Arsenal 2 – 0 Sunderland
For seventy minutes, it was another one of those nights. The visiting goalkeeper produced the performance of his life and when he was beaten, the woodwork was there to save him.
And then it happened. The much-maligned striker pops up nit just once but twice to score. Alexis, castigated by the manager and persistently by the club’s attack dogs, once again saved Wenger’s bacon. Not that he cared; everyone’s been sniffy in the past about the top four and he doesn’t understand why it’s suddenly a big issue. The spirit of Clouseau lives on, and more power to his elbow for that.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad performance. Alexis pounced for two ‘fox in the box’ goals, that almost had me feeling sympathy for Pickford. “Sign him up!” went the cry; “Aah, oui; mais non!” Arsène chortled afterwards. We aren’t in the market for a ‘keeper and he proceeded to name the reasons why not. In many people’s eyes – mine included – those are the reasons why we should be signing a new goalkeeper this summer, be it Pickford or Butland.
Petr Cech, in fairness, did the usual; important saves to keep us in the game. Jermaine Defoe, were he 5 – 7 years younger, would be an ideal signing now. An intelligent striker, whose runs cause problems. And quick; the sort of player we could benefit from. Time is not on his side but Cech made a couple of smart saves from him.
Pass and Move – Getting The Basics Right
At the back, Rob Holding pushed his name forward as a fixture in the team with another assured performance. What marks him out is his distribution and a willingness to run with the ball but without risk. Comfortable in possession, he doesn’t look to offload a pass at the first opportunity. He should have scored as well. Chip in with 3 or 4 league goals each season and international recognition beckons; it ought to anyway. He looks a better player than John Stones.
The poverty of Sunderland’s play underlines their plight. Moyes imagination sent them out mirroring our 3-4-2-1 but it failed to stifle Arsenal. Roger East, with a far better view than Saturday’s Prima Donna, spotted Giroud’s hand deflecting Alexis’ shot into the net. Giroud, in the side for his aerial ability among other attributes, was protecting his head from the ball. The deflection achieved begged the question why not glance a header goalward, or at least try?
No surprise when later on, he made way for Danny Welbeck who suffered the same frustrations thanks to Pickford’s ability. Having been held at fault for recently, the young England international was impressive in not just saving shot after shot, but turning the ball to safety. Decision-making may be an area to work on but staying at Sunderland for another season unless he is going to be first-choice elsewhere, might be his best bet.
Protest and Survive
On and off the pitch, there was a pre-season friendly feel about the place. As much as Arsène and others portray it as ‘Tuesday night against poor opponents’ syndrome, the protests had an impact. An unquantifiable one but the general consensus was that the Emirates has never been less empty for a competitive game. A suggestion that half the seats were unfilled in protest sounded more or less right but apathy is as much Arsenal’s enemy as dissent.
The club takes a hit on night’s like that. Ancillary sales – programmes, merchandise, and sustenance – all form a part of matchday income and it doesn’t take long for the total to reach six-figures. Not to worry, Arsène told us Sunday’s sold out so it’s just a blip.
Wenger rued the defeats at Everton and City, and later mourned those at West Brom and Palace. He could have chosen draws to lament or defeats in London derbies; the season provided rich pickings for that. The league campaign ends on Sunday with an unlikely top four place at stake. He is reliant upon Liverpool slipping and continuing their dismal home form, to remain in the Champions League.
For a man who found participation such a virtue, that disappointment must bite hard. He believes he has the wherewithal to rectify that. On last night’s evidence, a significant number don’t share that confidence.
Finally, there is a new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox: Jukebox Classics: #3 The Songs Which Influenced Arctic Monkeys is as eclectic mix as could be found; it’s here while the Record of the Week – Paul Weller’s A Kind Revolution – is found here.