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Sunderland 1 Arsenal Reserves 1: a great victory

When a draw is a win, when a draw is a defeat

By Tony Attwood

You know the feeling: you score in the last minute to get a draw and it feels like a win.  You concede after having taken the lead and it feels like a defeat.

You miss a penalty and it feels like the end of the world, then they score: disaster.  You score a fluke goal and it’s wild celebrations.  One of your defenders tries to clear the ball, it hits a colleague, bounces to the opposition who can’t miss – disaster.

How many of these have I seen over the years?  Several trillion probably.  Arsenal v Bolton in the double season 2-2 and the guy next to me said “We going to win nothing this year”.  Leicester City 1 Arsenal 1 when Cole was sent off and Gilberto scored.  I think that was in the double season too – and there was an Arsenal fan we passed outside the stadium repeatedly kicking a lamppost.   We wanted to rescue him from the encroaching ranks of the police (and in case you don’t know, you do NOT mess with the Force in Leicester).   But none of us were brave enough to approach him.  He’s probably still doing time.

Draws feel like defeat when victory is snatched, and when the build up says we ought to win.   The KGB in Fulham win every game, so should we.  We can’t drop points against crap teams – it just shows we are not going to win anything.  Just like 2-2 with Bolton run by the Slug.

Well, as Evelyn Waugh said, “Up to a point”.

Sunderland came at us like they had the cavalry up their collective backsides (now that is a simile to consider).  It was relentless, and we struggled to have an answer.  I have not seen such vigour, vim and gusto from a lesser team taking on a top side for years.   Must be a Steve Bruce thing.  Extra steak and chips prior to the game or something (and is it me or has Mr Bruce put on some more weight?)

The problem with the approach is twofold. First you can get caught up the wrong end of the pitch and you can run out of steam.  In this case it was the latter.

But without Bendtner, Van Persie, Cesc for much of the game, Song for a bit of the game, Ramsey, Vermaelen, Diaby, Arshavin for a bit of the game and Theo (did I miss anyone?) we were very close to making it happen.  And with a penalty loss at the same time.

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The plus side of this game is terrific.

1.  We can play with a reserve side out and still put up a fight.  This has certainly not been the case in the past.

2.  Another tactic has been tried and we have stood up against it

3.  We are unbeaten, having played Blackburn, Liverpool and Sunderland away – something I am not sure would have happened in any of the recent seasons.

4.  We’re riding our luck.

5.  At some stage some of those injured players will come back and play some football.

The question is, has a team started off the season like the KGB and then just carried on and stayed top all season.  I am writing this away from home, so no recourse to all the reference books, and I have a nasty feeling maybe we did it (but we weren’t top from the very start in the Unbeaten Season were we?).   If it has not happened before then we might take some solace from that, and consider, that the KGB will slip up sometime along the way.

As for us, this is not a disaster, far from it.  Nor do I agree in the slightest that Mr Wenger is getting it wrong.  Again far from it.  What he says and does is a carefully planned strategy sending out messages to players, refs and the EPL in an attempt to edge issues our way.

Of course like everyone I was down as that goal in the 148th minute went in, but I have to say that before the game I would have settled for a draw with a decent display and that is what we got.

Next week’s little game to the local amateur team will involve us putting out a very different XI (although for the life of me I can’t quite work out what team – but I am hoping for a 90 minutes from Vela, and a good bash from Lansbury, Sun and JET, plus a welcome return of Eastmond.  But more of that anon.)

So far this is ok.  Three away games in which we could have come unstuck and we got a win and to draws.  I’ll go with that.  Especially after what I saw last wednesday.

34 comments to Sunderland 1 Arsenal Reserves 1: a great victory

  • Dark Prince

    Tony- I’ll be honest, sunderland played very well. Their man marking was superb. They hardly let us have any space to create any chances. Whenever they came to our box, we had to clear the ball in a nervy manner. And at times when we didn’t go for a clearance, we would be dispossessed. It felt like every Arsenal player was marked by 2 Sunderland players all the time. Maybe we could have been more calm in the final minutes and tried to keep the ball with ourselves and let the time go by. We didn’t do that and that was another mistake. One point from away game to Sunderland is acceptable but conceding in the final few minutes should be avoided at all costs.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Like you say Tony, at Liverpool it felt like a win and now like a loss. It still is the same amount of points won/lost.

