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Arsenal 14 Sunderland 3: this is not football

100 years ago football was in total crisis, with games regularly ending 0-0, and 1-0 being a treat.  The football authorities responded (although rather belatedly) by changing the off side rule from needing 3 opponents to 2 in front of the attacker when the ball was kicked, and restricting handling by the goalkeeper to the penalty area (prior to this he could handle anywhere up to the half way line).

The difference between that crisis and the current problem is that no one has got a clue how to solve it, nor the wit or will to do anything.  The best that can be said of Sunderland is that sometimes they played with 10 behind the ball when Arsenal attacked, although mostly it was the now standard 11.

They also adopted that most appalling and shameful of tactics – the “Villa” (named of course after the club that initiated it this season).  When the opposition attacks and you get kicked, lie down and hold your head so the game gets stopped, and the attack broken up.  It was done so blatantly in the first half that serious questions must be asked of the ref – I’ll come back to that.

Their other tactic was rotational timewasting – which actually started in the 2nd minute – an all time record I think – when the keeper held onto the ball for about 15 seconds.   He also did the usual bit of taking more and more time to take each goalkick, and of course he wasn’t punished – another refereeing oddity.

Of course it is up to Arsenal to find a way to overcome the total negativity and manipulation of the rules – rotational fouling, rotational timewasting, and now head holding, along with 10 or 11 behind the ball, are all part of the game, and that’s what we get, match after match.

Obviously when Arshavin gets used to the style of play, when we have Cesc, Theo and Rosicky available, when Eduardo can play regularly up front, a lot if not all of our problems will melt away.

But the real tragedy of football is what has happened to the refs.   The programme yesterday reminded us that it is not just Italy that has corruption – the editor of the foreign news section did a piece on fixed French matches – and it raises the issue.   The ref should have taken action against the time wasting , not to mention the shirt pulling and general holding back.  It also looked to me from the upper tier near the half way line, that several decisions went very much the wrong way.

So was he just incompetent, or is he obeying some sort of EPL or FIFA rule (don’t book keepers for time wasting, and ignore the five second holding rule), or was the match fixed?   It seems quite preposterous to start suggesting EPL games are fixed – after all we are English, and we leave that sort of thing to the Italians and the French.  But I am seriously starting to wonder.   If yesterday’s game was not fixed, then we still have to answer the question why the timewasting and five second rule were ignored, and why nothing is being done about the head holding ploy, or the rotational tactics.

Arsenal had 14 shots on target yesterday to Sunderland’s 3 by my counting, but it wasn’t football as it should be played.  In real football both sides have a go at winning, and not just sit back and play for 0-0 with the hope of a break at the end.

Off the pitch, there were two things to notice.  The RedAction section got out their flags of St George again.  I don’t know how they think this makes our non-English team feel, but it clearly warms the hearts of UEFA and the FA with their plan to introduce rules that would stop us ever again signing young players like Cesc, Denilson, Vela, Merida, Bishcoff etc.

And I see that the papers are saying that Arsenal were booed off the pitch by their own fans.  I don’t think so.  Such booing as there was related to the fact that this is not football that is being played at the Ems.  Football needs two teams wanting to play, yesterday, once again, there was only one.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

23 comments to Arsenal 14 Sunderland 3: this is not football

  • Davi

    While you have a point about teams coming and parking the bus, we should be beating them anyway
    14 shots to 3, and some of them very decent shots, we should have got at least one goal
    i was shockd to see rvps shot go wide, as with velas chance; but even then we had plenty more
    I dont see such problems at man utd with making chances also
    There are some problems with the arsenal side – finishing and having a certain mentality which we need to fully dominate the opposition
    I dont think its a talent issue whatsoever

  • exactly Tony! i would love to know, if sunderland supporters went home happy, coz they saw their players for like 55 seconds in second half.. there is one solution(actually two): first: zero points for draw, second: there must be at least one attacker on the pitch, not like yesterday..

