Sunderland 2-0 Arsenal | Call that a response guys? Pitiful

For me this match was not merely about reaching the quarter final of the FA Cup. Today there was something far bigger and more important at stake, for this was a crucial test of Wenger’s ability to elicit a response from his under-performing stars. Could he motivate them to bounce back after that unacceptable performance in Milan? Or were we about to see that the players have lost faith in him and the direction he is taking the club?

Well, I think the answer is pretty clear. After another abject performance lacking desire, tempo and spirit, Wenger seems unable to coax them into doing even the basics right. He had criticised them openly in the media, given them the hairdryer treatment at training on Thursday and still we were outfought and outwitted by an average, well organised team.

It’s unacceptable.

I really wasn’t too bothered about going through, I just wanted to see some desire, drive and spirit from the boys. Some evidence that Wednesday’s match had hurt them as much as it hurt us fans. It was a real chance to make some sort of amends, but after a promising opening five minutes we reverted to type.

There was no tempo to our forward play, it was all sideways passes and no penetration. Apart from Arteta’s early free kick we had one decent chance in the entire match when van Persie played in Gervinho and his snapshot was tipped over by Mignolet. To be honest we didn’t create much last Saturday either, but Henry’s predatory instincts had papered over those cracks.

As for the defending, I’ll admit our cause wasn’t helped when Coquelin limped off so early on but we had a decent back four in Milan and they didn’t do any better, so I don’t think personnel problems is the issue here. The issue is a lack of awareness and common sense that seems to blight most of our defenders. Wenger apologists will instead point to the fact we were down to the bare bones in defence and had to play the likes of Squillaci and Djourou with Vermaelen out of position.

Well, consider this — at the other end of the pitch a back four of Bardsley, Turner, Richardson and O’Shea gave a perfect example of textbook defending, working hard as a unit to keep us out. Would you consider those journeyman pros good enough to play for Arsenal? I wouldn’t. So if average Premiership players like that can perform competently as a result of decent organisation and coaching, why can’t the likes of Djourou and Squillaci who are deemed good enough to play for a big club like ours?

The first goal highlighted our ineptitude perfectly as Djourou dwelt on the ball and brought down Gardner for a silly free kick after the Sunderland midfielder dispossessed him. The result was a scrappy goal, but it could, and should, have been avoided.

Arsene Wenger suffers on the touchline

Wenger had no effect from the touchline as usual

Sunderland owed their lead as much to the determination and desire of Gardner to close Djourou down as they did to Richardson’s sweet shot. They did it well all game, forming two banks of four to press us in all areas of the pitch, working their nuts off to deny us time and space in which to play our football.

It’s something we don’t feel the need to do for some reason. Such hard work seems to be beneath our arrogant players. If we had defended as collectively well as Sunderland in the San Siro we might’ve got a decent result, but there was no willingness to track back or do the ‘dirty work’ for the team on Wednesday and there wasn’t much this evening either.

Disappointingly, we didn’t even threaten to equalise after falling behind. Wenger made a couple of changes but they had no effect and we deservedly went out of the cup with a whimper. Even van Persie couldn’t muster anything of note and he looked forlorn and disillusioned long before the end. Sunderland held out with embarrassing ease and were handed a killer second via the unfortunate Ox.

Here’s something to think about. Djourou was responsible for the first goal and for me epitomises everything wrong about Wenger’s strategy. The centre back is now 25 and has been at the club since 2003. He would be a first team regular by now if he had the talent, but he finds himself fourth choice and is clearly not good enough. Apart from a purple patch for a few months last season he has done very little to impress in those nine years, so surely Wenger will be dispensing with his services in the summer when he starts the much vaunted clear out of players who he is supposed to be losing patience with?

Erm, no actually. Djourou has just been handed a three year contract extension by our wise old manager.