    Last season we got 0 (zero) points from the away games at Blackburn and Sunderland and now 4. So that is not that bad as it felt just after the final whistle when it finaly came.

  • wenger fan

    Hi Tony, alittle out of topic but its something that have been troubling me..

    I am sure all Arsenal fans would remember our crazy fixture last year when we have to face Villa,Utd, Chealsea and liverpool continuously. And although this season’s fixture seems to be better than the last, but at a careful look at it, we will be playing Villa, city, utd and chealsea, sunderland right after our champions league game. And what is more coincident is that all 5 of these games are away fixure.

    All teams have a history of playing badly after a CL away games, and teams like chealsea only have to play Liverpool away, and Utd only tough fixture is sunderland away right after a CL game.

    I do understands that PL fixture is set before CL fixtures. But i am sure they would have know the dates for CL games. I was wondering if the fixtures is set by a person or team or is it set at random?

    Sounds extremely fishy to be coincidence of our unlucky fixtures.. any advice tony?

  • Nepali Gunner

    @ Dark Prince,
    Sunderland played very well and their pressing was superb, but I don’t think our defense was “nervy”. In fact, I think we did fairly well defending the long balls, although there were a couple three times the striker got behind our defenders to get a header at goal. However, we looked very solid, with only one of those headers being really dangerous for us to concede. I am happy with the defending.

    I think we missed Theo’s pace. That would have definitely been great. The only other complaint I had was Arshavin’s performance. He was below par, and lost the ball and missed some chances. But overall, it was a gritty performance, especially after the red. My hopes have been raised if anything, and I believe more everyday.

  • Wrenny

    It feels for some like a bad result, but all things considered (the red card and our below-par performance in midfield) a point at Sunderland is nothing to be sniffed at.

    And looking beyond this game and at our away results overall, five points from trips to Liverpool, Blackburn and Sunderland, we have good reason to be satisfied.

    Also, we have played 3 games away from home while Man Utd and the KGB have played 2. Next week the fixtures are:

    Arsenal v West Brom
    Man City v Chelsea
    Bolton v Man Utd

  • Martin

    Arsenal=USELESS, another season without a trophy, haha wat a disgrace, should switch sides over to the spurs

  • A Casual Observer

    Martin your mum is calling you for your tea.

  • Arkadiy

    Wot’s ‘spurs’ – a netball team?

  • Mohammed Isah

    After d draw i feel sad but later i have to accept d result.Which my d entire team did try.

  • Fem Dee

    If Sunderland plays others as they played us, it will be difficult for most teams to earn any point in their stadium! They played a tireless, relentless and hard and fast football from the beginning to the end.

    Our goal was a lucky goal as was theirs.

    But the greatest praise of all goes to our defense. We got to see them with their backs to the wall and they fought very, very well; fought very long and hard until the very last overtime and extra overtime second!

    I think, because of the better defense we now have and if our injury toll don’t run away from us again the team has very great potential this season.

    Had we won, I would have said: 3points stolen but at 1-1, I think that was the deserved and fair scoreline.

    It is good to see Song playing with more confidence but he needs to calm down so as to avoid unnecessary send-offs. It should be a long time before Rosicky steps out to kick a penalty; for a player of his caliber it was a bit disappointing but, we move on.

  • Arsene Apprentice


    As always I am so appreciative of sense in a league of nonsense. And, the pouring out of disapproval from so many different pundits and supposed fans. One point of clarity, though, I missed the new tactic by the opposition. Can you at some point expand on this.. And, forgive me if this is obvious.

  • dats

    I think that the real positive from this game was the way way our central defence performed . Squillaci and Koscielny were outstanding. Our weakest link in the past few seasons now seems to have remedied. Kos. was surely the man of the match.
    The great Lord Wenger has done it again.

  • IMRAN GOONER cape town

    Hey Tony

    Couldn’t wait for your blog. 24hours of depression and now you come up with your satiracally sane words of wisdom. I love you man (i’m not gay just to get things straight).

    Aaah. Sunderland. What happened yesterday. I’m still in shock. Phil Dowd is Howard Webb’s little mistress. I’m sure they share beds at those Referee retreats in Scotland. How does 10 players compete with 12. Thats not logic. Thats not Rugby. Seems Lord Wenger was wrong about one Rugby rule. When the time’s up its up. This was insanity. Even my 1 year old niece who’s a master at 30 seconds would have seen the hour glass was empty. Pathetic FA always hating the red and white army.

