Tag Archives: Sunderland v. Arsenal

Never in Doubt

Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal: Rosy and Stern

Stern

Last time we did this the complaint was that people want me to go first so that they can have their “Rosy-coloured-glasses” on at the end? Ha! Ok, I can handle it.

Before kickoff everyone was excited to see the new guy, Özil. Every social media site, every newspaper, and every one of my friends were talking about nothing but Özil but I was looking at the team sheet and having a small heart attack.

I guess the Özilhype is well deserved because the player is absolute class as you saw when he took down that pass and turned it into a goal. He’s direct, he’s top top top quality; he’s all the things that we’ve been told we had for the last 5 years but really didn’t.

And even I have to admit that there’s a reason why everyone keeps comparing him to Bergkamp. Özil has that rare ability to see the play develop before everyone else and know exactly what he wants to do with the ball before he gets it. He plated up more perfect chances yesterday than I could count (3 –Tim) and but for Walcott’s poor form since signing “da ting” could have easily racked up a hat-trick of assists.

But what Özil’s introduction to the squad and all the hype around him should do is show the board and the boss the importance of spending money. Not just for the quality spending brings but also for the lift it gives everyone around the club. The fans are flying high right now and that’s the kind of atmosphere which makes sponsors drool. I’m not being funny here in saying that Özil’s price-tag made headlines but the real story is that despite the huge sum paid to Real Madrid, I think Arsenal will still make a profit this year.

I think that because even if they gave Real Madrid 100% of the cash up front, Arsenal almost certainly still increased turnover by more than the £42m they paid! That’s right, the new shirt deals and the increased television revenue more than made up for the price of Özil. That means that Arsenal have to be the only club in world football who can have a total net spend of £35m in the transfer market, still turn £15m in profits (in other words not actually spend any money), and have their supporters singing the praises of the management team as if they pulled off some grand coup.

You only need to look at the squad yesterday and see that there are going to be real problems at this club over the next few weeks. Arsene already rushed a clearly unfit Özil into the starting lineup because of an ankle injury to Santi Cazorla which Wenger said will keep the Spaniard out until the next International break. Not only that but every single Arsenal fan, even the “Rosy” ones cried out in terror when Giroud looked to have picked up a knee injury. That’s because Giroud is Arsenal’s only fit forward.

I’m sorry if this hurts your feelings but it is absolutely shameful that a club like Arsenal, with £150m in the bank would go to Sunderland with this bench:

Lukasz Fabianski 21
Thomas Vermaelen 5
Nacho Monreal 17
Emmanuel Frimpong 26
Ryo Miyaichi 31
Chuba Akpom 37
Serge Gnabry 44

I saw that bench yesterday and nearly spit out me Bovril. Arsenal are going to be playing twice a week for the next two months with a squad which cannot suffer any injuries up front or they will be forced to play Chuba and Serge — which sounds like a Georgian oompah band.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have a forward who can’t score (Walcott) a defender who flies into tackles needlessly (Koscielny), another defender who should have been sent off for a last man foul (Sagna) and frankly it looks like the same old Arsenal to me just with the addition of Özil.

Oh, and Ramsey. He’s looking good this year. I’d like to think all of our criticisms finally got him to learn to be more direct. Now if someone could have a word with Wilshere, he’s hanging on to the ball too much. Best to just pass it to Özil.

Rosy

Buy buy buy! Arsenal played an actual football match yesterday and all some people want to do is have a moan about the bench. Let’s talk about buying in January, you know, when the window opens.

Until then, injuries are going to happen, you can’t have 6 center backs lying around doing nothing so maybe some reserve players will need to be slotted in and make weight. That’s how Wenger’s been doing this for as long as I’ve followed Arsenal — did you know that during the Invincibles season a fresh-faced Gael Clichy started 15 matches for Arsenal. It happens, you deal with it, I’m sure the boss has a plan to buy someone big in January.

In the meantime we have football to talk about.

Speaking of the Invincibles, am I the only one here who thinks Wenger is assembling the Invincibles Mk. II with Özil as the new Bergkamp?