Yes, you read that right, Djourou’s mediocrity has seen him rewarded, not shown the door. Think Wenger is going to change his ways and stop putting his faith in youngsters who never seem to realise their potential? No way. Our deluded leader is still convinced Djourou will come good and for me that speaks volumes. Our strategy of buying cheap kids and persisting with them in the hope they will turn into Fabregas is going to continue for as long as our stubborn, out of touch leader is in charge, so get used to more nights like tonight.

So that’ll be another year without a trophy then and we now have a battle with Chelsea for fourth place to concentrate on. The only piece of good news is that they are just as woeful as us at the moment, so if we can be less crap than them over the next three months we might just scrape it.

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  1. snipe

    You are still a one man team. Big club, Small players, no balls.

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  2. thundertinygooner

    We must qualify for the CL or we won’t sign any top players.The Board will rein in spending with decreased revenue and top players won’t join or in RVP’s case will leave. Kroenke must be bought out by Usmanov or we could be in limbo for years

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  3. Terry

    A pathethic surrender coming after Milan.Wenger cant motivate his bunch of multi-millionaires.
    Djourou and Squillaci has there ever been a worst CB pairing at Arsenal
    Theo came on and touched the ball twice.Theo you have had your chanmces over 6 year.You are not good enough.Goodbye
    Its time for Wenger and Kroenke to go and Usmanov to take over.Enough is Enough

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  4. neilmets


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    • Gooner Steve

      No offence meant, but Sunderland are an average Premiership club as far as I’m concerned. You usually finish mid table don’t you? That’s average.

      Your deserved win is considered an upset and that was my point. Enjoy your win, good luck in the next round and don’t be so touchy!

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      • Paul

        Team and club are different entities. Sure you have a great reputation as a club but then again so have we if you look back far enough.
        What annoyed me yesterday was ITV’s focus on the negative of Arsenal’s demise rather than the brilliant TEAM performance of Sunderland. No prima donnas but a set of hard working footballers who were organised and committed.
        As for average…………our record since the era of MON began puts us in the top 3 of the league.
        Arsenal can garner their 60,000 crowds from a population of over 10 million living within an hour or 30 miles of the ground. SAFC have about 7% of those numbers to get its support from, bearing in mind they have fans spread around the country if not the world due to work or lack of it in the NE of England etc.
        Sorry but you are following the tried and trusted dogma displayed by so called experts on TV and in the other media outlets……….ie; Arsenal, Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool deserve success because of their reputation over the last 20-30 years.
        Football is better without cartels dominating.

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        • Gooner Steve

          I agree with everything you say except the last bit. Why do you assume I expect success because of our reputation? All I expect is the players to work as hard as Sunderland’s did which everybody privileged enough to be earning millions as a footballer should have the decency to do.

          I also expect the club to use the money I give them to put together the best team they can, not spend as little as possible to try and finish 4th every year.

          These are my gripes. I am not complaining because we didn’t win, I’m complaining because we didn’t try hard enough to win, both on and off the pitch. We aren’t entitled to win because we are a ‘big club’ but we are entitled to see a better performance than that considering the resources at our disposal.

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  5. nigel

    I agree. Wenger should leave now.
    We do not even see good football anymore.
    Do we even have a game plan?? besides lets pass it back.
    Lets for once put out the right team, yes, even with the players we have we
    could and should have won today. Why didnt we? Wenger….
    Enough is enough. Wenger thanks but now goodbye. We are in real danger
    of finishing a lot lower than fourth.

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  6. TeeCee

    Great article.
    Whenever any AKB sticks up for Wenger and blames the board etc, imwill say just one thing……who gave Djourou a contract extension?
    Wenger is readying the club for mid table mediocrity by ensuring we have mediocre players tied to the club. His 15-20m profit that he said must be raised each season will be done by selling RVP and signing someone like Holiet (out of contract) to replace him.
    If Arsenal charged £25 to £30 for tickets not many people would moan but when they charge over £100 per match for some standard seats, it is criminal. O’Neill has shown exactly what changing the manager can do for an average squad. NOTHING will improve at Arsenal until the idiot in charge is gone.

