Tag Archives: Premier league

Match Report: Arsenal v. Sunderland

By Les Crang, at Emirates Stadium behind a buttress of junk

With my birthday on the 23rd of May and more over time than I often get offered, I took the opportunity to catch Arsenal’s penultimate league game of the season, from what looked a relegation bound Sunderland. Funnily, this has been the most games I have seen in a season having seen 3 league games at home (Hull, QPR and Sunderland), a League Cup game against Southampton and the FA Cup game against Hull. I was pretty pleased with that.

But in all that time I had missed out on one major thing: Mesut Ozil. Now, I don’t care what anyone says, in world football, to me, Ozil rules supreme. Ever since I saw him play for Germany in the 2009 U21 final, and destroyed England, that is the player I always wanted to watch:-

When we signed Ozil, I didn’t sleep all night. I was that excited. So, to say I have been looking forward to finally watching Ozil in person is an understatement.

Prior to going to the ground I met Gary Lawrence for a few at The Cannon on Blackstock Road. I’d met Gary a couple times before (prior to the Hull F.A Cup game and at the I am Sam event) and I’m often ‘talking’ to Gary via twitter and he is always a huge help with my research. To my shame, on the previous two occasions I’d not bought a round and wanted to prove I did have a wallet without moths in it.

After a few beers and discussing the usual things (family, football and, uh football) we noticed that we made the classic mistake of the ‘last half’ and I ended up late to the game and missed the first 8 minutes. From the highlights it looked like the heavily booed Jermaine Defoe had a half chance. So, I guess I didn’t miss much.

I then proceeded to watch Arsenal up in the goods (I’m never going in block N again. It’s just not the best view.) As I settled into my seat I noticed that Arsenal then proceeded to pass to someone I had not seen on the team sheet. That person was called ‘the other foot’: whenever Arsenal got around the Sunderland box, the first person they’d pass to was ‘the other foot’. By then, a well marshaled 9 man Sunderland defence, led by an industrious Lee Cattermole had closed Arsenal down.

Again and again Arsenal would either pass to ‘the other foot’ or worst, to a player in space. Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs ably replaced Francis Coquelin and Nacho Monreal respectively, with both having tidy games. Gibbs especially impressed, with his overlapping play and ability to track back. Jack was also a willing runner in the middle, but even with his thrusting runs, space was at a bigger premium than a Spurs EPL challenge.

There were chances. Ozil, who I’d been dying to see, was often driving across the 18 yard box only to cut back the ball to an overmarked and lethargic Olivier Giroud. If Ozil did shoot, it was often from just inside the box and blazed over (he did this twice).

From the stands, Ozil looked disinterested all game and frustrated the hell out of me. He has class though and when the ball is in the air and he brings it down, his cushioning of the ball is very Bergkamp-esque — a bit like the way Dennis cushioned the ball against Argentina in the World Cup quarter-final in 1998):-

He’s not Bergkamp, and he was pretty poor, to be honest.

Aaron Ramsey had a few runs, but much like the rest of the team, when he was near the goal, especially in the first half, picking the wrong pass seemed to be the only option. As Aaron has a stunning shot, his willingness not too use it left me constantly to drop into Tourette’s mode.

Sanchez, as ever was a willing runner. Once in the first half he was dispossessed, got up and hustled to win the ball back. You can’t doubt his stamina and he did try but once we won the ball back, Arsenal were immediately crowded out in the middle and the ball was lost

The player who did impress, actually didn’t have the best game, but that’s how poor we were!

I’d already spoken to Tony Fisher and Cockney Green Gooner about my man love of Ozil, but they said Santi Cazorla is better.

@mzk90 @plasticspam @garythegooner56 @cockneygreen65 #controversial I’d take Santi over Ozil

— Tony Fisher (@vidfish1) May 20, 2015

Now, I think Santi’s been awesome. A brilliant signing, but last night I watched him and having last seen a game at the Emirates had not noted how much deeper he plays since Wenger changed his tactics away to Manchester City earlier this year:-

He was industrious, always looking for the ball. Those that have mentioned he might leave and might be losing it really should watch the Spanish maestro. He really makes Arsenal tick. His loss should not be even contemplated in my opinion.

Half-time came and it was really feeling like Swansea the week before (minus the shots mind). I could remember no real chances for us. Another was pretty obvious in tactics. The middle was congested so why not try a tricky winger at half-time. I mean, it was crying out for Theo Walcott and I’m not a huge fan, but width was needed as Gibbs and Bellerin (more on him later) had not really had much luck on either side.

Of course, Wenger waited for his beloved 68th minute before Theo came on for Jack. Theo was applauded on his 300th appearance for Arsenal. Prior to this Arsenal had a header by Gibbs go just wide (similar to a goal he scored against Shrewsbury. See below):-

Arsenal 3-1 Shrewsbury Town by fun4lyf

Also Arsenal had hit the back post with an audacious angle shot in the 55th minute.

