomas Vermaelen failed to clear and Richardson struck in the volley just inside the box.

Throughout the game Arsenal were being muscled off the ball, beaten in the air and quite simply second best in every department.

The Gunners could have had a way back into the game when john O’Shea brought down Robin Van Persie in the box, controversially Howard Webb dismissed the penalty claims.

In the second half Arsenal really needed to up their game, but they appeared to come out of the tunnel more defeated than when they left the pitch.

Wenger’s men continued to lack creativity, perhaps to the credit of Sunderland who packed up the midfield forcing Arsenal the play wide. This game proved if there was one thing we miss about Nicklas Bendtner or Marouane Chamakh it is their ability to convert crosses into goals.

This pattern continued until Sunderland’s second goal in the 72nd minute, it was a quick counter-attacking move. Mikel Arteta was pursuing the attack but fell over making a harder job for Djourou and Oxlade Chamberlain. Gardner was forced wide and attempted to hit the ball across the box, unfortunately the ball deflected off the post into the path of Chamberlain who took the ball into his own net.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of yesterday was how content the players looked with the defeat; in fact Chamberlain appeared to be the only upset player after being knocked out of the cup.

The result raises the question, is Wenger the man to take us forward? The defeat marks a seventh consecutive year without a trophy and it is Arsenal’s eleventh trophyless season in Wenger’s 16 year reign.

Opinion on the current situation at Arsenal FC by @CookieElGooner

Last week I stated that I’d be happy with 2 wins at Sunderland and a draw at Milan, it just didn’t seem possible that a premier league side in 4th place would not be capable of achieving this after the massacre against Blackburn the week before. Three awful pitches in a week took their toll on our team as we picked up 5 injuries in total, leaving our squad badly stretched once again.

The problem this season is that we’ve been left with a starting XI which wouldn’t have been fit to lick the Invincible side’s boots (bar Van Persie.) Ideally we would have retained the services of Fabregas and Nasri leaving us with a squad fully capable of challenging the likes of Milan in the Champions League (as proven by the 2-1 win against Barcelona last year) and Tottenham in the Premier League. Ramsey would have been allowed to steadily develop under the tutorship of Cesc whilst Theo Walcott would have been mainly used as an impact player, something which I believe is the role he should be playing in a side like Arsenal, he’s not a player you want to rely on for goals, same goes to Gervinho.

Mikel Arteta was a deadline day signing, we knew he was not a direct replacement for Cesc but I have to admit I expected more creativity from him given his reputation as one of the league’s most creative players prior to his arrival at Arsenal. Despite this he only has 1 assist this season, something which shows in his performances. A 90% average pass accuracy may look good on paper but when you put it into principle isn’t that the reason Arsenal fans wanted Denilson out? I still think he was a good signing by Wenger by surely Arteta is no more than a squad player for a club like Arsenal, would he get into the Tottenham team? Most certainly not.

Why do our players look good when they first come into the team but then suddenly stumble into mediocrity? The answer is the lack of competitiveness in the team, Theo Walcott knows he basically guaranteed a starting role in every PL game, so why bother working hard in training, improving the things he’s not good at, like errrrr everything when he’s earning god knows how much every week.  Same goes for Szczesny, when he  came into the side he was called ‘the new David Seaman,’ he was everything we hadn’t had in recent years, confident, commanding, not particularly rash in his decision-making but still had the mad streak that every goalkeeper needs. He still has that but where’s the desire to stop everything that comes at him, he’s conceded 3 goals in a game 5 times this season, I mean what the hell?

I could analyse every single players performances this year apart from Koscielny and RVP and there would be fundamental flaws in each players performances, but I’m not going to because that would be tedious and boring to say the least. The fact of the matter is Arsene Wenger is not the manager he used to be, once upon a time he was praised for his revolutionary football tactics and for being a team which played the best football in the league by a country mile whilst winning trophies year after year. Now we can’t even play the best football. Whilst I think he’s been a loyal servant to the club and become our most successful manager ever, he is having his reputation tarnished thanks to his stubborn nature about signing mediocre players and making them great, unfortunately that’s not as easily done now, every top side is looking for the next superstar, unfortunately our limited wage structure means we can’t compete with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United.

The board need to take hold of the situation and say to this lost old man in Arsene Wenger that its time for him to move upstairs. He can choose his replacement or at least have some role in deciding who to bring in but the sad thing is that Arsenal football club are being left behind. Bring in the likes of  Pep Guardiola by offering them mega bucks, we’ve got a billionaire with a large amount of shares in the club who would be willing to heavily invest in making The Arsenal great again.

The club motto is supposedly ‘forward’. Unless we decide to change our policy I recommend Mr Gazidis and Mr Wenger to change it to ‘backwards.’ Arsenal FC should be one of the most innovative clubs in the world, ultimately sacking Wenger at the end of the season may not immediately bring success but it is better than sitting back and doing nothing, at least we can say we tried. But it is not just down to Wenger and the board, the players need to have the self motivation to strive for success in every game they play as Wenger is clearly not somone to motivates the team well enough. What would Herbert Chapman, the man who was at the forefront of all things great about Arsenal think as he stands proudly cast in bronze from his solitary post just outside The Emirates? I’m sure he would be looking to improve the squad by spending whatever money he had (he broke the British transfer record) and therefore challenging for titles.

Monsieur Wenger needs to step aside for his own dignity and for the good of the team.  Lets hope we can get champions league football for next season and see where we go from there . It’ll be a sad day when he decides to go because he’s given so much for the club, one things for sure though, this club needs some fresh ideas.

Victoria Concordia Crescit-Victory Through Harmony.

By James Cook (@CookieElGooner)

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