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  7. Admir

    Djourou’s contract extension is not surprise considering the fact Wenger is doing everything he can to ruin Arsenal in past few years. He still has faith in Rosicky, Arshavin, Djourou, Squillaci, Chamakh…though it is obvious that they are either past their peak or simply not good enough. Wenger is not capable of keeping our best players (Fabregas, Nasri, probably Van Persie) while average and fringe players are in the squad.

    Another problem is scary fact that Arsenal got out of CL and FA Cup while playing with probably the best players (minus Wilshere, of course) in the club. Spine of the team is healthy (Sczeszny-Vermaelen-Arteta-Van Persie) but performances of its members against Milan and Sunderland were awful. I expected our defence to be much stronger with Sagna (arguably the best right back in the world) but instead we got 6 goals and feeling that we should be happy it wasn’t 10. Arteta is out of form and that is huge problem.

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  8. Frontwheel 2

    Is it really Wengers fault or is he just the fall guy for a very greedy,not football savvy group of Business men.As a yiddo I shouldn’t feel for Wenger but I do,anyway if all you doom merchants are right I’ll have a word over the lane and get Levy to relieve you sorry lot of RvP and that young lad Oxarse Chambermaid.COYS

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    • begeegs

      Yes, it mainly is his fault.

      He trains them. He is the tactician. He buys and sells them. He gives them new contracts.

      He has mismanaged the club for about 4-5 years now. He needs to do the honorable thing and resign.

      He can take the club no further.

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  9. Rockett

    Arsene out
    Kroenke out
    Its time
    If we loose next week bring the guillotine of with his french head

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  10. mj

    I don’t wanna sound pessimistic but surely this team won’t finish 4th. As bad as chelsea are and as inconsistent as liverpool are, Ill bet that they will both finish above us. Let’s be honest, when u sell 3 key players and buy them with average players, we had it comming. No matter what,always proud to be a gunner

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  11. Fishingboy

    Has the board decided that Mr Wenger is restricted to buying third rate football players on the cheap,or is it Mr Wenger who has drecided, that he can build a silk purse out of a sows ear.This once famous football club has no pride,passion,skill,desire, or determination, to the detrement of the loyal supporters.Untill the door is shown to a number players, directors, or maybe the unthinkable, Mr Wenger, this club will complete a slow lingering death.

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  12. Ben

    Sunderland fan here and I’m so happy with the win today, we played well, defended great and looked like scoring every time we went on the break. That was only helped by how poorly Arsenal played, would love us to win the cup! Ha’way The Lads!

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  13. kickand push

    If Sunderland have that ref helping them every week- they will win the Champions League next season. If they have fair refs every week they will struggle to beat Boro over two games. He and it was a disgrace!!!

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    • Paul

      Don’t be silly………same ref missed a handball that had travelled 40 yds and struck your defenders hand. Not exactly ball to hand was it at that distance? I’ll concede the Larson one was a bit close to give. RvP didn’t make too much of O’Shea’s tackle as he got the ball first.
      If you’re on about the tackles that saw your lads limping like jessies…..most on replay showed barely any contact.
      Truth is your lads didn’t fancy it and you should be wondering why for an average of £40K/week they didn’t put a decent shift in and stop looking for excuses.

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      • Menace Lurgtramp

        You seem a sensible person Paul but surely this post just needed humouring? I’ve got to say I have over the years got very angry at reffing decisions but they only ever really matter if it’s such an obviously bad call that has caused points to be dropped  by a single goal. In 99.9999999999% of all victories the best team has won, the rest is just BS. Teams should set out to include having to beat the ref as well as the opposition, win by 2 or 3 goals and it doesn’t matter how bad a game the ref has. The best won with pretty much ease yesterday.

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  14. DanS

    Seventh in the table, maybe sixth. There is no way we’ll make fourth. When this kind of rot settles in, its very difficult to trim out, you need wholesale change. New coach, and probably turn over a third of the first squad. Hell, if we only got mediocre for mediocre, which is likely, at least they’d be new and not infected with the lack of work ethic / desire that it seems most of our squad has. I really wish RvP good luck in his future, wherever he lands. He deserves better.