  • But look at Aston Villa, with atleast 6 players in the national team. If they qualify for the Cl, then the national team and the English team stands to benefit. If Arsenal qualify, then the national team does not benefit. So believe me, Arsenal will finish fifth, even if they try to iron out their problems, you will see more refereeing mistakes, until Wenger starts to buy English players.

  • But all in all, Arsenal had to score atleast one of the 14 balls on target. Also that temple of the game does not benefit the team, we need to step up the temple like it was against Cardiff City.

  • Crap Site

    Your site is total cock knobbler mate! i just wrote a massive comment and ur cocking terrible horse shit site didnt save it you twat… sort it out

  • Flint McCullough

    I hope you are being a bit over cynical here, Tony, but you have to wonder, don’t you?

    The other thing that consistently gets “my goat” is the way that game after game the refs find it very easy to book our player, eg Nasri yesterday, & hard to book theirs. It has been consistent for some time now that we have more bookings per fouls committed than any other team and by some distance, too.

    Gunners.sk has an interesting thought about no points for a draw. Maybe that combined with points for goals scored. It could get complicated but this situation will kill the attractiveness of the PL, unless it is played with more of a will to win.

    Jimmy Hill, quite an improviser in his day, had an idea on this some years ago. I think it was that the league should be on goals scored only or maybe on goal difference, with the highest scorers winning if equal.

    It would be a shame to have to resort to something like that because not all 0-0s are boring by any means.

    Sunderland started off with the odd attack but it did soon revert to the norm very quickly. It is a shame because most of these sides could be capable of making a proper game of it.

    We didn’t play well but actually had several very scoreable chances. We just don’t seem to take the early chances to ruin the ‘park the bus’ game plans. It will come.

  • deafmetal

    “I dont see such problems at man utd”

    Manure PWN the refs mate.

  • pig

    i agree with you all about the timewasting thing. It is clear that sunderland came looking for a 0-0 point. and as sad as it seems, this is how the prem is going to progress. with so much money at stake, relegation from the prem is just not an option for many teams. they know that if they play against us, they will lose.

    but, i remember a community shield against liverpool ( i think). we were winning with 20 mins to go, and timewasted so blatantly, i sorta felt bad for liverpool – for about 2 mins.

    And that is it. rules are rules and its how you manipulate them, that helps you win or lose. Its fine if you get the result you are looking for, but its not so great when it goes against you.

    And its going against us at the moment. teams just sit back, timewaste, break up the flow of the play and we cant break them down. I know we have players injured, but trying to get them all fit at the same time is proving to be a herculean task.

    i was impressed by what i saw of arshavin yesterday, a shitty stream from the u.s. not helping. i was very surprised by rvp and velas misses, but i thought we broke well, and dealt with their attack very well.

    we have to do better in the week, but as its a champions league match, hopefully we will see a game.

  • Marc

    Tony – The solutions are simple.

    i) Time wasting – All teams time waste in the closing minutes of a game but how often do we see teams time wasting in the 1st half now. Book the players and if that means sending players off – good they will soon stop.

    ii) Players feigning injury to break up play – If a player goes down holding his head (The only time that ref’s should stop the game unless it is clear that a serious injury has taken place) the physio needs to come on. If the player then suddenly makes a miraculous recovery don’t let him come on straight away – leave hi, on the side lines for 10 minutes. If the manager complains – explain why you have taken that decision and if he doesn’t like it tell him to stop his players cheating. He can either like that or be sent to the stands.

    Everyone will claim that you can’t do the above but why not? After 2 weekends of the above it will stop. If the ref’s make it clear that they will not tolerate cheating it will stop. Ironically Chelsea were wasting time at every opportunity yesterday and O’Neil was going ballistic, if the TV pundit’s pointed out to him in post match interviews that his team are cheating bastards and do exactly the same it would be interesting to see his response.

