We’re not talking about anything too strenuous here. Whether you’re expecting it of a League Two substitute or Champions League winner, the simple things are surely a given. Ensuring you apply a force which exceeds the power of a one-legged mallard to a back-pass, clearing you’re lines in possession as you’re near the six-yard box with the opposition closing in or controlling the ball and not tackling yourself as you swing to clear it would all constitute as the simple things that should be a given. Of course, we’re Sunderland, nothing is a given.
To make matters more frustrating, there was a point (at the very least) for the taking in this game against an Arsenal side which didn’t seem to have an extra gear. We defended well, John O’Shea was good, Patrick van Aanholt took his game to another level, Lee Cattermole was excellent once more and yet what good work we did was drowned ferociously by yet more blunders.
The first was further evidence of Wes Brown’s disintegrating form. His fall from grace as arguably our best performer last season to whatever it is we have been witnessing lately is astonishing. At 35, and considering he is not first choice at centre back if team selections this season are anything to go by, as well as his poor performances make it look a clear-cut case of ‘legs gone’. Brown wafted his foot at a back-pass in a motion similar to Michael Turner and that infamous free-kick at Anfield leaving Sanchez free with all the time in the world to coolly lob over Vito Mannone. A player of his talent isn’t going to need inviting twice. Turns out we did that anyway.
The second was just as eye-wateringly cringe worthy. As effectively the last moment of the game, Will Buckley inexplicably passed to Mannone inside the six yard box only for the out-of-form keeper to control the ball decently with his left before tackling himself with his right as he tried to swing a left-footed clearance away. Erm. Sanchez, being the opportunist little blight he is, again accepted the all-too generous invitation to claim his second.
Aside from the two goals which felt dragged forward from last week’s debacle, in the main we matched our more talented rivals. Arsenal, as you would expect, attempted to take over the game with their all-consuming football but we repelled them well, limiting the Gunners to half chances in the main. Half chances that is expect for a handful which fell to Santi Carzola who seemed confused as to which sport he was playing when in front of goal.
Whilst we did well in repelling Arsenal’s attacks, another hugely obvious problem was the same one we’ve had all season – creativity. Our wingers, particularly Will Buckley, found themselves in countless positions behind the opposition’s full-backs but failed to put in any kind of a decent cross. The exception to this was a single cross from Seb Larsson which led to Jack Rodwell forcing a save from Wojciech Szczesny. That was a test for the Polish stopper which was few and far between and none of which were particularly difficult.
To heed to some perspective, this was Arsenal and they are a considerably better team than we are. Whilst I doubt this result changes our season to any great degree, it does highlight clear shortfalls in our squad and I find myself praying for the swift returns of Ricky Alvarez, Emanuele Giaccherini and Billy Jones. There is no doubt we are back in the relegation fight, though I do feel if we can keep our heads above water until January we won’t have to run things quite so close as we did last year.
Perspective doesn’t make this any less bloody annoying mind.
Attendance was 44,449 by the way. Incredible given we were beaten 8-0 a week ago. Well done you beautiful people.