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August 2021

Moving swiftly on: Sunderland versus Arsenal

By Phil Gregory

After a night to forget in the midweek, a trip away to Sunderland isn’t the ideal bounce back fixture most would ask for, but such is the way the schedule has fallen. The defeat virtually ended our hopes of going through to the next round, and with the Premier League out of reach, the FA Cup stands as our final piece of silverware to aim for this year. With both Manchester sides out of the Cup already it’s a great opportunity for us, but first Sunderland must be overcome.

Vermaelen’s long-awaited return to the centre of defence was offset by an injury to Koscielny, however the news isn’t too bad, with the Frenchman expected to be out for only a week. Bad news came in the form of Mertesacker being ruled out for the long term, which doesn’t leave us much wiggle room in terms of further injuries, but a core of Vermaelen, Koscielny and Djourou should be enough to see us through to the end of the season, should Mertesacker’s injury be that serious.

The good news was the return of Gibbs, who probably had the best game out of the defenders who completed the ninety minutes in the San Siro.  His continued fitness will be crucial: with Mertesacker out we can’t be moving Vermaelen back to left back to cover injuries too often. Hopefully Gibbs can stay in one piece for the month or so that Andre Santos will be on the sidelines for, it could well be a big chance for the young England international with Euro 2012 looming.

Apart from that, Carl Jenkinson is back in full training should Sagna require a breather at any point during the run-in, which is nice.


Sagna Djourou Vermaelen Gibbs

Song Arteta


Walcott Van Persie Chamberlain

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With the defeat to Milan still ringing in our ears, this FA Cup tie is no place to be making changes and blooding youngsters this time. I expect to see our strongest possible line-up. The defence is the same as the one which started against Milan, with Djourou coming in for the injured Koscielny. Rosicky keeps his place in the side but moves to central midfield, with Chamberlain coming in on the right.

Gervinho is back from the ACN but Chamberlain hasn’t done much to deserve to lose his place, so the Ivorian can offer a great option of the bench.

Having played Sunderland very recently we know what we’re in for: the pitch will be utterly awful, like it was in the midweek but we’re limited in what we can do in that respect. Sunderland will offer less of a threat on the break than Milan, so we’ll get away with two out and out attackers on the flanks. I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with a few search balls forward down the flanks to take advantage of the pace of our wide men, but given our lack of height in attack, a general long ball approach to try and minimise the effect of Sunderland’s crummy pitch would be counter-productive – we’d lose most of the headers, and just end up giving the ball away and inviting pressure.

With morale likely having taken a beating in midweek, a result here is crucial. We just about nicked the points in our last encounter: there was a lot of luck in their goal given Mertesacker’s injury in the build up, but Ramsey’s equaliser owed something to the woodwork too. Clearly then, it was going to be a tight game even before our regular centreback partnership got injured, but things have certainly gotten tougher since we last played Sunderland. A win is surely required to raise spirits going into the derby versus Spurs the following week, but I’d definitely take a draw now, confident we could win the replay on the Emirates’ pitch. If we win it, it’ll be by the narrowest of margins given the shoddy surface will take the edge off our football, but in all honesty I expect a somewhat deflating 1-1 draw from the game.

43 comments to Moving swiftly on: Sunderland versus Arsenal

  • Tasos

    I’d agree with most of your team Phil.

    I think maybe Coquelin could start in this game, not 100% sure where I would play him but he posses plenty of drive and energy, plus we might need some fresh legs if the Sunderland pitch is as heavy as it was last week.

    Its going to be really tough but I believe the team can bounce back from the mid-week debacle and come away with a draw at least, even with Howard Webb in charge.

  • Mahdain

    @tasos webb is in charge? that means dowd for the derby then…sigh

  • Mahdain

    though im really hoping for clattenburg.. he has his blunders but he is perhaps the only ref i could expect a fair game from

  • critic

    do u know when will it’s replay be played?? Just before derby. Do u want a tired team against tots?