See, it’s not just so much how Özil’s touch to take down the pre-assist from Kieran Gibbs was Bergkampesque. Nor that like Bergkamp, he already knew what he wanted to do with the ball and then simply looks up to get Giroud’s exact coordinates and plays a perfectly weighted ball in to Giroud. It’s that Arsenal’s opener yesterday reminded me of the way the Invincibles used to play. I watched the 49ers DVD the other day and was struck by how many of Arsenal’s goals were scored either from the counter attack or were started by a long first pass by a defender.

When I think of “playing football the Arsenal way” that’s what I envision: quick, vertical football, played with nimble players who are thinking three passes ahead of the defenders and that’s what Özil brings to the team.

And just like Bergkamp’s first season at Arsenal it’s going to take a few games for his teammates to catch up with him. Walcott in particular seemed to be surprised by some of the passes Özil made for him and tried to rush his shot or went for the default: power. Once he realizes that Özil’s passes give him more time than he thinks, we should see the goals start to flow.

Like they have for Giroud. How can you not be happy for Giroud? He struggled last season putting away the gilt-edged chances he got. This season he’s not only scoring in front of goal he’s also getting early goals for Arsenal, which is yet another feature of that Invincibles team, they often got off to a quick start and then could sit back for the rest of the game and hit the opposition on counters. Which is what we are seeing again this year as Arsenal have held leads against all the teams we’ve played against except Aston Villa.

Yesterday, Arsenal were nearly undone parking the bus, however, when Koscielny went in hard for the ball, failed to win it and Adam Johnson went to ground like a foreigner, or an Englishman playing for Sunderland, take your pick. Atkinson was thoroughly fooled by the Englishman’s dive and gave the penalty.

As an aside I have supreme confidence that Koscielny will improve on his tendency to dive in to tackles in the box. This is a player, remember, who works on every aspect of his game and has improved steadily over the last three years. Fear not positivists, Koz will come good (just like Ramsey has).

You could tell that the penalty shook Arsenal’s confidence and Sunderland nearly got a second goal when Jozy Altidore held off Sagna and scored beneath Szczesny’s legs. Atkinson probably got that whole thing wrong, if it was a foul, he probably should have played advantage, or if not then perhaps sent Sagna off for the foul which denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

But the problem is that refereeing in England has become so wildly inconsistent that no one knows what to expect when they watch a match. In the earlier match Man U were awarded a penalty for a foul which clearly happened outside of the box and all of the pundits admitted that the foul occurred outside the box, but still said “for me, that’s a penalty.” Which.Is.CRAZY. It looks to me like matches are being refereed from gut instinct rather than an application of laws and that is just ripe for problems.

In the end, who knows what would have happened if Atkinson had gotten all the calls right? He didn’t, and plenty he got wrong against Arsenal, and Arsenal won anyway and I’m not going to worry too much about what his influence was or wasn’t on the game.

Because for me, Aaron Ramsey won Arsenal that game. He led the team in pretty much every statistical category from passes to tackles to goals and the two goals he scored both prompted me to a standing ovation. Just sublime skill. With Flamini behind him providing a stable platform Ramsey was free to roam, which plays right to his strengths.

But really Flamini was the unsung hero. Flamini didn’t put up eye popping numbers but he provided defensive insurance behind the more creative players like Ramsey and Özil. I can say from experience that I always feel more comfortable as a midfielder with a solid defender behind me. I think that’s why Ramsey led Arsenal in tackles, he could get stuck in and take the ball; that’s why Ramsey led Arsenal in goals, he could bomb forward a bit knowing that Flamini was behind him to mop up the mess.

Flamini also takes away some of the heat from players like Ramsey and Özil. Lost in the sublime performances of Ramsey (most improved player or most improved player of all time?) and Özil was the subtle graft of Flamini, getting under the skin of Steven Fletcher to the point where the Sunderland forward could have gotten a red card for his clear retaliation foul on Flamini after the two of them squared up, he got nothing, in fact Flamini ended up with the yellow later in the match.

In the end, though, I’m not going to moan about the referee. All that matters is that Arsenal saw a great debut from a player who was operating at about 50%, got two stonking great goals from a player who has spent most of his time at Arsenal being maligned by the moaners, and that Arsenal topped the table.

