Arsenal went to the Stadium of Light to face a below strength Sunderland side having lost Craig Gordon their keeper who was injured in the defeat to Spurs. Captain Michael Turner is suspended and Lorik Cana the Albanian player linked with Arsenal in the summer from Marseille came into midfield.
Steve Bruce was bein very complimentary about Arsene Wenger and his side before the game, and at home Sunderland are a different team having already take points off Liverpool and drawn with Man Utd. Only Chelsea being the only top four side to escape embarrassment.
Arsenal lined up after the international break with Traore at left back, Aaron Ramsey in midfield alongside Fabregas and Song with the front three being Rosicky and Nasri out wide and Eduardo down the middle in the absence of the injured Robin van Persie. On the bench for the gunners were Arshavin whose Russian side were knocked out of the world cup and the return of Walcott, Denilson and Carlos Vela. The curse of November ever present, this Gunners side had enough quality to deliver the goods, or so we thought.
The first half was a dull affair as most of these encounters up North appear to be. Arsenal were slow to begin with, lacking the normal fluidity of passing. Almunia in goal was rarely troubled. The absence of the suspended Sunderland striker Kenwynne Jones meant that Darren Bent was the main threat. Arsenal had a bright 15 minute period but failed to score as Rosicky’s shot failed to beat Fulop. Malbranque sliced his shots over the angle of the Arsenal goal. Song showed surging runs and in one exchange with Eduardo presented the Croatian with Arsenal’s best chance, but the chip was not on target. Aaron Ramsey had a shot collected by the keeper after a good run by Traoroe.
Sunderland had the advantage of poor refereeing decisions as harsh midfield challenges from the Black cats tried to frustrate the Arsenal organisation. A draw would have been a fair result and the set piece mix up enabled Darren Bent to get the a deflected ball from the back post which gave Sunderland the advantage. The introduction of Walcott, Vela and Arshavin failed to get the equaliser. A very good claim for a penalty was denied by the referee as Vela clearly had his right leg taken away by Bent. The result albeit disappointing was down more to the failure of this talented Arsenal team to take advantage of the chances on offer, and sloppy defending of a set piece.
After the game a clearly frustrated Arsene Wenger made these remarks about his players,
“I don’t think we missed anybody especially, no. We lost a game where we can only fault ourselves because we didn’t score, some players were not at their best and we gave a goal away on the only situation where Sunderland could score one today. It was on a set piece. I believe it’s more down to the fact that we made a big mistake on the corner because the game was there for the taking in the last 20 minutes. But of course, when you’re down, it makes it more difficult.”
Arsenal fans need not feel to despondent as this was a game that we lost rather than being well beaten by the Sunderland side. There does not seem to be the desire of players to make good their undoubted technical advantages over sides like Sunderland. Again if Arsenal were more ruthless in front of goal instead of trying to walk the ball into the net, we would have won easily. But this is the Wenger philosophy and he must take the blame I’m afraid. The tactics were not clear and the players seemed unable to change their play from the passing game down the centre which Sunderland with the aid of poor refereeing were able to frustrate.
Next up Chelsea at home. They lie eight points ahead and we have a game in hand. Just one defeat of our rivals would restore our title aspirations. There is everything to prove and never has there been a better opportunity to put right last season’s defeats to the South London side.