Thoughts On The Tactial And Technical Aspects Of The Sunderland Game

Yesterday, some readers thought I was too harsh or overly negative, which came as a surprise to me. Some thought I was reacting to the result which was quite strange. I read through the post again and couldn’t quite see where I said we were appalling because we dropped two points. I know I was in a bad mood and there was a little hyperbole involved, especially in the title. But I do stand by my opinion that this was one of the worst performances of the Wenger era. Without further ado, let’s get into why this was such a shocking display.

Firstly some stats,

  • In the first half Sunderland had two thirds of the ball or 65 percent possession. Arsenal had 35 percent
  • Sunderland hadn’t managed more than 45% in any game so far this season and they rarely did much better last year. In the game we lost last season they had 35% of the ball
  • Sunderland got 251 out of 330 passes successful and we got 256 out of 305. Last season we completed 413 out of 497, whereas the hosts got 160 out of 243.

I know we have one point more than last year so if you just go by that we did better! But analyzing a football game based on the result is a flawed approach. Arsene always says we must take distance from the result and I completely agree with that. Otherwise we would just end up as the morons in the media who worship the winner and deride the loser.

As far as the goals go, we scored one that would redefine the word fluke and conceded one in pretty much the same manner as last year; Darrent Bent, free in the six yard box, benefits from some pin-ball and non-existent marking.

The real points that we need to discuss are what happened in the rest of the ninety minutes. Last season we completely controlled the game but couldn’t score. It happens. It was highly frustrating but we can give the opposition some credit for their defending.

Yesterday, we were completely outplayed by a rather ordinary Sunderland side. The midfield went AWOL and only a heroic effort by the defenders, particularly Koscielny and Squillaci, saved us. I don’t need to put in the passing chart from the chalkboards. Over the two games, the difference in the possession and passing stats mentioned above is significant enough to give you a clear picture.

Let’s focus on the midfielders first. Fabregas made 6 passes (all successful) in 29 minutes! I know he was injured after the goal but he made only two passes after the goal was scored i.e. one pass every eight minutes. He didn’t do much better before with 4 in 13 min at 3 min per pass. That’s double his usual and in half an hour I would expect about two dozen passes from him. This shows he was completely missing in this game, something as freakish as the goal he scored. It also makes one wonder why he wasn’t substituted earlier!? Was he fully fit at the start?

Wilshere made countless errors in the first half. Something that didn’t surprise me one bit as I’d already showed after the Bolton game that Wilshere will struggle when teams press us and don’t allow any time on the ball. That’s the reason I’d said he was the weak link. But I don’t blame him for the performance. He’s a youngster and is bound to make mistakes.

Againt Bolton, Cesc was able to drop deep and take charge. Wilshere was able to get into space and that made it easy for him. In this game, Fabregas was missing as explained above. That made it all the more difficult for young Jack, but given his age he did admirably. Given the requirements of his position he was quite poor. In a way you could say we paid the price for injuries in midfield. In hindsight, Arsene might agree that he should have picked someone else in that position.

Song was in a crazy mood. I was surprised by the number of times he went bombing forward. That meant he was always caught out of position by long balls and that put extra pressure on the defence. There was no one there to win the second ball or to sweep up after the clearances. This allowed Sunderland to sustain the pressure. They could collect the ball off a clearance and move it to the wing where Clichy was almost always exposed as Arshavin didn’t track back.

The Cameroonian also conceded some silly fouls and he looked really clumsy. This performance reminded me of the Song from a couple of seasons ago when he often made costly mistakes.

Once the whole midfield was missing it made life really difficult for the attackers. Nasri and Chamakh worked hard but Arshavin was a waste of space. He made 10 passes in one hour and absolutely zero interceptions, tackles, clearances, or blocks. I can understand someone being lazy but it’s different from being utterly useless.

Considering the discussion so far it’s safe to say that in the first half-hour we were roughly playing with 9 men. Cesc and Arshavin, our two best attacking players, were completely missing. Then from 29 to 55 min, we played with 10 men as Rosicky did some work while Arshavin was still missing. From 55 to 58 we were again down to 9 as Song was off and the Russian was absconding. Finally, we got the 10th man in the 58th minute when Arshavin was taken off. Is it a surprise that we controlled the game much better after that?

Many have said that our defending was exceptional (adjective of your choice) in this game. I disagree.

I’d say our defenders, mainly the central ones and Sagna, were superb but our defending was quite poor. To me ‘defending’ is a much broader term and it involves the whole team. Our defenders saved us but our defending as a team was quite shocking.

The reason I called our play “relegation style” was down to the number of clearances our defenders had to make, which was directly related to the football we were playing. Take a look at the following chart comparing the clearances made by Arsenal in the last two visits to the Stadium of Light.