Sunderland, though, stuck to their guns and stayed as deep as possible and kept Defoe as a wide man waiting for any punted clearances upfield, which occurred on a couple occasions. One was with Bellerin caught well out of position. With Per Mertesacker trying to cover the middle and turn (never easy for the big man), Defoe collected Sunderland’s clearance and simply hit a long, hopeful ball in the area of Scotland’s finest striker, Fletcher. Fletcher, who being chased down by Mertesacker, couldn’t clip it over an advancing Ospina. Being Scotland’s finest really does mean you’re not much good, thankfully for Arsenal. Warning signs were there for all to see though.

Sunderland and Fletcher would have a better chance when Arsenal were easily caught out attacking too far upfield. Again, Fletcher proved to be wasteful in front of goal. But then Arsenal then nearly scored when a Sunderland defender chested on the post.

With ten minutes to go, Ozil was finally substituted for Tomas Rosicky. Rosicky was soon pulling the strings with Theo, who really put in some good runs. Rosicky has been sadly under utilised this season and what a shame. He proved how invaluable his bursts are as a sub.

With these two on, Arsenal passed quicker and shot more. Theo had two excellent attempts well saved by the Sunderland keeper (1 & 2). Tomas Rosicky then missed a great chance by some metres to on the 83rd minute. Then the whistle went.

Overall, an annoying game. Sunderland deserved the point, but the game screamed for width and a few more shots at their extremely tall goalkeeper (how we all wished Vito Mannone was playing?)

The good points? Well, Per and Laurent Koscielny underlined it won’t be easy for Gabriel to dislodge them. Cazorla was always trying and working from deep, Plus Theo and Rosicky looked like they showed why they should play Sunday with their great cameos.

On the negative? Well, the no goals scored for a third home game after another team parked the bus (surely Aston Villa saw what they have to do in the Cup final?) Ozil ghosted out too often and Giroud looks jaded. But my main complaint? Héctor Bellerín. Now he’s great player but I can understand why people see him as a replacement for Dani Alves at Barcelona. Like Alves, he loves to get forward, he has speed and he likes to shoot. But just like Alves he gets caught out of position. He over relies on the excellent BFG and Kozza to get him out of trouble. Twice at least he got caught out of position. Once he caught up with the player (he’s fast) but couldn’t tackle without fouling. He’s a liability at times and perhaps Mathieu Debuchy‘s return cannot come soon enough?

Anyhow, I’d gone looking forward to our new signing against Sunderland, expecting a win and came away disappointed. I think you’ve been here before, Tim ? Lets hope we beat WBA Sunday in preparation for the Cup Final.

Wankers, the lot of them

Arsenal v. Sunderland: the time has come to buttress our junks

By Tim Todd, Sr. Junk Buttresser

Whelp, it’s the penultimate Premier League match for Arsenal. The final home game of the season. The last chance for the Gunners to get the points that could propel them into second place. Arsenal’s last chance to buttress their junks.

Second place seems a bit fanciful at the moment. Arsenal are 5 points behind Man City and -11 goals on goal difference. To take 2nd, Arsenal need to win both remaining games and hope that City lose on the final day of the season to Southampton. That could happen but first Arsenal need to win today against a Sunderland side who are still in the throes of a relegation battle and will be looking to get at least a point. A point would ensure survival and mean that they could take the day off on the final day of the season, when they face champions Chelsea.

In a refreshing turn of events this season Arsene Wenger has taken to publicly stating what he thinks the opposition’s game plan is:

“If you are Sunderland, what do you do if you need a point? You play not to lose the game and you hope for a counter-attack or a set-piece. I think that’s what they will do – they will try to be sound at the back, defend well and get the point that makes them safe.”
Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/match/report/1415/pre/first-team/arsenal-v-sunderland-match-preview

Given that, Sunderland are a side where Wenger needs to get the balance right with his squad selection. Arsenal need players with the foot speed to match the counter and defenders who can win the ball in the air. He also needs attacking players who can unlock the defense with a deft dribble, someone who can break through the lines and cause panic.

Ox is the guy I would pick to run the wings but it’s a shame he is broken. In his stead, I’d like to see Wilshere come in for Cazorla. It’s not that Cazorla is bad, he’s just tired and his performance against Man U last week was one of the worst of the season. Far from dropping him, it’s just a good idea to give him a rest, especially since Arsenal play this weekend as well.

I would also give Alexis a break. Arsenal have Rosicky and there is no reason why he can’t play against a team like Sunderland. But I suspect that Wenger will bring Walcott on instead. I’m not saying that the choice makes sense. I don’t expect Walcott to have a particularly full match and he’s not at all a like-for-like replacement for Alexis. But Arsenal need a wing player and he is the closest we have to that.