  • A god post, Tony. I think the only real antidote to this kind of play is to punish it by scoring goals against teams who perpetrate this style. Easier to say than to do? Arsenal should have won comfortably yesterday. There were sufficient really good chances for a big margin. Only problem? They weren’t taken and so mass navel gazing begins and the beginning of the end looms large. Could Arsenal have done better?

    – Yes, likely, if Cesc, Dudu, Rosicky, Theo had been on and Ade, Diaby available as subs.

    – Yes, with more composure. Vela should have converted from five yards.

    – Yes, with just a little bit of luck on our side.

    Remember Sunderland’s visit to Manure. They nearly won it it 93 minutes before Vidic converted in 94. We played them better, but didn’t score.

  • don't believe the hype

    I can’t disagree with you Tony. The ‘tactics’ of the opposition were shocking, but if the referees won’t enforce the rules, and we fail to punish them early they will continue to profit from it. I do agree with Arsene that our players are so anxious they are not helping themselves. This anxiety is also being transmitted to them in waves from the crowd. We need to do our part.

    As for the booing, it was sporadic at best – there was certainly no booing in the section where I was sitting. I don’t actually think the booing is particularly directed at the team, it’s more some people expressing their frustration at the outcome.

    Re Man Utd, they are hardly setting the world alight themselves. The only difference is that most of their match winners have been fit all season so they’ve managed to nick more 1 – 0’s than we have.

  • Travis

    I don’t think what happened at Emirates Stadium last match is called “football”. That must be some kind of strange sport in which we have a team called “Attacking Force”, and the other named “Defensive Force”. The rules are simple. Attacking Force must score goals, while the other must stop that. And we have the winner : Sunderlaaaand!!!! A brilliant performance with a lot of beautiful tactics such as time wasting, kicking opponent’s leg, try to stay close to their goalkeeper as much as possible…That’s what I call “The Art of Destroying Football”

    Yes, a new sport is invented, thanks to those players.

  • caesy

    hmmm intresting points but i wonder how United seem to do it and we cant – wenger needs a slap for not strenthenig the side when he had the chance

  • viper

    I really don’t know what’s happening, really. 3 goalless league games in a row! We’re flirting dangerously with 5th place- if we don’t score goals, how do we expect to take advantage of any Villa slip-ups? I’m sure they’re resting easy nowadays. We’ve got to have some sort of plan B when teams set themselves up for the draw against us. It’s really killing us. We’ve got to find a way to break them down… We can still finish 4th but not playing the way we are, i.e not finishing clinically. the frustration’s mounting, and it’s not going to ease any soon!

  • MOMONEY

    Why isnt the Epl criticised for this? We always say Spain and Italy dive and act injured and thats their problem- this is our problem and its much worse IMO

  • Oneillovesyou

    Before I get labeled as a hopeless optimist and someone who doesn’t want to face the very real possibility of Arsenal finishing fifth, let me just say that Saturday’s game against Sunderland frustrated me immensely. It was another game without a goal, another missed opportunity and another painful exhibition of what we lack in the centre of the park.

    But it was by no means a hopeless performance.

    Arsene Wenger’s decision to start Andrey Arshavin surprised many people but the manager was rewarded with an individual performance full of promise. He was unlucky to not get a goal too, shooting agonisingly wide as early as the fourth minute and forcing the Sunderland goalkeeper’s best save of the game on the half-hour. He also set Nicklas Bendtner up with a lovely cross just before half-time before understandably fading out of the game as his fitness deteriorated, replaced by Carlos Vela.

    Aside from the opening half-hour, when Sunderland forced Manuel Almunia into a couple of saves and looked quite decent on the break, we controlled the game and absolutely dominated possession. Absolutely. The fact that the Sunderland players were playing keep-ball in the corner with the scores at 0-0 with over five minutes to go indicated just how much they were overrun.

    The problem was, as it often has been this season, the centre of midfield. But anyone who expects the performances of Alex Song and Denilson to be berated on this blog should look elsewhere. In contrast, I thought the pair did the job that they were set out to do admirably.