Created Using Guardian Chalkboards

In this game we made a total of 84 clearances with only 34 successful. Last season we made a total of 34 clearances with 23 successful. That’s a staggering difference. To put this into perspective, we made 51 clearances at Ewood Park this year. That was against a team whose sole aim was to put the ball in our penalty box from anywhere on the pitch. Further perspective comes from the fact that Sunderland only had to make 20 clearances in this game and 40 last season when we had two thirds possession. Stoke, West Ham, and such teams make about 30-35 clearances against Chelsea and United.

The number of clearances gives a good idea of how often the ball ends up in our defensive third and how it’s dealt with. 84 is a staggering number. That means the ball kept coming and we kept hoofing it. Nearly 60 percent of our clearances were unsuccessful which just proves the point I was making that the midfield wasn’t there to win the second ball. Last season more than two thirds of our clearances were successful, this was down to the fact that Sunderland were pushed back into their own half and couldn’t challenge for the second ball often enough. Another factor was that our midfield was doing well in that game and was available to help our defence.

There is further evidence in the clearance statistics that corroborates what I’ve said so far. In the first half we attempted 46 clearances and 38 in the second. But 20 of the 38 came in the final 7 min plus added time, which is understandable. That means we made only 18 clearances in the 46 – 83 min period. Once again it shows this was the period when we started playing some football and controlled the game better. Bulk of the credit for that goes to the Sagna, Rosciky, and Nasri. Wilshere made 9 passes in this period, Clichy 14, Denilson 17 (came only after 58 min), Rosicky 19, Sagna 20, and Nasri 21.

Sagna topped the passing chart with 45 attempted passes, Nasri was second with 43. Rosicky made an admirable 33 in an hour’s play and Wilshere was not bad with 36. This game once again showed why Nasri and Sagna are important to the team. They help us maintain possession and play football the way we want to. The creative burden is mostly left to Cesc and Arshavin but the work of the two Frenchmen is important to the balance of the side.

I hope now you’ve a better idea of why I said we played “relegation style” football. It wasn’t a reaction to the result. I was infuriated by what we did on the pitch and the article was a reflection of that.

I do agree that a draw is not a bad result but given the way Sunderland played I believe this was an eminently winnable game. I’d blame Wenger and his staff for the decisions they made. Arshavin should have been substituted early in the game. Wilshere could have been left on the bench and Nasri could have played in the middle. We could even have given someone like Gibbs a run in an attacking role. Once it was obvious that we were struggling, his pace might have been pretty useful and he would have made a far better defensive contribution than the Russian.

Anyway, all this is with the benefit of hindsight. We might have won even after playing so poorly and that should be seen as a positive. Let’s hope we get back on track against WBA next weekend.

70 Responses to Thoughts On The Tactial And Technical Aspects Of The Sunderland Game

  1. PTangYangKipperBang says:

    Blimey! What you smokin dude? Lol

  2. santori says:


    I didn’t think we helped ourselves out tactically either. Why were we playing 4-3-3 against a team who sat five across midfield? We simply afforded them too much space.

    IMO, had we stuck to a 4-2-3-1, we would have ensured better positional discipline with regards Song and Wilsere.

    Secondly, Wenger simply takes too long to enforce change on the pitch. It was a frustrating first half and clearly, a number of our key players had not turned up. Wenger should have subbed at least one non performer and change things round a little rather than wait till we were a man down.

    Finally, with regards relegation style football, I thought it was particularly telling that we made no attempt to play the ball out of defense instead opting to hoof it high and hopeful (particularly first half)

    The biggest shame was I had thought following recent games that we had turned a corner regarding mental fortitude. Instead we neglected to play to the last whistle and conceded a silly goal.

    I hope Wenger gives the lads (and himself) an earful after this one. More importantly, I hope Fabregas will not be out for the Chelski game because of the ‘hamstring’.

    • desigunner says:

      I’m not sure if we can use any numerical description to discuss the formation we had. How do you put a number on those who were invisible!? Moreover with Song roaming all over it was really a 4-1-whatever kind of formation.

      Your point is valid. If we had Song and Wilshere sitting deeper it could have made a difference.

      Yeah I was hoping for substitutions at half-time but Arsene probably thought his instructions will make the game different. We did see the change in the second half but replacing Arshavin might have made it even better. It’s a difficult decision in real time, under pressure.

      It was difficult to play the ball out of defence. Sunderland did a good job of pressing and our midfielders couldn’t control the ball well under pressure even on those occasions when they were closer to the defence. This changed in the second half when Nasri and Rosicky, and to some extent Denilson got involved in bringing the ball out.