  • RocCityGunner

    Your line-up except I would go with Gervinho in place of Wolcott and that’s our strongest available 11. Wolcott has been unimpressive going forward and refuses to track back.

    After the dressing down that Wenger surely must have given the players after Milan, I’m expecting a 3-0 win.


  • Strus

    I would give Song a breather and put Coquelin in.
    Walcott need a break- maybe a longer one. His form on that kind of pitch is awful.
    Gervinho should play the first hour (at least). It does not matter on which wing will both Gervinho and Chamberlain play.

    As for the ref for North London debry, I’d like to see: Olivier , Moss,Clattenburg or Jones. But even poor ones like Walton or Foy may be biased against our rivals this time. To derail their title dreams, giving MU more chances.

  • tamim

    I would start with gervinho and have walcott on the bench. and play coquelan instead of song

  • Gooner Gal

    Great stuff Phil, keep them coming as I love these articles. If we were playing at home, that would be my preffered line up as it’s very strong. If we didn’t just have such a tough , physically draining game I would of gone for this line up, but I am really concerned about injuries and for that reason, we have to make changes.

    I am looking for smart tactical play in this game. We will not be able to run so easily with the ball, so our passing needs to be acurate. I am not saying we should be playing route one football, but we should be thinking about playing balls with ‘lift’ in them, if you get what I mean and then the players, dragging the ball down to combat the poor surface. Balls played along a bad surface lose momentum quickly and that leaves us open to greater interception and mistimed runs. Neither should we be trying to walk the ball into the net, instead I think trying a few half volley shots and shots from distance if an opportunity arises, would be best under the circumstances.

    I think Sunderland will be set up for the counter, so we need to be wary about pressing too far up the pitch. I really like the idea of having Chamakh in the line up as target man. I would play RVP in midfield instead of Rosicky as he has the quick mind to play certain balls and great final delivery distribution. Song can do this too, but I would rather he stayed further back in defensive support. I don’t know how the team would react or away fans to them, if we went a goal down early on.

    I think we just need to grind out a win tomorrow, a great exciting game of football with just be a bonus.

  • Donnyfan1

    No way Phil! If the gift shop manager starts– Arsenal lose! JDJ is the worst CB in the whole Prem and would struggle to hold down a place in any Championship side. I have no idea what he is doing at Arsenal. Song at the back with The Coq in midfield would make more sense. The midfield is a problem though. Sunderland have more legs, determination and passion than we do. Arteta and Rosicky are flat-track bullies– Sunderland will be anything but flat!!!

  • Tasos


    Great article. A very rare find.

    And yes, it is Howard Webb in charge.

  • gunner663

    Yeah! He beat Hitler,cured the common cold and invented computers – so why are we lurching towards meltdo If the policy of inerta is is brainchildd then he is merely wrong and inept. If he is`followingoders`it is much the same.If however he sees that it hurts the club, yet continues to take his wages he shames himself. As I have said many times, jf he threatened t o resign, the money for quality players would appear instantly. Unless he acts thus, his professed love of Arsenal must be questioned.

  • bob

    It’s a nice read but I prefer actual analysis as to why there is decline and what can be done about it, if anything, to a philosophy of why we should count our blessings because life/football is cyclical and at least we have the wherewithal to experience another cyclical upswing. To me, this reliance on a philosophical position that says bucker up and count your blessings is a way of not analyzing what’s wrong and advocating for what is to be done. In the end, it’s a comforting pacifier toward a better future, but not a way forward through actual analysis of actually existing conditions.

  • Mahdain

    @bob yeah i get your point but with the current arsenal hating going in the media finding the article like above is so rare

  • Rhys Jaggar

    There are a few who need a sense of perspective about the cycle of a football match, particularly a disappointing one.

