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Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0

With some ghosts exorcised with the midweek slaying of Orient and with Chelsea doing us something of a favour, there was a day of destiny feeling about the Sunderland match. Yet any pre match confidence was tempered by a look at our injury list, with the likes of Walcott, van Persie, and Fabregas missing. The equivalent injury list for United would see Bebe and Obertan in starting berths. We knew it wouldn`t be easy to break Sunderland down and so it proved. Arsene opted for Denilson and Diaby in central midfield, which I felt was an error even before the game started. Personally, with the players we had injured, I would have put Rosicky in and had Wilshere sitting in with either Diaby or Denilson.

The first half was very flat indeed, with Sunderland`s organised pressing game comfortably dealing with what little probing threat Arsenal offered. In fact, Sunderland had the better openings on the counter attack in the early phase of the game. Sessignon jinked past Gael Clichy and arrowed a shot towards the bottom corner which Szczesny clawed out. Arsenal`s first real chance of note took nearly half an hour to arrive when Clichy sent a low cross in from the left which just evaded the outstretched Bendtner. When a team is as well organised as Sunderland, you need a piece of skill to open them up and that usually entails running at them and committing them. Nasri managed to do just that as he collected Bendtner`s pass on the right, he jinked between three Sunderland players before arriving at the by line, but he`d just run out of space and his attempted cut back was blocked by Bardsley.

The resulting corner from Wilshere dropped for Bendtner, whose improvised overhead kick fell into the grateful arms of Mignolet. A yard either side of the Belgian and Arsenal would have been in the lead. It was one of those days. But Bendtner was to be denied again minutes later in slightly less fortuitous circumstances. Wilshere probed into the right hand channel, lofted a ball over the Sunderland defence for Bendtner, who had time and space and an acute angle to work with. His volley was headed straight for the top corner, but Mignolet thrust out a palm and turned the ball over. But all in all, it had been a rather tepid half and to go back into the dressing rooms goalless was about correct on the balance of play. Arsenal were clearly lacking creativity.

The situation did not improve hugely in the second half until Chamakh entered the fray at the expense of one of the defensive midfielders- an area of our pitch that was clearly over staffed. Chamakh`s impact was immediate as he held off Baramble from Sagna`s pass down the line. The Moroccan sloped to the by line and cut the ball back for Arshavin, but the pass was a little too meaty, meaning Arshavin had to take it first time. He hit his shot straight at the keeper with a good portion of the goal to aim at. The Gunners began to increase the heat and Sessignon`s careless foul on Koscielny on the edge of the box yielded a free kick. Nasri dinked his effort towards the corner, but Mignolet beat it out with a strong hand. Nasri then found Wilshere on the left, he clipped an inch perfect cross in for Marouane Chamakh, but his header pinged back off the face of the crossbar. Sometimes in football, you just need the ball to do you a favour. On days like this, that doesn`t happen.

The home side continued to press and Nasri brilliantly skipped away from Henderson inside his own half before sending a slide rule pass to Arshavin that sent him clear. Bramble clearly tugged his arm as he moved into the area, but Arshavin stayed on his feet and was penalised by the officials for doing so. As he shaped to shoot, the stumbling Bramble shoved Arshavin in the back with two hands, causing the shot to fly well wide. It wasn`t even subtle, both hands on Arshavin`s back. If you cannot see that that is a shove, you are not good enough to officiate at this level. Simple. It wasn`t a difficult call in the slightest. But as Arsenal pressed, the Black Cats did briefly threaten to ruin the Gunners` day completely. Sessignon showed great skill to shimmy past Clichy on the right wing before sending a cross into the box, which Welbeck controlled, turned and volleyed towards the bottom corner, only for Szczesny to brilliantly claw the ball around the post. The response of Koscielny and Szczesny to last week`s blunder was a bright spot on a frustrating day.

From the resulting corner, Henderson connected with Sessignon`s delivert, but Szczesny blocked again, Bramble widly swung at the rebound, sending it over the bar. The Gunners continued to carry the fight and should have had their reward when Bendtner played Arshavin in on goal, the Russian skipped past Mignolet and put the ball in the net only to be denied by the linesman`s flag. Replays showed Arshavin was onside. However, I tend to get less miffed about offside calls, they`re pretty borderline and it`s fair to say we got away with a generous flag at Wembley last weekend. I have a decent view of these calls from where I sit and I offered little complaint at the time the flag went up. It was only the replay that provided the frustration. Where I do get annoyed, is when a professional referee does not deem two hands shoving an opponent to the floor from behind to be a foul. As I`ve said, on days like this, you need those incidents to go your way. Arsenal pushed and caused Mackem hearts to flutter when Bendtner flicked on Rosicky`s cross, but Mignolet clutched the ball in the crowded area.