    When I first started following Arsenal a decade or so ago, it was because as an American there was no way in good conscious I could pick ManU. I knew about relegation, so I had to follow a team near the top, so I wouldn’t lose them. And Arsenal played beautiful football. They had a winning tradition and seemed like they’d hang around (not to mention their merchandise was half Chelsea’s and Chelsea seemed like a bunch of asses). I was right. But the constant “we’re going to win trophies THIS Year,” from Arsene has gotten old. Stop promising what you can’t deliver. I know lots of people will say, yeah but last year we were still in the hunt for FOUR trophies deep into the season. Were they really? Were they so strong, or was it a lot of luck and good fortune? They aren’t going to win anything this season, and honestly I’m afraid of a death spiral, where we start dropping 2 out of 3 games. I think its time for Mr. Wenger to go.

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    • kruger

      to be honest mate, what does it really matter to you? you can always just ‘pick’ another team. ‘i knew about relegation’ lol ffs.

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  15. Menace Lurgtramp

    I can never quite get my head around someone who is so upset at losing and becomes irrational with his view of  incidents that he has seen during the match, standing there on the touchline looking distraught, crouching down banging the turf with his hand, kicking water bottles, it hurts him so bad, he can’t stand it, can’t stand to lose and he’s a very bad loser. The haunted look in his eyes, the soul destroyed.
    AND YET!
    He’s the one effing person to have the power to do something about it. 
    If you had an itchy nose you’d scratch it wouldn’t you?   Yet Wenger wouldn’t, he tries not to be  so obvious as to scratch the itch with his hand. Oh no not Arsene, he’s going to do it by the power of positive thinking. Tit. 
    Problem is old boy your club now has an itchy back and someone else will have to scratch it for you.

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  16. dave safc

    Just a view from a safc fan.
    What Mr Wenger has done for your football club has been absolutely amazing and im sure you have had some awsome days following your team and have some fantastic memories to treasure.
    However I believe the main problem he has is that he is still trying to play the same brand of ‘absolute’ football with players who simply arent good enough to do it! Yestrday at the SOL as previous posts suggest you were easily beaten by an average team with a solid game plan and bucket loads of endevour.
    It seams to me that Arsenal do not have the spending power of Chelsea, Liverpool and the Manchester clubs and are getting somewhat left behind.
    If you do not have the quality of player to play a certain brand of football then you change your tactics to suit the players you have at your disposal, i dont think Mr Wenger is capable of doing this and subsiquently you are getting performances like yesterdays.
    What the future hold for your great club who knows but i personally cany only see you getting further and further away from the big boys unless somthing drastic changes!

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  17. Backfixer

    Sunderland fan here. Arsenal were awesome and a pleasure to watch in years gone by but they are a team in relative decline at the moment. Some of the players on show yesterday are clearly not Arsenal standard, Djourou for a start and Walcott seems to have one good game in ten. I will always respect what Wenger has done for Arsenal and for football in this country but nothing lasts forever and he’s had a hell of a run.

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  18. Gooner Steve

    Nice to see a few Sunderland fans on here. I enjoy reading the views of opposition fans as well as fellow Gooners and it’s interesting to see how Arsenal and Wenger are perceived outside the red half of north London.

    I hope Sunderland have a good run in the cup now. Don’t let Spurs win it!

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  19. stevie freestein

    As an SAFC supporter it’s quite nice for us to have an ‘average’ top flight team after decades in the doldrums!

    Should Wenger recruit a few players like O’Shea, Richardson and Cattermole to add a bit of indigenous fighting spirit?

    Good luck for the rest of the season.