Meanwhile in the back, Bellerin was abused by Ashley Young in the United match and has looked well out of sorts for a few weeks but I don’t know if Arsene can drop Bellerin, Wenger’s only healthy choice is Chambers and while I like the young man I think he has been exposed one too many times in the right back slot this season. And if Walcott starts in front of him, there could be real trouble because Theo’s not the best at covering his defenders. So, I’m sticking with Bellerin.

Gabriel will probably start paired with Mertesacker in center back. Koscielny has picked up an illness or a knock, or something, and Gabriel is a good replacement for Koz in terms of ability and physique. Judging on the few times I’ve seen him play, he is fast, aggressive, and good in the air. Exactly what Arsenal need in a center back playing against Sunderland.

Wenger doesn’t like to make too many changes at once. So I’m not sure we will see a wholly different Arsenal team with Gibbs, Chambers, Wilshere, Walcott, and Gabriel as some have suggested this morning. Three players will probably be the max rotation, unless there is a major problem physically on the Arsenal side.

After a loss to Swansea and a dour draw to Man U, Arsenal need to get back to winning ways. Sunderland are not going to be easy but Arsenal should have to quality to beat them. Especially if Arsenal get stuck in early and catch Sunderland still tying their boots.

That’s your quick and dirty preview. If you have time, I suggest you check out Rory K. Smith’s  piece on why we (reporters, media types, fans, bloggers, etc) are overhyping the impact that the transfer market can have on a team. It’s an interesting article and matches pretty well with Wenger’s comments about how we would feel if Coquelin had cost Arsenal £40m. There is also a subtext in that article about Özil: he was Arsenal’s record signing and part of the reason why so many people get down on him is because we expect him to be:

a one-man highlight immediately, a scorer of great goals and a great scorer of goals, creative and quick and hungry and immune to poor form or a bad day.

That is something that many of the writers and readers here have said time and again.

After the match, I will do a by the numbers piece on Arseblog News and we are actually going to have a match report from Les Crang later tonight. I’m also recording the ArseAmerica podcast with Chris Toronyi which should be up sometime tomorrow morning.

That’s all.



Mourinho and PGMOL show Pragmatic side to Arsenal

By Tim Todd, turning a sows ear into a Peirce

It appears, then, that the rule for attaining the third grade of clearness of apprehension is as follows: Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object. – Charles Sanders Peirce, father of Pragmatism, gives his Pragmatic Maxim

If it looks like a cart horse, turns like a cart horse, then it’s probably Peter Crouch. I… ok, I really don’t know what he’s talking about and frankly any mention of Peirce makes my throat go dry and my palms sweaty. Have you ever had to read his original texts? Oh god, that just gave me a flashback, I need to call my therapist. – Tim Todd, decidedly not C.S. Peirce who is like some kind of philosophical god and whose works are as impenetrable as a Jose Mourinho back four.

Arsenal played Chelsea for 90 minutes at the Grove and neither team scored. There was a moment of controversy, or two, and in the end Chelsea players celebrated on Arsenal’s pitch because the draw took them one giant step closer to winning the Premier League title. Chelsea did what they had to do to get themselves closer to winning the title, Arsenal didn’t quite do enough to win the game and get themselves into real title contention. Call it whatever you want, call it parking the bus, call it pragmatism, call it weefleflorvin, whatever you call it, Mourinho came to the Grove to get at least a point and got what he wanted.

Thus ends my Pragmatic match report.

I always found it funny that the father of Pragmatism, C.S. Peirce (whose last name rhymes with “curse”, “coerce”, and “nonsense verse”), wrote such impenetrable works. I know, he’s not writing for us, and he’s, like, a polymath supergenius, but couldn’t he have, just once, been like “ugh… ok, here’s my philosophy, for you dummies”?

A lot of philosophers write densely packed and coded works. It’s almost as if they write in such a way as to intentionally obscure the meaning of their work. Like priests in the dark ages, holding onto scraps of knowledge, and keeping that dangerous knowledge away from us proles.

If you think about it, it’s a bit like how the organization who run refereeing in England act, they are the high priests of the Laws of the Game and they aren’t going to let us in on their secret knowledge. PGMOL, or Professional Game Match Officials Limited, organize match officials in England. They pick the officials for games, train the officials, review the officials, keep the officials fit, and lately have started an “information” campaign for the masses, sending out tiny missives of opinion cloaked as information.

PGMOL piped in this propaganda masked as quasi-information to international broadcasters in yesterday’s match between Arsenal and Chelsea. Contradicting their own official on the field but without benefit of explanation and since they simply told the broadcasters what to say, there was no one to question the “ruling”.