    Creativity is not the pair’s strong point but in the absence of Cesc Fabregas all we can realistically ask is that they win the battle in the centre of the park. They did so comfortably and should be praised for it. By half-time they had made the centre of the park their own, such to the extent that one of the pair could have been substituted soon after for a more incisive, attacking player. That the manager waited until the 78th minute to bring off Song for Emmanuel Eboue and shuffle Samir Nasri into the middle was criminal. He could and should have done that as early as the 50th minute. His failure to do so cost the team badly as one scuffed shot by Vela was all Arsenal had to show for their efforts until Song was taken off.

    Looking back on the game as a whole, I’m not overly upset with the performance. It was disappointing, yes, and extremely frustrating, but the signs are good in my opinion. We made plenty of chances in the first half – van Persie’s chipped shot, Bendtner’s header and the two Arshavin shots immediately jump to mind – and if any of those efforts had gone in it would have been a cakewalk. But once again we were made to pay for not scoring early as Sunderland effectively shut up shop.

    Once we break our 0-0 rut, which is nothing more than an excruciating novelty in my eyes, we will be fine. Our defence looks strong and so does our goalkeeper. Van Persie again looked sharp, Bendtner is improving while Arshavin is more than capable of playing as well as he did against Sunderland in future games. Eduardo is back and Theo Walcott is on his way. We will start to score – it’s not a hope but a formality.

    Arsenal’s next six Premier League games are three home contests against Fulham, Blackburn and Manchester City and three away trips to West Brom, Newcastle and Wigan. Aston Villa, on the other hand, host Stoke, Tottenham and FA Cup conquerors Everton and have to travel to Manchester twice and play Liverpool at Anfield. They will drop points. We’re likely to drop some too, but some quick maths indicate to me that we’ll be at least level with Villa by the second week of April. You read it here first.

    And that’s all I want to say, really. I admit that another 0-0 draw is hardly the most satisfying result in the world, but aside from the continued frustration of the failure to score it was not a disaster. The defence looked solid, Song and Denilson did their job and if the manager had been just a little more proactive we would have won the game. He wasn’t and we didn’t, and it’s as simple as that.

    Anyway, Roma is up next in what should be an excellent game. Keep smiling if you can.

  • Oneillovesyou

    Sorry Oneillovesyou, your description of the game is in my opinion far too optimistic. Your glass isn’t half full buddy, it’s overflowing all over the floor. You say Denilson and Song’s job is to win the battle in midfield. What do mean by that? In my book, the job of the central midfield is to move the ball forward quickly and efficiently from the back and create opportunities for either themselves or the forwards to score. Did they do that? No, they certainly didn’t. They also need to regain possession voraciously when the opposing team have the ball. Did they do that? Well, yes, from the point of view that they both worked hard, got their feet stuck in and won the ball. It was the complete lack of movement, vision and efficient distribution of the ball that was so worrying. It’s fine saying the goals will come, but unless the chances are created from midfield, I’m afraid our only route to goal is via set pieces. On that topic, I’m continually baffled by the fact that when we get a corner, one of our 2 tall strikers, who should be on the edge of the box waiting to attack the ball, is actually taking the bloody kick! What is RvP doing out there for f*ck’s sake? And why doesn’t Gallas or Wenger tell him he should be in the middle? Are we saying that the only one who can take a decent corner is the bloody centre forward? It’s ridiculous. On the subject of the strikers: you said RvP looked sharp. In what way? His movement was woeful, his runs predictable and pedestrian, and he ndidn’t trouble the keeper once during the 90 minutes. Bendtner looks better out wide. His runs are north to south every game, there’s no lateral movement and no creation of space. Do you really think either looked like converting any of their chances? I didn’t.
    Saturday was dire, it showed the depth of our deficiencies, and leaves me VERY worried about whether 4th place is remotely achievable.

  • arsenal-reviewed

    The difference was incredible. The difference between Arshavin and the other 21 players was quite incredible.