    1. You start to think about the game and get yourself revved up. Some talk with their friends, some blog, some just imagine. But you engender a sense of anticipation.
    2. The game happens. There is a result. You feel strong emotions most days, even if an insipid 0-0 causes a strong feeling of ‘what a waste of my bleedin’ time!’
    3. To refocus yourself, you must get out of whatever emotional reaction you had to the last game. Keeping the euphoria is a prelude to a fall. Remaining rooted in misery is an invitation to others to beat you. So you must refocus.
    4. Refocussing can include lashing out, letting rip, calling the ref naughty names, giving players a piece of your mind etc etc. It doesn’t mean you’ll feel that for ever, although if you find that your attitudes don’t change then there is something to learn from there too.

    It would be most interesting for the following experiments to be carried out:

    1. Arsenal lose 4-0 in Milan. The fans, the papers etc etc just say: ‘Oh well, never mind’. I wonder how long it will take at the Stadium of Light before the latent frustrations boil over?
    2. Arsenal lose 4-0 in Milan. The fans, the papers etc etc lash out, the players read it and feel utterly poleaxed, not being psychologically prepared for what they have received. I wonder how well they will play at the Stadium of Light, even if the fans are right behind them?
    3. Arsenal lose 4-0 in Milan. The fans, the papers etc etc lash out, the players read it but are doing so in the presence of experienced emotional mentors who explain to them the reasons for what is going on and help them through. I wonder how many players on £40k a week would be too weak to come through that and I wonder whether the team actually picked at the Stadium of Light would be up for it, knowing the fans would be too???

    Not an experiment football clubs usually carry out scientifically.

    But you can use historical anecdotes to see if you can work out what would happen………..

    As I see it, the fans have let rip, Arsene Wenger has let rip and the players know they have let themselves and their club down.

    All that remains to be seen is what the reaction to that is……..

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see RVP take it out on Sunderland, myself. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see AOC totally unaffected and really up for it. What would be best would be to see a Walcott hat-trick. It would silence the naysayers, do his confidence the world of good and hopefully get Arsenal through to the sixth round.

  • Pat

    True Bob – but we the fans are not in a position to know all the factors that influence decisions as regards the Arsenal team let alone do anything about them. In which case we are very lucky that we have a cerebral manager like Arsene Wenger who does know all the relevant factors and is more likely than pretty well any other manager to be able to act positively on the basis of them.
    In such a situation, supporting him and the team seems the fans’ most important task.
    Mahdain, finding that article on the Telegraph web site in view of their run of terrible articles about Arsenal was a great piece of detective work. I enjoyed it!

  • PerF

    1) Coquelin instead of Song.
    Song is tired and needs a break. Besides, he needs to be reminded that he shouldn’t be so sure of his starting place. And, most important of all: Far too often Song shows the attitude of “I don’t really care” which is poison for our team in a situation like this.
    Coquelin is so full of energy, has the right attitude, he is faster than Song and has a better technique.

    2) Gervinho instead of Walcott.
    Walcott is just a shadow of what he should have been by now after being so “talented” for so many years. He gives up too easily, he is afraid to attack, he plays the ball backwards again and again. And most of the time I wonder if he has any football brain at all.
    Watching Gervinho in the Africa Cup of Nations I must admit he still makes a lot of wrong decisions and he needs to improve on his finishing. But he keeps going forward and he is so unpredictable – in contrary to TW.

  • 5th replay is shown in the Arsenal programme as March 7.

    The Arsenal programme is well worth reading – you can get it on subscription if you don’t go to matches. It has for example a regular column called “Arsenal Uncovered” by… oh who is it now… err…. I forget…. but it is jolly good

  • Mandy Dodd

    would guess we will have Dean or Probert against the Spuds?

  • Mahdain

    @mandy i think dean will be ruled out for that as he just had us recently vs united ..tbh i think dowd WILL be the ref for the derby but dont rule out probert though..

  • bob

    Mahdain, Pat,
    Yes, on the article: as you both note, it’s a really good find in the sense you both say: an oasis in a desert of gloom and reproach.