TOP OF THE TABLE, BABY!

Wankers, the lot of them

Sunderland v. Arsenal: let’s shush them

Many of you know that I was there in 2009 when Arsenal were held to a scoreless draw against Sunderland at the Emirates. Sunderland had no intention of playing for more than a point that day and shut down Arsenal’s attack, despite that being the first match for record signing Andrei Arshavin, through cynical fouling and playing deep in their own half for all 90 minutes. When the final whistle went off, the Mackems erupted in dance and jeered at the home crowd in scenes of celebration that would not have looked out of place if they had just won the Champions League.

The worst part, though, was having to endure them shushing us as we trudged out in silence. That still chaps my hide to this day.

Sunderland have been a bit of a bogey team in this regard for the last five seasons, holding Arsenal to three 0-0 draws at the Emirates and giving up a total of just four League goals in the other two matches. Away has been a similar story. The Gunners have two wins, one loss, and two draws in those 5 away games and an aggregate score of just 5-4 to the Arsenal. If you’re counting, that’s 5 draws, 4 wins, and just the one loss. Sunderland play Arsenal for the draw and the total goals scored reflect that with 9 for Arsenal and 5 against or 14 goals total, a 1.4 goals per game average — roughly half the number of goals we would expect to see at an Arsenal game during that same period.

The safe bet, then, is a dour match with a 1-0 or 1-1 scoreline. However, with a little luck, Arsenal could pull off a big win, say, 3-0 or something. And with the buzz around the club at the moment, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a big scoreline for the first time in 5 seasons.

If we do, I want the away boys to shush those Southern Geordies. Shush them hard!

Teams

The buzz at Arsenal is all over Mesut Özil and the fact that he brings more vision in his left eye than Arsenal have had since Cesc went on strike to force a move to Barcelona. When I was looking through the media stuff on the official site I noticed that Özil wasn’t in any of the training pictures. And now we find out he and Mertesacker have got the flu. Question marks hang over whether he and Per Mertesacker will be fit for the match tomorrow.

I’m not expecting him or Mertesacker to play which is a blow for the Gunners. Özil will be Arsenal’s new dedicated set play taker, as he was at Real Madrid, and his accuracy from corners would have been great to see.

His illness, along with key injuries to others, also leaves a strange hole in the Arsenal midfield. Cazorla is the only currently fit first team player who can play on the left. That means Arsenal have to play Zorla, Giroud, and Walcott up front, Wilshere and Ramsey in the middle and the surprise inclusion of Flamini as the rudder.

Giroud is in fine form so far this term with three goals in three games. I’m hoping to see him get a fourth and really push on from his performances last term where he struggled in front of away crowds. Walcott also has looked poor-ish this season and really needs a goal to settle him down a bit. Though, his ability to provide from the wings is underrated and he looks to be on the verge of forming some new partnership with Giroud.

Wenger’s inability to land a forward this summer also leaves Arsenal’s bench insanely bereft of any game-changing forwards. Expect to see two or more of Sanogo, Miyaichi, and Gnabry there. Wait… did I just say that out loud? Oh yes, I did.

The only midfielder I see on the official list who can make the bench is Frimpong. As a result, Arsenal supporters will be on pins and needles any time a midfielder or forward is involved in a tackle.  

I guess defense is sort of stacked. Sagna will cover for Mertesacker and Jenkinson will play right back. Koscielny gets the start unless he gets sick from sharing the same sippy cup that Mertesacker and Özil drank from. Gibbs will probably get the start over Nacho and Vermaelen may make the bench along with Viviano, the new Starbucks drink.

Wait… did I say I hope we win 3-0? Well, I still hope it.

Mostly because Sunderland have been miserable up to this point and the home fans are letting Fascist manager Paolo di Canio know it at every turn.

Sunderland, though, have a huge lump of a center back named Diakite and he has been their best overall player so far. They will build off his power and try to nip at Arsenal in the midfield with Vaughn and Cabral diving in at the ankles of Ramsey and Wilshere all match. Wilshere was one of the most-fouled players in the Premier League last season and I expect he will continue to be targeted this season and especially tomorrow as he tries to dribble through the Sunderland lines.