    But you had to be there.You had to be in the stadium to really see it.

    Truly, Arshavin was different class. Five foot five and stocky, he has a razor-sharp touch in both feet, and his vision puts him on another level. He was fantastic. It was a real thrill to see his debut. Andrej Arshavin was even better than I thought he would be.

    He hasn’t played since November but he lit up a dreary 0-0 draw against Sunderland. Trouble was, his pinpoint passes were sometimes too good for the other players. They couldn’t read him because they’ve played for too long in a predictable passing pattern.They’re not used to being around a player of that quality.

    I never doubted Arsenal should sign Arshavin because it’s very rare that a player as gifted as him comes on the market. If he’s available, and wants to join your club, you sign him. Although Paul Walsh said on Soccer Saturday that he thought Wenger had been “railroaded” into the deal. I hope not. We’ve been begging the manager to sign a 27-year old player. We’ve been begging him to sign 27-year old players for the last four years !

    The day started well with a sunlit Saturday stroll through Highbury Fields with my son Michael, down Drayton Park, where his pal Jay lives, meeting my friend outside Arsenal tube station, with his mate Adam and Adam’s young son Billy, four of strolling round to see a game we expected to be a home win. We were all in a good mood and really looking forward to the game.

    When the Arsenal players gathered in a circle to embrace each other and signal their brotherly love, it looked pathetic and we joked about it.

    “Thierry’s last hug with Theo lasted two minutes!”
    “I know, I was shouting, ‘Get a room!’ ”
    Silly stuff like that.

    Arshavin shone like a diamond immediately. When Andy Reid passed to him near the centre circle, he cruised forward and fired a fierce shot a yard past the base of the post. He zipped in from the right and fired a shot which Fulop parried away for a corner. Another shot was hasty and wide. A cross was almost perfect, just behind Bendtner, who got in decent header which was saved .

    Without scoring, no new player could have had a better February start than Arshavin was having here. Cutting back a ball to Bendtner, he found the striker had switched off, turned his back, not expecting the ball to come. Sagna read Arshavin’s probing pass down the line a fraction too late but almost got there in time.( Zenit feed their overlapping fullbacks, that’s a big part of their style.)

    Early on, Denilson’s best pass split the Sunderland defence but Robin van Persie floated his shot two feet past the post. If he scores, it’s a different game.

    First half, RVP was taking seven touches when Arshavin was taking two. We were saying , “Look at van Persie, why is he so bad today? ” “He looks as if he’s had his nose put out of joint !” ” Suddenly, there’s a new player who can do things he can’t do.” ” It’s like Henry when Reyes came, and took up positions he liked to take up, so he had the hump.”

    Almunia and Gallas played well. And Bendtner showed that he can play with Arshavin

    Vela replaced Arshavin and when Nasri’s cross beat the jumpers and fell to Vela, he mishit his shot two yards wide. Two minutes later, RVP gave Vela a nice pass but Vela swung wildly at the ball and his the shot went nearer the goal than the corner flag . But not much nearer.

    As a punter, I’m pretty cool. I’ve lowered my expectations, and lowered them again, so I don’t expect much. So I don’t get agitated, don’t scream and shout. But Vela’s late, ridiculously wild shot frustrated me and I shouted, “Concentrate, you idiot ! Where’s your bottle? You do this for a living !”

    My friend held his head in his hands and said, “What does Wenger see in this team?”

    Let’s get this 100% straight once and for all, so I don’t have to mention it ever again. It’s boring so I’m only going to say this once more : Alex Song is a seriously inept footballer and Denilson is a bang average squad player. With Petit and Vieira, Arsenal would have won this game. With Grimandi and Edu they would have won. With Paul Davis and Ray Parlour, ditto.

    Two duff central midfielders will always expose your centrebacks too much, restrict full backs, starve your strikers, and reduce the potential of your wide players. That’s obvious. It’s a fact, not an opinion. These clowns can’t win the ball in the right areas, they never intercept to launch breaks, or generate momentum, and when they have the ball they pass it sideways, partly because nobody is making a run.