  • bob

    Mahdain, Pat,
    Contrary to UA’s error message that I already said this, I did not, so here it goes again:)
    Yes, on the article: as you both note, it’s a really good find in the sense you both say: an oasis in a desert of gloom and reproach.

  • bob

    (Sorry, there was a time lag before I saw the first posting and the UA error message was correct. Sorry for the repeat, mates.)

  • Mandy Dodd

    Dowd, yes him! This match is a great chance for the powers that be to big up Arry and put a knife into Wenger.
    As for the match today, a must win, a draw will not do us a lot of good with whats coming.
    It has been a thoroughly depressing week. A continuation of this will lead to all sorts of issues at the seasons end, that frankly I do not really want to contemplate at this stage, goes without saying, these players have to bounce back.
    Seems the whole world it at this club. Compare and contrast the respective reactions, Wengers team lose 4-0 to Milan, St Arry loses by that margin to Real, the following year, meekly exits the Europa league.
    I am not saying Wenger and co should be beyond criticism, nor are there not issues that really have to be put right, possibly from top to bottom, but there is a time and a place, and that time is not before May. If we were to win today, we just could go a long way in this competition. The rest of the season is about who we have, not Gotze, Hazard, M Villa, the supposed loss of the likes of Mata, or players who may or may not leave If we do not get through it is vital the team are backed all the way to a top 4 finish.
    Lets hope for a positive end to the worst of mid weeks.

  • dan

    I don’t think the boys will bounce back today, bad bad feeling. hoping I’m wrong please.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Off topic: Miyaichi just scored for Bolton!

  • Gord

    Sorry to make such a mess of guessing what was wrong with Per’s ankle from the picture. I still think the picture shows most of the bruising is from a tendon injury, not a ligament injury. Oh well.

    News from Millwall via the BBC (2 reports):
    >GOALFLASH Millwall 0-1 Bolton (Miyaichi)

    >On-loan Arsenal forward Ryo Miyaichi doesn’t take long to make his mark on his full debut for Bolton and it is a cracker of goal as he fires a shot past Steve Mildenhall inside three minutes.

    >3:02 Goal scored

    >Goal – Ryo Miyaichi – Millwall 0 – 1 Bolton Goal scored by Ryo Miyaichi from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Millwall 0-1 Bolton.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Ryo his goal was a well taken one and is what he is all about. Beating his man with his pace and then a good finish.

  • Gord

    Ryo substituted at 77 minutes

  • Mahdain

    we are getting kicked out of the pitch..thats if you can even call it that…i hate you sunderland :@

  • Mahdain

    webb isnt helping either…when is he gonna book em?

  • Arun

    NO PENALTY !!!!

  • Arvind

    And its not live on TV either here..with a delayed replay at 1:45am. Just stupid. Come on Arsenal.

  • Arun

    @ Arvind, you can watch the game on any stream available online. I don’t know why pix is more interested in showing a movie than a live game ???

  • dan

    The knives will be out, my brother’s (villa man) gut feeling is this may be Wenger’s last season. I’m starting to think Wenger may call quits, hoping this doesn’t happen but everything that could go is wrong is going wrong.

  • dan

    Just google

  • Arun

    @ Dan, it was meant for arvind.I am already watching a stream.

  • Arun

    Furthermore , has already been taken down after piracy complaints.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Have a nasty feeling we could be on the end of a webbalty , or a red card in this game

  • Another disgusting disgraceful performance.If Wenger was a decent man he would offer his resignation tonight.I eagerly await all the excuses spouted by his brainwashed followers on here.

  • Joe

    wait for it. oh nothing new another pathetic loss and the idiot manager is still here. he should have resigned seven years ago mate

  • dan


    Yes has ceased but is up and running.

  • Shard guys are so lame.. your tactics of oh Wenger is great but Kroenke is the problem didn’t last long because you were called out on it.. So you go back to Wenger must resign because we lost another game. Yeah.. That isn’t how it is at Arsenal. Deal with it.