It proved to be an incredibly frustrating afternoon. Arsenal did not get going until an hour into the match once the manager seemed to clock that there wasn`t really any need for two defensive midfielders- not enough creativity had come from that part of the pitch. However, I thought we did enough to scrape out a scrappy 1-0 and had decisions gone our way, we would have done and everyone would be singing to a different tune this morning. But things didn`t drop for us and we have to dust ourselves down and get on with it. It would help if the injury situation eased slightly over the coming weeks, but we`ve all pretty much given up on the likelihood that we`ll ever enjoy a good run with injuries at the crucial part of the season. Now we have to hope for Liverpool to do us a favour. I shan`t be doing a match report for Barcelona as I don`t arrive back in England until Wednesday evening. Hopefully when next we speak, our season will have received the kind of boost that will put yesterday into a brighter perspective.LD.

53.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 6.KOSCIELNY, 20.DJOUROU, 22.CLICHY, 15.DENILSON (29.Chamakh `62), 2.DIABY, 19.WILSHERE, 8.NASRI(c), 23.ARSHAVIN, 52.BENDTNER. Unused: 1.Almunia, 16.Ramsey, 18.Squillaci, 27.Eboue, 28.Gibbs.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday March 6 2011

Time: 11:26AM

Your Comments

u guyz should have had a penalty
kishaloy_nag_blue
aprt from tht i thought u guyz were desparately unlucky
kishaloy_nag_blue
I say AMEN! to your last wish there, LD. I recall someone (wasn't it Gunnerkid107?) posting "Not even close to offside. We can't complain about the ref's for the rest of the season now!", to that wrong offside call at the CC final against Brum. But, to have a legit goal ruled for offside and to be denied the correct advantage when ourplayer is shoved in the back in the area, just as he's cocked his leg to shoot, leaves much to be desired and we must complain to the high heavens. Somethings' just got to give here, otherwise, these Refs will continue with this agenda and cost us dear.
Naijagunner
Whatever happened to giving the attacker the benefit on offside calls? The way the game is going, you have to say that these decisions are proving costly. Maybe it's my bias, but the refereeing performances against Everton, Newcastle and yesterday have been really, really poor in terms of getting the key decisions wrong. Why does there never seem to be this much refereeing controversy in Champions League games? Maybe a pool of European referees should be used for all top flight games in Europe. Also, some of our home fans cheering when Denilson and Diaby were substituted really grates. Just coz they're not having the best of days, no need to get on their back during the game.
Gooner_Vin
As for individual performances, one key thing wrong with Deni's perfomance was the fact he was surplus to requirements as we didn't need so much in the DM area yesterday; then there was Diaby's dwelling on the ball unnecessarily too long and not moving with the flow of the rest of the team. Nasri also had occasions where the team would have benefitted more if he simply whipped in a cross than to hold onto possession and dribble backwards from the flanks; we had Bendtner and Chamakh waiting on those occasions and we know they are good in the air. Our only threats from crosses came from the full backs and kudos to Sagna and especially Clichy, on that score. Great response from Szczesny and Koscielny after that CC defensive howler. Big hearts shown there and thanks to the fans for being supportive. A lot of the stories after this game give the impression that we have not closed the gap on United; well we did, albeit, by 1 point only, instead of 3. There's still a lot to play for; season's run-in games will be crucial for the contending teams. Come on ye Gunners!
Naijagunner
Liverpool 2-0 up, still the entire second half to go though.
Dberg
How bloody annoying is that? Yet again we look a gift horse in the mouth.
Wyn Mills
As annoying as that is Wyn as things stand Man U are 3 points ahead of us, we have a game in hand plus we have to play them at home - it could be better but it could also have been worse with our two dropped points.
Dberg
Also we've narrowed the goal difference to just two (again as things stand).