Here is what happened on the pitch: Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas collected the ball deep in his own half, spotted teammate Oscar making a run between two Arsenal defenders, and played a perfectly weighted ball 40 yards over the top and into Oscar’s path. Arsenal’s keeper, Ospina, rushed out to collect the ball, but Oscar got there first and flicked over Ospina, the two players collided in the box, Oscar was knocked out, and it took a heroic effort from Bellerin to get back and clear the ball off the line with a diving header.

Here’s what happened off the pitch: all of the commentators were convinced Chelsea should have had a penalty. Some were convinced that Ospina should have seen a red card. And at the end of the match PGMOL released an amazing statement which NBCSports quoted without criticism: ”[PGMOL] say that Michael Oliver may have changed his decision if he saw [Ospina collide with Oscar] again.”

You should watch the replay over on Arsenalist.com. The first thing you’ll notice is that Oscar is offside, clearly offside. The second thing you’ll notice is the collision and Oscar get knocked out cold. The third thing you’ll notice is that referee Michael Oliver doesn’t make a call and that Bellerin does a fantastic job to get back and save the goal.


What I found shocking, however, is how the broadcasters here in America reported that the PGMOL felt that referee Michael Oliver might have overturned his decision if he’d seen the incident again. There was no mention by PGMOL of the clear offside by Oscar. This incident cannot be a penalty because Oscar was offside and yet the NBCSports announcers and PGMOL have essentially said that Chelsea should have won the match by being awarded a penalty.

The other thing I found shocking is that Oscar played for another 30 minutes before going to hospital at halftime. Chelsea should be sanctioned for allowing Oscar to play on after that collision. They risked his life by keeping him on the pitch. I think that the FA need to review the head injury rules and perhaps force a substitution whenever a player is knocked unconscious. I don’t know, I’m grasping at straws here, but something needs to be done before there is a very serious injury.

I’m going to receive calumny from both the Arsenal fans who want me to complain that Arsenal didn’t do better and I’ll also get an earful from the Chelsea fans who want me to “be fair” and call the Ospina tackle the most brutal murder seen in London since the Victorian era. These two sets of fans will cry that I am complaining about the PGMOL, deflecting, instead of calling for Ospina to receive 3 life sentences in Attica.

I don’t care. The broadcast media uncritically aired propagandist opinions by an organization that looks to me to be fighting for its very existence. They threw Michael Oliver under Mourinho’s parked bus, tossed Jose the keys, and watched as he drove off over Oliver’s body.

The media should refuse to uncritically air their opinions. If PGMOL wants to re-referee matches so that they can look like they are “fair”, they should have a spokesman go on television and face questions. They should have their views challenged. But they can’t have people questioning them because then the whole facade falls apart. It’s easier just to throw Michael Oliver under the bus to make it look like they actually want to get the decisions right. It was a disgusting moment and exposed the PGMOL for the self-serving group that they are. 

As for the match, I know there are a lot of people sitting around today complaining about Mourinho’s “pragmatic” approach to the game. And I agree with them on one point, Mourinho is pragmatic. He’s pragmatic because he is not as tactically astute as people make him out to be. He takes a simplistic approach to the game, buys the very best players, and tells them to go do it. It’s hardly the stuff of genius to buy the very best players and make them play defense first.

But the thing is, he has every right to play that way. As long as his fans are happy, his players are happy, and his owner is happy, he can play any style of football he wants. It’s the opposition’s job to unlock Jose Mourinho’s team and get the win.

Arsenal tried to do that on Sunday and came up a bit short. Mourinho refused Arsenal the space in the middle of the park which would have allowed the Gunners to attack in a more dangerous area. As a result, Arsenal resorted to playing in long crosses which Terry and Cahill dealt with easily – those two Chelsea defenders are most comfortable when the opponents are playing in crosses for them to head out and least comfortable when nimble attackers are running at them.

I felt Arsenal should have countered with fewer crosses and more attempts to get to the end line and draw the ball back. Arsenal’s three best chances of the match came when their defenders (Monreal, Bellerin, and Koscielny) did exactly that. But Arsenal couldn’t get their shots on target and in the end it looked like a comfortable affair for Chelsea.

I don’t know what else there is to talk about in terms of the match. The Gunners weren’t terrible but just not quite good enough to get the win. It’s not even really disappointing, Arsenal weren’t supposed to win, Chelsea have the far more expensive squad, and the simplistic defense-first tactic is difficult to break down. So, it’s just something that Wenger will need to work on this summer.

In the mean time, Arsenal have a real chance to claim second place and all the glory (money) that goes with it. They also have a chance to win back-to-back FA Cup trophies. In Arsenal’s reality, they should be pragmatic, themselves, and remember to focus on what Peirce called the “conceived sensible effects.”

Uh huh..