      The goal we conceded deserves an article of it’s own but it was typical shambolic stuff. Too many people out of position and one suicidal clearance when the ball could have been knocked out for a corner.

      • santori says:

        4-3-3 is valid against Braga or Bolton who are willing to come out and play but against a team with 5 across the centre of the pitch, it’s very obvious what their intentions are.

        They strangled our midfield with numbers.

        What we did poorly (Wenger) was adapt.

        Wenger is a brilliant manager but tactically, he can be found out.

        I’ve been saying this for some time, I simply think it’s time for Pat to go and for Wenger to get someone new in who can afford him better (and differing) counsel.

        It’s a handicap for us otherwise.

  3. SFOGunner says:

    Good Analysis Desi. To think that arshavin missed two good chances that could have put a gloss on his performance, says it all.

    • desigunner says:

      That’s true. Arsene keeps him on because he can produce a big moment anytime. But when it doesn’t come off, Arshavin can end up like a passenger.

      • Steve says:

        All Andre’s big moments this year have been single hits after being played in off Fab and others, something Vela has demonstrated he can do with greater accuracy – I cant recall any “moments of brilliance” but the “clangers” are piling up. I felt sorry for Gael – he was up against a much taller player who was the pick of the Black Cats and made more mistakes because he came under much more sustained pressure. Arshavin must have something in his contract about only having to play in the final 3rd or something.

  4. DFO says:

    Poor Clichy – I think he played well against the egyptian winger. Everyone assumes he gets all the pressure because the opponent targets him as the weakest link, when I believe it’s because Arshavin doesn’t defend. At all.

    • DFO says:

      Another thing I noticed concerning clearances, everything we hoofed or headed out of the box seemed to end up on a Sunderland player’s boot. No sooner had Arsenal saved itself from a corner when Sunderland was back applying pressure. This went on and on in the first half. I’m curious as to what Arsenal wasn’t doing right to prevent this from happening.

      • desigunner says:

        On set pieces we normally have all 11 in the box these days (a weak, somewhat desperate tactic that can be discussed separately). So clearances are likely to fall to an opposition player.

        In open play we cleared the crosses but as I explained in the article, the midfield didn’t do enough to support the defence.

    • desigunner says:

      Clichy was decent but he made some mistakes, lost the ball in dangerous positions, and finally made a complete mess of the clearance when he could have knocked it out for a corner.

  5. ak47 says:

    have been reading for a while now, that last post just moved you to top spot for me mate keep up the good work.

  6. Kelvin lé gooner says:

    Love ur article, not much ranting in it.
    However i really think we have a lot to do if we are to win a trophy ths season….
    1. Our players REALLY need 2 learn how to make clean tackles. With the exception of sagna, kos, squillaci n maybe denilson, the other players can’t make clean well-timed tackles n actually win the ball! Most of our guys just try to pressure players in2 giving away the ball, instead of winnin it. Maybe if we learn how 2 win the ball wen we don hav it we can actually squeeze out 1nil wins
    2. I don think we were ‘relegation style’ i think we were just plain amatuerish. We played valiantly until the missed pk wen u cld c despair in all their faces n they sort of this level? Really? We were 1nil up 4 crissake. Wat if we were 10men, a goal down needing a win n then we lost a pen??? Our boys shld b tougher than that. Its nt lyk dat was the 1st pen miss or the last…
    I think i’ve rambled on long enough…

    • desigunner says:

      Good point about tackles. I think sometimes our players just go and stand in front of the opponent and feel their job is done. We need to see the desperation to win the ball back combined with the technique to do it effectively.

      It’s possible that the despair is down to the problems we’ve had in the past. Everyone has painful memories and it could be having a psychological impact.

  7. Phil23 says:

    At 28 Arshavins desire is embarrassing. Sure he turns up for the big games but does that justify giving him starts every week when we KNOW that there is only a 50 50 chance of him deciding he is up for the game? I know hes a great player but we have to recognize the guy is a second striker in a team that doesn’t use second strikers. Arshavin is a really great player but I think he suits another club over ours. There are other superstars out there that we can afford and who fit into our style better. Thats just my opinion anyway. To me the ‘relegation style’ was ugly to watch but we learnt a lot from it. Our defense can now handle sustained pressure and Almunia feels very comfortable behind them. Our defense plays much safer and is willing to give up style to clear the ball to safety. Our midfield is amazing and it makes it so much more obvious when they have an off day like today (‘off’ is putting it lightly). Arsene is not quite as aggressive as many of us would like him to be in his substitutions/team selection/rotation. Lastly, something I touched on and was going to elaborate on was that we are looking more like champions in that we can have a ref who is obviously being payed on the side and still win the game as well as playing badly! Thats what true champions do. Then of course there was just that one bias too far and we conceded after the game. Actually that makes me wonder, why should the ref get to choose when full time is? The refs are given far too much power and it is wrecking the game we love…