Dberg
jack_wilshere - Afternoon everyone..just to let you know i am not injured and if selected will be fit to face Barca! Few kicks but nothing too bad! about 2 hours ago
Dberg
I feel the same way, the offside decision you can expect but the penalty not being awarded is disgraceful considering the two we conceded at Newcastle. It wasn't even once, he was fouled twice.
gronedrone
Oh well, not a total loss, as the Scousers have just beaten the rags 3-1. :-)
fifthcolumnblue
Let's be honest,,,we should be beating a limited team like Sunderland at home. I know we had a couple of dodgy decisions go against us but I'm fed up blaming our dropping of points on lousy officials. We need to stand up and win this, not rely on Pool and Chelski to do us favours. Time for some of our players to take a good hard look at themselves and ask how much they want it.
Wyn Mills
Jeepers- cheer up everyone! Old Red Nose has just lost two big games in a week! Game-in-hand for equal points! Game-on!
julieloveshenry4ever
Utd are so lucky they've only got us chasing them and not a team that want to win the Effin thing
Shewore
"It's up for grabs now" 4-0 to us at the Grove, in April. You read it here first.
julieloveshenry4ever
LD, I am increasingly finding myself wincing at our raults only to be jubilant at other teams losses. Am I a normal gooner? In fact, why can we not take advantage of other teams mistakes?!?!
e dubbz
Next weekend's FA Cup match is looking a bit "spicy" now...
julieloveshenry4ever
Dberg, just wish the club would come out and calm the fan's fears about Jack's fitness. As per normal we are left dangling while the club say nothing apart from Wenger's post-match comment that he could miss Barcelona. Cue mass media hysteria. In the end its Jack himself who declares himself fit!
Wyn Mills
Mr Wilshire obviously wants this. Ankle knock or not.
Wyn Mills
Fabregas was declaring himself fit for the CC final too. Players aren't always going to be the best to judge.
Amos.
i hear Puyol might miss the game. Maybe just maybe there is a great game to come from this Arsenal team. NB better be on fire.
Gael-Force
True...but when we're talking degrees of fitness isn't the player often the best judge? I sometimes wonder if our lot are too tightly wrapped in cotton wool. We desperately need players like Jack and Cesc for these crucial matches...players that are match fit and want to win. Otherwise we'll always be starting on the back foot with those who aren't. I see no point having a player come back into the team 100% fit just in time for the end of the season.
Wyn Mills
As both a Man U fan and football fan I hope you thrash Barcelona to give them a reality check and progress further in the CL (I always support the English team in Europe regardless of who they are). Solely as a Man U fan there's a further incentive as if you guys get knocked out of the CL it gives you more focus on the PL and I really don't want that.
TheFamousNo7
It's a double edged sword though. You wouldn't want a player who is only 70-80% fit to play and then end up missing the rest of the season either. Just have to assume that the club is going to do what is best for the team. It's not in their interests to do anything else.
Amos.
I trust the club is trying to do what's best for the team. But I hope they're listening to what the players are saying too.
Wyn Mills
Modern football is too strenuous and sapping for footballers to know if they are truly fit after a game forget after a game when one has been kicked for 45 minutes relentlessly like Wilshere was. If there was a choice between playing Jack for the Barcelona game and then have him probably pick up a niggle, the team may be better served by having him sit out. If the tests prove him fit he should play. Basically, players cant decide this, the medical team and the manager have to.
Deltaforce
I recall RvP 3 seasons ago diagnosing himself as ok, the medical team went with it. He played twice and was out for another 3 months.
Little Dutch
I feel the reason we've appeared to be beter on the injury front this term is because we've resisted the temptation to use our players even when they are unfit. I toe DF's line of argument on Jack's fitness; if he isn't 100%, we can rest him instead of losing him for the rest of the season when there is still so much to play for.