    I think our players did great. Other crappy blogs are saying Rosicky lost- I mean drew- us the game. Others blame Clichy. Others are saying Arshavin is lazy and must go before January for free. Worst of all is the comments that Song shouldn’t be so attacking minded.

    My reply-
    1. Rosicky missed- SO WHAT. He’s a world class player none the less. Nasri wasn’t comfortable taking it coming off the treatment a few days ago. Is he the first person to miss a penalty? Laughable!

    2. Clichy is a fighter. He runs that left flank like a beast. He’s not greedy and puts balls forward. Gibbs is good but not near ready to hold the official LB position.

    3. Arshavin is lazy. Oh please. He’s been highly motivated since pre-season. He worked extremely hard against Bolton but couldn’t score. With that motivation he’ll be at his best again soon. Oh… And do the idiotic Gooners who exist suffer from short term memory loss. Watch the highlights of the Braga game to see how 2 goals came from this lazy man. Since Lord Wenger satisfied his wish of more experienced players he has Upped his game.

    4. I’m loving the new blond Song Billong. A fighter indeed. Showing some steel in midfield is What we need. Don’t criticise the man when you celebrated his exceptional goal a few days ago. The greats like Viera went forward and scored and got more deserved Red cards. So kiss your Arsenal badge and shutup.

    I’m not worried about United this season. Berbatov thinks he’s good all of a sudden. Wait till legs are broken then come back to me.

    The real acid test will be at Russian Bridge when we play the Smurfs. I’ll do with a point there. Its never easy playing in Russia when players are warmed up with unleaded oil by Roman’s Daddy Daycare. Those aging blues will drop points sooner than most think.

    My chin is up and a solid win for our boys in Little League against the Tiny Tots 1st team should put a serious Colgate smile on my face.

    VCC- Imran Gooner Cape Town, SA

    Please become a friend of mine on FACEBOOK. My name is IMRAN PALEKAR

  • Bio

    My heart was racing all during the game. I developed a new-found respect for the defence-Kos was outstanding, and Squillaci did his job unnoticeably(like a CB should), Clichy and Sagna, wow!
    I was surprised to see the same line-up from mid-week,though. I was actually hoping for 2/3 changes from the Braga game, just to keep some of the legs fresh. Does anyone think the boys tired out towards the end?

    P.S. I suggest all these talk about injuries need to stop. It seems every Arsenal writer talks about them!

  • Terence McGovern

    I love the way a Spurs fan can come along and attempt to ridicule us. last time I checked they were below us on the table. Come to think of it ….they are always below us on the table. In fact, it is highly likely that this season (yet again) they will remain below us on the table until the table is finished.
    They are the living embodiment of an inferiority complex.

  • Terence McGovern


    There is a reason why Spurs have no version of St. Totteringham’s day.

    They would never get to celebrate it.

  • steve palmer

    The Arsenal Management has put in place, a fantastic stadium, Training ground Arsenal shop, Fish and chips, coke and beer, do you not think its time we got our own Hospital

  • Martin

    as I say we will be third come the end of May, lack of steel and tough players will lead our fairies to be injured half of the season, so we will never mount a serious title challenge, we’ll get thrashed by chelsea and man utd and people will again be cracking jokes about our empty trophy cabinet, mark this day down we wont win anything as long as wenger continues to breed ballerinas instead of footballers.

  • Menace

    There is credit due to Broken Nose Bruce. He had the pitch mown in circles with tall grass and not watered. This slows the ball and does not allow Arsenals passing game the fluidity it requires. Dowd the paddy in Nial’s pocket did a good job of booking Song initially for a foul that he didn’t commit and if it was for dissent, then putting ones hands up will result in being shot. Dowd began the game with an intensity of creating undue pressure on Arsenal by giving no quarter and carding players early in the game. He has embraced the racist media and glued himself to bias against Wengers claim for fair play. The officials in England are generally the lowest calibre in Europe. Arsenal has had to win in spite of them and this season is no different. I wonder how Dowd would have reacted to Diouf’s barging of Schwartzer? There again how would he have dealt with the blatant targeting of Barton by Wolves?

