Arsenal failed to capitalise fully on Man Utd’s loss to Chelsea by only drawing with a Sunderland side which had lost their last four league matches.
Robbed of five first choice players through injury (Vermaelen, Song, Fabregas, Walcott and van Persie) the side lacked creativity with only Jack Wilshere showing any imagination and drive in his play. Jack was accompanied in midfield by Dumb & Dumber (sometimes known as Diaby and Denilson), who both demonstrated yet again how hopelessly out of their depth they are at a top Premiership club. If they were offered to any of the top 10 Premiership teams on free transfers tomorrow, there wouldn’t be many takers. Yet Wenger persists with them time and again, giving them long, fat contracts instead of spending that money on buying experienced, savvy midfielders who can deputise ably.
95% of Denilson’s passes were 5 yard sideways balls, and with Diaby dallying in possession as usual, there was no zip or tempo to our play. Sunderland pulled everyone but Gyan behind the ball and we passed it about in front of them, rarely penetrating their backline except for a couple of dribbles from Nasri and the occasional Arshavin run into space. Wilshere was pushed further forward into the Fabregas role and excelled as is becoming the norm these days, but despite working his socks off, making a few solid tackles and generally looking like the only player who gave a shit, he couldn’t rouse us from our lethargy. Apart from a couple of Bendtner efforts we had nothing to show for the first hour and the atmosphere amongst the fans was one of concern as to where the goals were going to come from.
Denilson demonstrates his lack of ability once more
The game changed around the hour mark when Chamkh came on for the appalling Denilson, who kicked a water bottle in frustration as he trudged off, so disgusted was he by his own display. A bloke near me shouted “You’ve had a shit game Denilson!” – an accurate assessment which would’ve rung just as true had he used the word ‘career’ instead of ‘game’.
With Nasri now in the centre of midfield (finally!) Bendtner moving out wide and Chamkh up front, we immediately looked more offensive and the realisation we needed to pull our socks up and get this result at last sunk in. The team redoubled their efforts and laid siege to the Sunderland goal for the rest of the match with Chamakh immediately creating a chance for Arshavin, which he fired wastefully at the keeper. Arshavin then went round the keeper and scored only to be incorrectly flagged offside, before Bramble manhandled him as he went clean through and shoved him in the back just as he was pulling the trigger, causing him to shoot wide. It was a certain penalty but the second massive decision of the game went against us and the score remained blank.
Chamakh hit the bar with a header and Mignolet made a great save from a Nasri free kick, but it wasn’t all one way traffic as Szczesny made the save of the game, diving full length to turn Wellbeck’s late volley around the post and preventing Sunderland nicking an undeserved win.
So a valiant last 30 minutes was in vain as refereeing decisions, good goalkeeping, the woodwork and poor finishing conspired against us. But what I want to know is why did it take two thirds of the game for us to show the kind of commitment, passion and determination necessary to win? Questions need to be levelled at Wenger’s motivational skills as this is yet another example of playing in second gear against weaker opposition at the Emirates and thinking it will be ok. The lack of a leader was embarrassingly evident as the team ambled casually through the match. If Chelsea or Barca are put in front of us we snap away at them and ping the ball around with meaning and purpose. Not so against the lesser teams. Wenger really needs to shake them up before they enter the field, not after an hour or at half time.
This wasn’t ideal preparation for the Barcelona second leg, but if we can remain within touching distance of Man Utd until we get our main men back we’ve still got a great chance of winning the league.
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