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  20. Dave

    As another Sunderland fan reading this, I started to get annoyed by being called average, as it seemed another arrogant dismissal of anyone outside of the top 4. However, having seen Arsenal twice in a couple of weeks, I think that there are a number of players in your side who would love to be thought of as an average premier league player. Some of them aren’t even close to that standard.
    If you picked a side just from the last 2 games I suspect most would come from our team. Most Sunderland fans have real doubts about Turner, and O’Shea is widely seen as past his best but in 180 minutes they haven’t given van Persie a kick (how many other defences can say that). Personally, I think that Richardson is a decent left back but again, most of our fans have doubts. Oxlade-Chamberlain is ‘the future of English football’ yet he was utterly in Richardson’s pocket yesterday, despite being one of the few Arsenal players to try really hard.
    Yes, most of our players are not seen as good enough for the top 4 (in 2 or 3 cases at least I think this is wrong), but they are good, honest, professional footballers with a lot more ability than they are given credit for. Finally, we now have a manager that organises them properly and has harnessed their fantastic effort. He also makes no excuses when things go wrong. Arsene Wenger has done wonderful things but I can’t help feeling that the way he always gives his team an excuse means that you get performances like last night when it is cold and the pitch isn’t perfect. The players know that if they don’t perform then the manager will blame anything but them and he proved it again yesterday. We completely outfought and outplayed Arsenal yet Wenger said that you were ‘spirited and unlucky’. How he can come out and say you were denied a 100% penalty is incredible when all the pictures show O’Shea getting the ball and also showed a clear handball in our favour that wasn’t given (exactly as per last week, which again O’Neill didn’t complain about).
    Our players know that there will be no excuses if they don’t perform. I don’t think that Arsenal players feel the same.

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  21. Greenhorn

    @safc dave couldn’t agree more. Myself as a gunner fan for more than 2 decades, right from graham days of winning the league, FA and league cups the cup winners the mediocre Rioch days and of couse the famous invincibles under wenger. Never have I been so affected by our team performance. Steve is right.. We complained because our team showed us nothing.. Why can’t we play with right attitude?? A simple logic, if your opponent defended in numbers, as a top team you try your best to score and if your team is mediocre and a top team is attacking relentlessly, u try your best not to let them score. For the past 2 matches, I don’t see us fitting into any of the top or mediocre team I’ve mentioned. Wenger said that we are missing several top players in Santos, wilshere, metersacker and diaby. That will be difficult for any club in the world to deal with. Let’s win our next game (i hope so too) and we be fine. Sounds like another familiar story that I have been hearing..

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  22. Shanzuman

    I frequently read your blog reports and all the comments from our fans and indeed from our opposition fans and over time I have noticed that the situation of football success at our club has worsened. I have been saying for the past three years that the culture of football at the Arsenal is deteriorating from season to season and that our high standard of football that the world had previously aknowledged has been in decline. This has come about because the club (being management, directors, coaches, scouts etc) had failed to keep up with the opposition by regularly investing in one or two good, respected and experienced players that would combine with the Club’s Youth policy and maintain the high standard of football culture that our beloved Arsene Wenger had over his early years accomplished. Profits, property development and greed has recently become more important to the Board and management than the continued success of the club. OK we have been told that the building of the new stadium had taken its toll but in my opinion no Bank would have forced the Board to take the stringent action that they had taken to the detriment of success as the latter would have maintained good profits and turnover and is afterall what the Banks want!! Regretabbly AW was sucked in by the Board’s new philosophy on seeking to achieve success through an economic Youth Policy and has become more determined and stubborn to proof to the world that he can bring success through ”youth” and without spending the millions like his competitors. This was doomed to fail as it appears that no additional club infrastructure was put in place to make it work and unfortunately we are now paying the price. AW is a legend and no matter how much we respect and love him for his past achievements, he has for the last six years failed and so he should resign and let new blood with new ideas take over at the helm.

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  23. Paul

    Stumbled upon this site due to a tweet or something of that sort and I have to say it’s a damn good blog. Vast majority of comments are sensible with hardly any of the usual brainless ranting found on many fan sites. Well actually I’ve only read this page but if it’s symptomatic of the rest then nice one.
    Well done to the owner.

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    • Gooner Steve

      Thank you Paul, glad you enjoyed it.

      I’d much rather be blogging about how wonderful Arsenal are right now but I fear I won’t be doing so for some time yet.

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