  • igor

    Sunderland pressed really well, but the main reason we lost was coz of song and arshavin, 6 passes in 29 minutes by cesc and 10 passes in an hour by arshavin

  • Messi's dad

    well, to think that I used to have the (mistaken?) impression that Phil Dowd was one of the firmer EPL referees…

    Focussing on the factors in our control – some key positives IMHO:

    (1) our composed, ball-playing, great heading, tight marking, tough tackling, sharp intercepting centrebacks, Squillaci and Kolscieny. Verminator who? Just kidding (who would’ve thought this joke was possible at the end of last season)! compared with last season, all our CBs this season can HEAD offensively AND defensively.

    [sidetrack: pple still say Wenger is blind / not listening / doesn’t know our weaknesses? These new CBs just show me again that (a) what/who do I know outside of my EPL universe? (b) AKB.

    So – no good goalkeepers available in the market? Fine, AKB. I’m fully supporting the keepers we have in the meantime.]

    (2) good midfield support of the defence – pressing all over when we do not have the ball (altho we did well in this aspect early last season as well).

    (3) the possession play of the team in general and our 3 midfielders in particular – Denilson, Nasri, Rosicky. With 10 men, there was a period in the middle of the 2nd half where Sunderland just could not get the ball from us (leading up to the penalty incident). Again, we’ve had this ability for the last xx seasons. It’s the Arsenal DNA.

    If only they had more confidence / cunning / mental strength? I always think this is the key aspect which our team can improve on. The armchair strategist in me says they should’ve kept their heads up even after the missed penalty, especially win ball & keep ball squeeze out Sunderland’s 2nd wind after the penalty miss, and keep ball ad infinitum until they fashion another clear-cut chance.

    Since last season, and aside from the Barca games, it always seems to me that the team in general don’t have the mental strength to just outplay the opposition whenever El Capitan is not on the field.

    Overall, I don’t think the Arsenal vintage of 2009/2010 (second half of the season) could’ve lasted 94 minutes protecting a one goal lead, and playing at least half an hour with 10 men.

    my 2cents worth.

  • Messi's dad

    hmm… perhaps a supplement is in order, so u guys don’t wonder what i’m smoking.

    my post was just to focus on the positives moments i saw in the game. I’m optimistic by nature, and i was so gutted at the equaliser I swore not to read any Arsenal blogs for a week. u see how well that went.

    I normally don’t feel very threatened by teams with lesser technical ability than us, other than of course aerial bombardment / route one football. but now it seems we have the type of defenders to deal with these types teams. Hence, even tho Sunderland had the majority of possession, i don’t think they created that many threatening situations.

    however, our midfield were clearly far below their fluent best, esp. in the first half, and we were not keeping possession enough for large parts of the game.

    lost opportunity for Arsenal to go top of the table, but the season has only just started. 2nd/3rd place “under the radar” might work in our favour for now – the league’s a marathon and we might fade out if we make a statement of intent too soon.

    meaningful match for Wilshere’s education however, and perhaps another chance for Wenger to re-examine Clichy vs Gibbs?

  • JohnW

    I’m also amused by the people who now write us off, how we played crap football and all. Sunderland had a whole week to prepare for us, in fact their chance rested on showing all that vigour. Had they relaxed a bit, we would have won confortably. They knew that we would tire, I actually this the ref was their biggest player on Saturday, because had he been fair to all, still they would not have won.
    By the way, why was Arsenal allocated a Saturday away game, when Chelsea and Man U had theirs on Saunday and at home? Any one knows any thing?

  • Dark Prince

    @Nepali Gunner- I’m not saying that our defense was nervy. Infact it was our defence, especially our central defence that saved our game. What i was saying that our clearance was nervy. We couldn’t hold the ball properly. This is not the first time that we have conceded after getting pressurised by the opponents. And i agree with you that we missed Theo’s pace. Infact, we miss his pace every game. Also Cesc’s departure showed that we were having trouble in the midfield. We lacked vision. I think Chamakh was excellent in holding the ball wen required. He came down till the midfield and tried to keep the ball wit himself for a long time. That was wat we needed from the midfield. I think it would be unfair to pick out any name. It was a collective under par performance from the whole midfield. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes. I believe we can perform very well. But also we have lost our 3 best players to injuries now. That i think is something which is making me feel more upset.