On the topic, we may rue the missed opportunities to place better on the EPL table; first Newcastle and now, Sunderland were winnable games which would have seen us top of the league table by now. United's last 3 games sees the end of the rough patch for them we all looked forward to for Arsenal to turn the table on it's head, yet they are (potentially, even with our game in hand) still top. Their next run of games are winnable and they'll have time to shake off the bad results during the International break. We still do have to play Liverpool home and Spurs away, which are tricky fixtures, now. Only way out now is for the team to go on a blistering run of wins; we cannot afford to drop any points now until we go top & put day light between us and the team that will be placed 2nd.
Naijagunner
*better*. Maybe, I am just getting ahead of myself there, but we should have done better with some of the opportunities we've had, all season long.
Naijagunner
With Liverpool win today they could even edge out the spuds who only managed a draw.
Armory
Armory, don't get my hopes up and get me salivating.
Naijagunner
i think liverpool game at home is guaranteed 3 pts for arsenal, judging by today's result at anfield
49ers
If Sunderland, Newcastle, West Brom at home aren't guaranteed 3 points how can Liverpool be?
Amos.
Calculate as much as u want, Arsenal will bottle it, you know it and i know it.
jackstan
I got confused on that one, as well.
Naijagunner
Chavs have already bottled it I take it? It's just about seeing how many points we can get and if and when we can get key players back long enough to have an effect on the key fixtures. It's been a good if erratic season already.
Amos.
Well Wilshere may or may not make it but one player that won't be playing is Puyol.
Dberg
The 'chavs' did u a favour.
jackstan
Unintended consequence - nothing to do with us at all. Every team the mancs drop points to indirectly does us a favour. It only matters to us if we can do enough to take advantage of it. Still 30 points to play for. Plenty to be won or lost yet.
Amos.
LD, don't recall the RVP situation of a few years back (you don't mean the Holland match, do you?), but given his perchant for injury I would say that he's probably the worst example you could have chosen!
Wyn Mills
OT: Dont get your hopes too high about the United defeat. 1. They will be charged up for Saturday. 2. We will find some new way to choke.
Sajit
Yeah RVP is a terrible choice of example LD. The guy is injured pretty much injured every waking day of his life.
gronedrone
Time for you to show you have what it takes to clean up now. Don't throw away your chance now as it is a really great one you have with United stuttering as they are at the moment.
SFC Forever
Who says it's the end of Mancs bad run? I remember them losing 6 in a row, a while back. If anyone had suggested back in October (when the hacks were already calling the Title race over) that Chelski were about to go on the run of form they've had, you'd've been laughed out of town for a lunatic. The League this year is utterly mad (though exciting for neutrals)- you can't say anything for sure...
julieloveshenry4ever
*penchant*
Wyn Mills
With Song out of the Barcelona game the focus will be back on Diaby and Denilson. Diaby's ability to go past players is tempered by his inconsistent ability in maintaining possession while Denilson's ability to maintain possession has been marred this season by a lack of tempo. Tough call for Wenger, Song will be tough to replace.
Deltaforce
DF, Diaby and Denilson will be perfect for Barca.. Both slow down the game to a snail's pace. :)
Sajit
I know this may sound odd but sometimes I wish Flamini had not been so greedy because with him in the side that solid bone cruncher is what we need. Love him or hate him he would have been ideal to take to Barca.
alwaysgunner
Deltaforce: well put. I tend to see Denilson as a bit of a liability these days. Do we seriously think he can play Messi, and we still have 11 on the pitch? Absence of Theo will be key for our counter attack tho. Away goals will decide this, I have said since I knew we were facing Barca. God - willing, I see 2 goals quite early for us. How we will keep them at bay after is beside me.
e dubbz
Alternatively, AW could spring a surprise and play Nasri alongside Jack taking into account that Barcelona are more technical than physical. It would be a waste of his attacking talent but Samir can hold on to the ball and pass better than either of Diaby or Denilson. Whatever happens its going to be very interesting, cant wait.
Deltaforce
If only we could use a time machine & pick up Henry & Vieria from 2003
paul_ownz
robin back in training this morning! can't imagine he would have flown with the squad though. http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/37362/arsenal-train-ahead-of-barcelona-pictures
foochan
As much as some of us might worry about Diaby and/or Denilson facing Barca, let's not forget... Song was rubbish in the first leg. So these two guys can hardly be that much worse, surely? Song badly needs a rest and is getting one. Also, last year against them Diaby had his moments, winning a great tackle that led to a goal if I remember correctly.
krismon1
Denilson and Diaby?? Ummm....Anyone who watched Barcelona run rings around Zaragoza in their last match will conclude we have next to zero chance. Have to admit the speed of Messi, Xavi, Pedro, Villa and co was quite frightening...almost telepathic. I truly fear for us. But that's the thing about this game. No-one gave Birmingham a chance.
Wyn Mills
The frustrating thing is that we never seem able to capitalize on chances given to us on a platter. And yes we were blatantly robbed on Saturday.
jaelle
Perhaps, its because it is the Arsenal way to do it the hard way. Lol. "Deadly Dirk Downs Devils" was one of the headlines today. Can't get over that one.
Naijagunner
 

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