Up front, I was expecting Jozy Altidore to start and I can tell you he is not the same player you probably remember from Hull City. A spell in the Eredivisie has given him huge confidence in front of goal and Arsenal will need to watch out for his pace and power on the counter attack.

But since Sunderland landed Fabio Borini on loan from Liverpool that changes the equation slightly, though, again, the player has a bit of a hamstring and even Di Canio isn’t crazy enough to play a forward with a hamstring niggle in a counter attacking set up? Right?

Sunderland’s real threat is from corners and set plays (which they will be diving all over the field to win). Seb Larsson isn’t a good footballer but he would make a wonderful kicker in throwball. He and Darren Fletcher (be wary of anyone who has a “trademark header”) will be looking to exploit Arsenal from every set play.

At the outset I wanted to shush them, but now, I don’t reaaally care what we do so long as we get the three points and keep everyone healthy for Wednesday.

Qq

Özil

Özil Özil Özil Özil Wenger Wenger Özil Özil Özil Özil FFP FFP

Today in North London Mesut Özil officially became a Gunner. Özil attended his first training, he was officially unveiled (he stood next to Arsene and held up a shirt), he attended his first press conference, and he was asked his first stupid question by the British press: “Mesut, tell us, Wie viel wissen Sie hasse es, wenn Leute dumme Sachen sagen über Ihre Augen??”

As with everything about this Arsenal signing the presser was different. Özil spoke through a translator and the official video cuts in and out of sound as our interpreter gives his answers to questions. Despite the technical oddness, his answers were basically the same stuff we have already heard in the press: he came to Arsenal because of the manager’s faith in him, he wants to improve, he is looking forward to the challenge of the Premier League, and he knows that Arsenal are a big club:

Arsenal are a very well known club, a very successful club with very young players, and the young players develop very well here. This was one of the reasons why I chose to come here, I want to continue to improve myself. I am really happy to be here under such a great manager.

The manager was praised as well with Özil saying that having Wenger’s faith was an importaant factor in making the switch. “When I talked to Arsene on the phone he was full of respect and as a player I need the respect.”

There are some who will read veiled subtexts there about former manager Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez. Mourinho benched Özil for big stretches of his last season at Real Madrid and FloPe has had quotes published making rather harsh accusations about Mesut Özil’s sex life, professionalism, and supposed greed.

Some have suggested that the quotes look fabricated and still others (with a comedy pile of poop hairstyle) are suggesting that Özil is going to sue FloPe. Özil for his part distanced himself from all of that simply stating that people who know him know his work ethic.

Regardless of whether there is a lawsuit, the fact remains that Real Madrid have come off looking like Real Chumps in this deal and it certainly smells a lot like they are trying to foul the waters after his departure. Wenger took a swipe at clubs like Real who spend beyond their means in the quote that will be argued over by people who like to use acronyms like “WOB”, “AKB” and my favorite “JFCYPAFS”.

Taking a swipe at Madrid, Chelsea, and Man City, Wenger said:

I fight for the teams to spend the money they had made and not the money they have artificially earned.

And followed that up with the quote for everyone to argue over:

Once they have made that money I am happy to spend it. As you know as well, what is very important for us is to find world-class players. There are not plenty around. We had to go through some years when I signed a long-term contract where we had some restricted financial potential. And the target was to stay in the Champions League in this period and we managed to do it. We are now in a strong position financially.

Did Wenger just admit that Arsenal’s target for the last 8 years was 4th place? Did he just say that Arsenal didn’t have money even though we all know that they did have money? Is Wenger promising more signings?

I can hear the sharpening of the knives now.

As for his own future Wenger (on the last year of his contract) was either “cagey” or just plain honest. “We aren’t in a hurry. We’re in September. My contract finishes in June. It’s a long way to go.”

In the team news Arsenal have stated that only Tomas Rosicky returned injured and that Özil could start on Saturday against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Perfect introduction then for our newest superstar; away game to a team known as much for crunching tackles and trying to win off corners as anything else.

Qq