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!
— 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):-
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.