It’s good to be back! …. Sort of. (Originally on YAMA)

Posted on August 20, 2012

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The sun was out, the stadium was roaring, the stage was set, THE ARSENAL WERE BACK! For the first 60 minutes anyway, and then everything seemed to go a bit dead – atmosphere included. Nevertheless, I found it pleasing that despite losing our [former] best player and [former] captain, we looked an unchanged, comfortable and confident side. Something that many didn’t expect, myself included.

The match itself was enjoyable, despite being a 0-0 draw that featured last on BBC’s Match of the Day. We kicked off and from then on we looked pretty good, with the odd defensive lapse of course, one of which forced Szczesny to make a good save. We had a few decent chances in the first half, the best of which fell to Santi Cazorla who fired narrowly wide, however some would argue he should have left it to Podolski who was coming in behind him. But Podolski had his chance later on in the half after some good play from Walcott on the right, but the German international was stopped by a fantastic last ditch challenge. As half time approached we looked dangerous but couldn’t seem to pick our way through an organised Sunderland defence.

At half time the stats were as follows: Arsenal-Sunderland, shots: 6-3, on target: 2-2, corners 4-0, fouls 3-3 but neither side had been awarded a card.

Sunderland kicked off the second half the way they ended the first, defending, but doing so to a high standard. Shame it never really works out for them.  The second half saw Gervinho display some superb dribbling, creating a half-chance in the process which ended up in the ball being fired high and wide. The best chance of the half and probably the game itself fell to new-boy Olivier Giroud who managed to fire wide from inside the box. As chances wore thin and the game wore on, the crowd, players and Wenger started to get very frustrated. It wasn’t us being incompetent or Sunderland being brilliant, we were good, and Sunderland were good. Neither side was anything special but saying a draw is a fair result doesn’t really do our performance justice. We deserved to win, we just couldn’t convert.

The final whistle blew, 0-0. This is the point where I expected to see AKBs on Twitter saying “one point closer to winning the league!!!1111!!!!11!!!” whilst the Wenger Out Brigade called for his head. But no such thing happened, what did happen though was the media stirring their cauldron of anti-Arsenal horse manure.

“Arsenal really missed RVP today and I don’t think they’ll make it out of the relegation zone without him BLAH BLAH BLAH”

Shut up. That isn’t a direct quote but some of the things people say aren’t far off that. We are very much aware that Van Persie doesn’t play for Arsenal and quite frankly I’m over it. We missed his goals on Saturday, not him. His regular involvement in the build-up to goals is noticeable and usually to a high standard but on Saturday we had all the build-up, all the movement, we had everything except a goal. That’s something which can be fixed over time. Whether or not RVP’s build up play will be sorely missed is another story – but on Saturday we seemed fine. Plus, if we’re going to miss Van Persie, think how much Chelsea are going to miss a seasoned pro like Didier Drogba. We’ll be fine.

Arteta had a good game offensively and defensively. As always he looked comfortable on the ball, but this time round he had a heightened level of aggression, successfully tackling the opposition four times (with just as many interceptions) from his deep lying position alongside Abou Diaby.

From one Spaniard to another: Santiago Cazorla. The former Málaga man impressed with his accurate and intelligent passing, winning man of the match in the process.  For someone who has been in the squad for two weeks to looks so comfortable on the pitch is remarkable, it was as if he’d been playing for us for years. From what I saw of him last season in La Liga and on the pitch on Saturday, Cazorla looks to be a good buy, some journalists are even touting him as the best non-domestic transfer of the summer; which says a lot considering Chelsea have forked out on Hazard, one of the best players in the world.

As for the other new boys, well, Podolski had an average game, but he’s still getting used to our style. Last season he scored eighteen goals in the Bundesliga, so there’s not much to worry about, he’s better than most other strikers in the league. As for Giroud, well, he missed our best chance of the game. My excuse for him is that he didn’t realise how much time or space he had. Fatigue combined with the intimidation of playing in front of a 60,000 capacity crowd (compared to 30,000 at Montpellier) may have hindered his performance.

Now onto our wide men Walcott and Gervinho. These two at times, especially Gervinho, were incredibly dangerous going forward. However, just like last season, they were frustrating. Very frustrating. Gervinho has the ability to easily beat his man, and did so TEN times against Sunderland; that being said, he often gave the ball away via a stupid pass, or simply got dispossessed. Walcott, though, was worse. As per the norm, he failed to beat his man, not even with the old fashioned “knock it past and run” which, from where I was sitting, didn’t go down too well. Same old same old.

On a more positive note, it was great to see Diaby running around in an Arsenal shirt again, even if he did throw away possession on a couple of occasions.

What was missing? Goals. Everything else was there, and the most annoying thing is the fact that we have seen this sort of performance/result time and time again from The Gunners. It’s something that won’t be solved, we’ll just have to deal with it.

The final mention goes to our new skipper, Thomas Vermaelen. When Fábregas left last season, I, as well as many others, thought the Belgian should be captain. I guess now we’ve got our wish. Vermaelen’s performance on a whole didn’t stand out as anything special, which in a way is good. He wasn’t put off by the pressure which comes with captaining The Arsenal. He looked calm and professional, just like he always does.

One down, thirty-seven to go.

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