Today we got out of jail, we were 1-0 down on the 93rd minute and Cesc scored a vital equaliser. Of course the equaliser meant we salvaged a point, but it could have easily been three losses out of seven.
The poor performance today could have been for many reasons. Sunderland's approach to the game was frustrating us but perfect for them. With 10 behind the ball at all times and one or two players always closing down, they reduced time, space and movement. Our lack of movement simply meant that we had no space and although we had possession, we couldn't do anything moving forward.
Sunderland 1 – 1 Arsenal
Leadbitter (86), Cesc (93)
The tactics have to be questioned as the boss started with this formation:
Sagna – Toure – Gallas – Clichy
Walcott – Denilson – Fabregas – Van Persie
Notably, the last time we played this formation was away to Kiev, a game we also drew 1 – 1. Surely by playing a 4-1-4-1 we were giving Sunderland a little too much respect.
Not only do we restrict the amount of forward play we have, meaning Adebayor is being played against four defenders, with two centre back effectively marked one striker. We also play with Van Persie out of position and congest our midfield even further.
In my eyes, I cannot understand why a fit again Nasri was on the bench. It was clear to see how effective he was against Porto. It was almost comical at times to see how many players we had in midfield. Surely play a 4-4-2 and allow Van Persie to come back if required. But with Van Persie drifting in, we sometimes had 4 players in our central midfield, it seemed odd. With Sunderland putting 10 men behind the ball at all times, surely the creativeness of Nasri would have been essential. Having said all of this, Arsene must have had his reasons, he’s the boss and he’s won the titles. On the surface though, these poor performances do come round too often, and if we continue like this, our title challenge will fade away before Christmas. I’m not being pessimistic, but today is a game we should have won and so were the games against Hull and Fulham.
On to the game itself now and Sunderland also started with a 4-5-1 / 4-4-2. And the home side started well, with Toure potentially saving a very good chance with an awesome last ditch tackle when Gallas decided to walk off the pitch to tie up his shoelaces or something like that (I think)… The next chance also fell to Sunderland, with a poor back pass from Walcott straight into the path of Cisse, but a good save from Almunia kept the score at 0-0. The third major chance of the game fell to Cisse again and he shot from 25 yards, close, but high.
Next, it was our turn, and good possesion and intricate play counted for nothing, as we simply couldn’t break down the Sunderland defence. All our chances came from distance, tame efforts, crosses, all cut out. One cross from Walcott was palmed out but there was no-one there to follow it up. Both Cesc and Denilson shooting from distance.
Although we restricted Sunderland’s chances, we weren’t creating much either. The half ended 0-0 and between both teams, just three shots on target. We only had one, albeit the first half showed a routine 59% possession.
The second half started brightly as we looked more determined. A good piece of work by Cesc saw Walcott wide and flash a cross across goal, but noone was there to tuck it in… this 4-1-4-1 was seriously not working. We started to turn the screw. Our passing was quicker, our movement was quicker.
But then controversy.
Walcott made a great run down the right and with close control fired a cross on the floor to Van Persie to put us 1-0 up, but controvertially, the linesman put his flag up, stating that the whole ball had gone over the line. Never in a million years. Replays show it should never have been ruled out. Could this rash decision come back to haunt us?
After the goal was disallowed, we seemed to close in and slow down. Ade volleying a wayward ball at the keeper the main highlight of the next five minutes. Sunderland were now breaking more, with Richardson shooting from distance. A free kick was shortly awarded after a Sunderland player dived and it was very harsh to see Toure yellow carded.
Arsene threw on Bendtner and Nasri for Walcott and Denilson, but it was Sunderland that took the lead. Some waywood defending saw Leadbitter about 25 yards out and unchallenged he scored a shorcher. Another “world class” goal in two sucessive games. Luck was not on our side.
We threw Carlos Vela on for Song and changed to a 4-2-4 formation with Nasri and Cesc in the middle, and it was the dimutive Spanaird who score the winner. Van Persie took a corner in the 93rd minute and Cesc ran unmarked to head it in the net.
At the moment, this result and performance in the final third has pretty much ruined my weekend. We’ve dropped 7 points this season and it’s only 7 games old. At this rate, that 76 points. We definitely need to play 4-4-2 in future.
Let’s hope Blackburn, Hull, Man City and who ever Villa can all win and maybe that will make me feel a little better.