  • Terence McGovern


    Arsenal got the Saturday game because of 1 reason.

    Arsenal’s game broadcasting rights were the property of ESPN whereas Chelsea and UTD’s games were being broadcasted by SKY who like to maximise their figures with a Sunday double header.

    As walter once put it to me very cleverly:

    It is because of television (read money).

  • olu

    I saw Wenger’s interview on MOTD and I thought he acted well and with dignity. He had every right to moan about the extra time. Songs sending off was a bit harsh as neither were bad tackles. There are too many “ifs” to draw conclusions from yesterdays game – if Cesc had stayed on, if Rosicky had scored the penalty etc. However, we still looked weak defensively and this is not a criticism of any individual players. Its evident that Denilson cannot do the DM role and is better as an attacking midfielder (but we have a few of those!). I feel we will not win any silver this season not cos we cant score but cos we cannot keep clean sheets. A GK and DM are critical for us. Wenger needs to be honest we dont have a class GK and DM in the team (Song is OK but not top class yet) and there aints any in these positions coming through. I dont want to hear about the Polish GK kid as no one knows if he is going to make it and we needed a top class GK NOW! Sunderland were very physical but fair yesterday and we didnt perform that well. I heard a stat this morning that the current team is on average 2 stone and 2 inches in height less than the 2004 team. Maybe Arshavin is distorting the averages but I think the size of the team is an issue. We need a boss in midfield.

  • Ole Gunner

    I just can’t agree that the team that drew at Sunderland was Arsenal’s reserves. This is a first. First time I disagree with Tony.

    It was a very strong team. In these days the entire squad is the first team. Rotation is the name of the game.

  • Paul C.

    Ole Gunner – completely agree. We have a 1st team squad now. That was our 1st team on Saturday. It may not have been our strongest team, but it was our 1st team.

    Regarding Arshavin, I think there is a lot of garbage going around about him since Saturday. He is an attacker, and attackers will always be dependent on the service they get from midfield. On Saturday that was non-existent. That was why he was withdrawn when Song left the field. I am not saying AA was great by any means, he wasnt. But Sunderland knocked us out of our stride and controlled possession in the 1st half, which blocked AA out of the game completely.

    Dark Prince – I dont think it was so much that our clearances were nervy, as much as the fact that for the first 60 minutes (until Sunderland ran out of gas) we were getting beaten to a lot of loose balls and were getting pressured every time one of our players had the ball. As soon as Sunderland’s energy levels dropped we started to play the ball out from the back so much easier and confidently.

    That is why the draw was so gutting. At half-time most of us would have been delighted with a draw. When the penalty was given we were looking at a CERTAIN win. To finish with a draw again in that fashion was ……. well, we all know how it was.

  • Ole Gunner

    Paul I felt Arshavin had 2 clear chances and one half chance. He should have done better.

  • Paul C.

    Ole Gunner – oh yeah, players can always do better. Chamakh had a golden chance to score and also didnt come forward to take the penalty. The fact is that people are not criticising AA for his finishing, but for his allround play.

  • Macca

    This blog refers to Arsenal as a “top side”. They are good BUT they are NOT a “top side”. Top sides – top clubs, even – have European Cups in their trophy room. A “top side” would be Barcelona, for example.

    There is a huge danger here that Arsenal fans, once more, are over-estimating the qualities and potential of their club. The tone in this piece reflects an ill-founded arrogance about Arsenal football club.

    At a push, Arsenal have ONE world class player. The rest are good but not of the standard of “top sides”. Sunderland were more than a match for AFC and plenty of other sides will be this season, too. It’s genuinely time to get real.

  • Dark Prince

    @Macca- if ‘top sides’ include only those sides which have won a european trophy, then even Chelsea dont deserve to be a ‘top side’ right?? Lol

  • Messi's dad

    Macca, really? Dam… been supporting the wrong club all these years. I should switch to a right proper “top side” that has won lots of European trophies, e.g. Liverpool.

  • Messi's dad

    … or Nottingham Forest… or Benfica… or Aston Villa… or Steau Bucharest… or Red Star Belgrade…

    Seriously. Not trying to discredit any of these clubs, just can’t stand such sweeping statements…