By Walter Broeckx
Well it was bound to happen of course. If you can win the CL with parking the bus, then you can get yourself a point if you are lucky.
Apart from one chance early on in the game Sunderland produced nothing going forward. Szczesny could have stayed in the changing room at half time as he had nothing to do in the second half.
Let us start with answering this question: would we have won this game with RVP on the field? The answer lies in this question: did we win each game he played last season? The answer to that is : no. As he was chasing what appears to be a young child dream we will never know.
The bad thing today was that to have a real good game of football you need two teams to play football. Sunderland came to park the bus and unless you can get an early goal it always ends up in a frustrating game for the other team. What we learned from Sunderland is that they can park the bus. That is something they can do. Not really my favourite kind of football but each manager his own choice. Guess that is why O’Neill never will be manager at a really big club. But let us move on to the team that did try to play football.
Let us start with the defending part of our team. Apart from a few opening minutes uncertainties they played a great game. Only one real goal opportunity for Sunderland and nothing in the second half is telling the story. And Szczesny our bored goalkeeper had an excellent stop early in the game. So nothing but good news on that front.
From an attacking point of view I found that our left flank worked better than the right hand side. Good old Sagna is still something else compared to Jenkinson and this is certainly going forward. Defensive wise he did all right but attacking and overlapping like Sagna can and does is not yet up to the level of the Frenchman. Well not many can do it like Sagna of course.
In the more attacking part we could see that the Asia tour and the Olympics are taking their toll. As a result our new players and some of the Euro2012 players didn’t travel along and you could see that they were still searching each other on the pitch. At some moments you could see that the players did not know how the new team mate would run and this resulted in some wasted opportunities to break the Sunderland impersonation of the Berlin wall.
But that is something that will improve with time and with more playing together. Because we mustn’t forget that in fact we played with only 3 of the 6 what I will call attacking players from last season. Gervinho, Walcott and Arteta. The other 3 were new to each other and the team. Diaby is in fact a new person as he only a very long time ago played with Walcott in the same team. Last season he didn’t make it to 90 minutes in total so he is a new player in this team one could say. He never really played with Gervinho, Podolski, Carzorla, Arteta together.
So that are 4 players who must learn to play together. And such things need time. And because of the Asia tour and the fact we had no Emirates cup this season (and the cancelled game in Nigeria) we didn’t have enough time in match conditions. I really hope that the board keeps this in mind when they plan preseason next season and makes sure that the players can have a more normal preseason and learn to play together from the start.
The most impressive league debut came from Cazorla. He was the man with the most ideas and could have scored early on with a great strike. He also made a few nice chances for other players and was involved in the build up of our most dangerous attacks. Once he gets more familiar with the rest of the team he could be a really great player.
Podolski had a few good moments but he also had some moments where the lack of playing together became clear. But those are things that will come in the next weeks. Giroud had probably the best chance of the game after a lovely run from Cazorla and a great ball that ended up in front of his weaker foot and he shot wide. That was good running, a good pass, but a poor finish. But even world class strikers miss chances you know.
If one thing is clear from this game it is that we need some more time. Now of course if one of the early chances would have gone in and we would have forced Sunderland to play some real football all this could have been different. Now we have this feeling of not being completely satisfied because of the result.
Well we played against a big bus, we did got enough chances to win the game but we didn’t take them. I feel a bit down because of the score line. But I have seen enough good things from several players to see that once this team gets going they can be very strong. Cazorla will create chances, Giroud will start scoring and Podolski will become better. Gervinho will open up defences, Walcott will be more effective when we play a team that doesn’t have such a big bus.
With all the ones that played a major part in last season and who were a bit disrupting our preparation now gone we are looking forward to the last incoming players that are on their way. The ones who think they are too big to play for our club now gone, we can move on with the ones that are really happy to be here.
And about the final score I remember sitting in the stadium two seasons ago when we played them. It was as frustrating as today. They parked the buss and we couldn’t break it down. And that season we had players like RVP, Nasri, Cesc, Song,… even Arshavin was playing on that day. So it can happen you know. This is football. Parking the bus can help you to win or draw a game. It’s frustrating but as long as team can earn points by doing it, there will be teams who do it. It’s up to us to take our chances when they come. Today we didn’t but well that is also part of football….