Arsenal 0- Sunderland 0.
Not the start to the season we dreamt of, was it? The 38 game race kicked off yesterday and by the time it was over there was that same old déjà vu feeling in the pit of our stomachs.
It's a situation we've seen season after season. The mid and lower level teams arrive the Emirates (sometimes even in their own homes) and bring their team bus unto the pitch and park it across their goal mouth. We run at them with everything we've got and at the end of 90 minutes they succeed in salvaging a point which is usually what they set out to achieve.
The stats show we had 70% possession and 23 shots on goal so how on earth did we end up dropping three valuable points?
Cazorla and Gervinho were the standout performers on the day with Cazorla creating most of the chances we had. His screamer early on in the game was palmed away hastily by the Sunderland keeper, Mignolet. The best chance of the afternoon was created by him as well when he laid a beautiful reverse pass to Giroud who came on as a substitute. It seemed it would have been easier to score than miss in the situation but Giroud failed to deliver a goal that would have made him an instant hero. He told canal+ later in the day,
"If it was on my left foot i would've surely scored that chance, but i have to work on my right foot."It's okay, Giroud, you're the new kid on the block and all that and we understand you need time to settle and all that again but there's a lot of hope riding on you right now. Next time if you need to use your hand to put the ball in the net do it without the referee noticing.
Gervinho's performance stood out as well as he rode a number of desperate tackles by the Sunderland defenders and got behind the defense line on a number of occasions but none of his four shots on goal was on target neither were any of his final balls converted.
If Theo Walcott had half the impact Gervinho did on the day, the story might have been different. As has become norm, when a team plays a blanket defense like Sunderland did yesterday, Theo's famous pace becomes rather useless. Other than one cut back after a decent run that Podolski was unable to get to before it was cleared by a Sunderland defender, I struggle now to remember what significant contribution he made to the game. A winger needs much more than pace to be effective and Theo is consistently showing that he's never going to add new dimension to his play.
Podolski started the game in the center forward position and was substituted about half-way through the second half for Giroud. He was largely ineffectual while he was on the field and statistics show that he had two shots on goal, one of which was a free kick from just outside the eighteen that went over the bar. While it was obvious he lacked match fitness, it was also evident he'll need time to adjust to the pass and move system that Arsenal favours. On a few occasions, the one-two move with Gervinho broke down with him not moving into position to receive the ball.
Arteta as always did a wonderful job in the midfield as he provided excellent cover for the back four while linking up play with Diaby and Cazorla in the middle of the park.Diaby also had a good time at the party before he was substituted in the second half. He saw a lot of the ball and was unlucky not to score when he shot at goal and the Sunderland keeper got down fast enough to deny him. He did enough to suggest that his injury worries are behind him and hopefully it will stay that way. He does have a lot to offer to this emerging dream team.
Mertesacker started in the defense line in the absence of the injured Koscielney and other than a couple of misplaced passes during offensive plays, put in a good shift. He also proved a threat every time he moved up the field for corner kicks and we were unlucky not to convert at least one of his knock-downs. Hopefully, he stays fit and he will provide useful cover for Vermaleen and Koscielney.
The full back positions manned by Gibbs on the left and Jenkinson on the right might have provided more cause for concern if Sunderland was a more ambitious team. They offered little to the attacking forays with Jenkinson continuing to look nervy as if he still quite can't believe he's playing for his boyhood club at last. He does show a lot of promise but he may need to be shipped off on a loan move to settle his nerves in a team where the expectations and pressures are lower while we find a more experienced back-up for Sagna. Gibbs is obviously more experienced but has hardly been convincing as he's easily beaten by skilled attackers and then he's slow to recover.
It was evident though that the team that has been put together over the summer will take a while to gel and play together as a unit. Let's hope the worst that can happen while this Arsenal team come together is a return to the one-nil-to-the-Arsenal era.
All-in-all, it's clear that we still have a lot of work to do to hone that killer instinct that we've lacked for a while now. Two points dropped in the first game of the season is hardly cause to panic but like we all know these are two points that can make a huge difference when the curtain is drawn on the season. It was a home game against a mid-table team and should have been three points in the bag. It is imperative that we devise a plan B for teams that play the way Sunderland did (and quite a number of teams will) if we are to have any clear shot at the title at the end of the season. We lost/drew too many games like this last season.
The game yesterday was hardly over before news filtered through that the club have agreed terms with Barcelona for the transfer of Alex Song. It was confirmation of what we had known for at least 24 hours and came as no surprise. I'm sorry to see him go but as I said yesterday, he had become a disruptive influence on the heels of Barcelona's tediously protracted interest and the club had chosen to let him go.
I say we let Theo go now while we're cleaning house. Nothing about him yesterday indicates he'll be a better footballer than he is right nowIt will be interesting to see how the club reacts with just two weeks to go before the transfer window shuts. The rumour is that Sahin's loan move to us from Madrid is almost a done deal and the boss stopped short of out-rightly confirming it at his pre-match conference on Friday when he said the move may happen.
— Lalah (@naijaendgooner) August 19, 2012
Lewandowski and/or Llorente, M'villa to Arsenal are some of the new transfer rumours that have emerged and if any two of those happen I can say we've done fantastic business this summer considering what we've lost.
Let's hope it happens.