    Arsenal fans hate to hear Wenger say, “Eboue and Song don’t get the credit they deserve.” They really hate that. They think he’s lost the plot. A big percentage now think Wenger has lost the plot and will NOT turn it round. Does he think fans know nothing? Does he think 60,000 people are morons ?

    The way Arsenal play is one-paced and one-dimensional and dull. It was exciting last season when Flamini made the team 30% faster. But nowadays they rarely mix it up, so they are numbingly predictable. This midfield cannot win games. This midfield is seriously inept. This midfield did not dominate the West Ham midfield or the Sunderland midfield. Is there any of the 19 midfields in the PL that Denilson and Song could dominate? No! Not one.

    In injury time, Gallas hit a Route 1 ball, Bendtner flicked it on, RVP shot straight at Fulop. We heard a roar. We were outside the stadium by then.

    I got home at 6.15pm and Gooner Kelvin had called and left a message with Jan : We’ve had enough!

    My brother Paddy phoned. He said a third of the crowd had left by the final whistle, according to a radio commentator.

    On Saturday night, in the wonderfully modern interactive world we now enjoy, Gooners were ringing up Ray Parlour on You’re On Sky Sports and saying, “We think we’re being shafted : season ticket prices, merchandise, food and drink, five quid for a hot dog – we think we’re being shafted.”

    What’s the bottom line on the Sunderland game?

    Simple. On this evidence, Arshavin is heading for the Uefa Cup again. After this drab, dreary game he must have gone home on Saturday night and thought : What have I done?

    Still, I’ll remember the little Russian’s debut. I’ll remember thinking : he thinks too quick for these dimwits !

    Andrej Arshavin is the jewel in the crown. But right now the crown is made of cardboard.

    So the $64,000 question is : How quickly can Arsenal improve to profit from Arshavin’s creativity?

  • wrighty7

    There used to be a time when Arsenal beat the opposition in the tunnel before the game. Sometimes it can appear that those days are no more.

    Unfortunately for Gooners, and Arsenal, we are seen as the soft touch of the so-called top four and the fear we used to generate through the Premiership seems to be at an all time low.

    Sides play Arsenal and believe that they can beat us. Or at least get something from the game. It used to be so different.

    We have become predictable and teams know that putting ten men behind the ball causes us real problems. We are finding it hard to break down sides when we used to have the answer.

    When teams “park the bus” in front of goal it shows an element of fear but more than anything it shows that teams have worked us out. Causing frustration for the players and especially us Gooners.

    I think that our lethargic starts to games doesn’t help. We seem very slow in our build up play and allow teams to get behind the ball. Which as we all know, causes us problems.

    We need to somehow get that fear back. As much as it pains me to say the current personnel in the Arsenal squad probably doesn’t help.

    Without trying to sound as though I’m making scapegoats the likes of Song, Denilson (although he has improved this season) and even Bendtner probably do not strike fear into the opposing side.

    Wenger can’t add to the squad until the summer now but the return of Eduardo, Fabregas, Rosicky, Walcott and the signing of Arshavin will add a lot more to this Arsenal side.

    We need to get behind the team until the end of the season and turn the Emirates into a cauldron. Perhaps if the players aren’t scaring the other team then maybe we Gooners can have a go?

    I believe we will finish in the top four but we need to get the fear back into us. Let other clubs dread playing us not fancy it.

  • Ian Trevett

    Wrighty7 – If teams really did fancy playing us then they’d aspire to three points not one. Parking the Bus is always an indication that you fear the opposition. It is the tactic of the scared.

    arsenal-reviewed – why leave the ground so early? All those empty seats hardly help. Can’t you get someone to tape Ant and Dec for you?

  • arsenal-reviewed

    Ian, I’d rather watch ant and dec at the moment then the drivel thats been on show lately

  • Ian Trevett

    You can’t beat those Geordie funsters