    • Sonu says:

      I completely agree on your point made about the referee.The ref should never have so much power to influence the outcome of the game.He is just there to make decisions by the book coupled with a bit of common sense.He should not be influenced by the boos of the home crowd or the exaggerated injury feints by the players.
      Steve Mcmahon rightly said during the match analysis that Arsenal were hard done by the ref.There should be consistency in what they do.In the 3-3 draw in the Man-utd-Everton game, Everton scored 2 goals in injury time which you could argue should lead to atleast 30 seconds added time but the ref blew just inside the 4 minute mark and in the Arsenal game as Wenger rightly pointed out,nothing at all happened in injury time that suggested the game should have extended into the 5 th minute.
      I wonder if there is a panel who point out to the refs all the screw ups they made after each game.I know a ref’s job is tough but they should atleast do the basics right.

    • desigunner says:

      Interesting point about full time. I feel there should be a large clock for all to see like in Basketball or Hockey. It should stop when the ref blows his whistle and the final whistle and half time should be automated.

      Regarding your comments on Arshavin, there are some good responses in the comments below.

  8. I defineltely like ur thought.gunners 4 lyf.

  9. Robespierre says:

    what you break down impressively and in detail is a horror show; to put it simply what is most disparaging about it all is that beyond the contingencies it exposed the fundamental weakness of this team :If Fab is off the field or unfit in one way or another, this team turns totally rudderless. There’s simply no one at all to fill his place as footballer and leader. he became so irreplaceable that is the truth of it. we can go one by one ( rosicki, nasri etc) and identify all the lieutenants that will never become marshals,even of they are quite wonderful as auxilliaries, it will be ludicrous to speak of Jack in the present tense, as it was of poor Ramsey last year (though both can be performing great next to him) Arshavin for whatever reason will never be more than an on/off mercurial player but that is it. only when vPersie is on the field there is another capable leader ( but will he ever be for long?). How much can Fab be relied on? not for a whole season surely, or/and every game. That will be the downfall and that is the problem.
    That no one wanted to take the penalty,so we hear, is embarrassing but just a symptom of that void in leadership of this team.
    It will be very ironical that it might be the CDefense this year that will impress us so while the vaunted Mfield is where it will all break down in crucial moments this season.
    Chamach is impressive in many ways, but the fact that we do not have the killer striker, the 20goals capability striker , that we needed since so long now will not go away either.

    • MSL says:

      Chamakh is where Bendtner expected to be in a couple of years. Barring RvP there is none who can score 20+ a season. The goals were expected to come from the midfield and it will happen. I am just glad this defeat was early so we have a good wake up call.

      • Jonathan says:

        Defeat? I know our performance wasnt the best, but we TIED! Lets not overreact just yet. Anyone with Chelseas Schedule would take maximum points, we had some tricky games and are off to a good start. Hopefully this is a one-off and we will continue performing just fine. Hopefully Cesc is available against Chelsea

    • desigunner says:

      I feel you’ve once again generalized based on one example. We’ve not been so poor on a football pitch for a long while (Barca home game being one exception). We’ve lost some other big games but that’s a different problem and wasn’t a horror show in terms of football. These things happen when someone tries to build a young team at such a high level. Let’s not forget no one else has even come close to this level of football with such unproven, young players.

      I don’t have a problem in discussing actual issues and problems we face on and off the pitch. But if we start talking in vague, generalized terms then it’s no longer constructive.

      Saying there is no one at Arsenal to fill the place of Cesc is like saying no one can fill the place of Messi at Barca!

      Leadership is a valid issue but it’s not one that can be solved overnight. Arshavin is a proven player, an international star, and experienced enough. But he doesn’t have the leadership abilities. Rosicky seems to have lost his. It’s not at all guaranteed that signing someone else will change this.

      • Robespierre says:

        ‘Arsenal has no leaders sans Fab’; you go a long way to say emphatically how I talk in generalization only in order in the last paragraph to basically agree . fine.

      • desigunner says:

        “Identify all lieutenants that can never become marshalls” – That is a shocking generalization. Song, Nasri, and some others are really young players. If you write them off at this stage it’s very difficult to respect such an opinion.

        I’ve talked about leadership issues in the past. It’s a problem that we have but not as big as you make it out to be.

  10. Sonu says:

    I really do feel the time has come for Song to decide what role he is going to play in.He is more into a Mikel, Busquets kind of player who is better off playing deep and can dribble his way out of trouble and find a decent pass. I feel he is trying to emulate the likes of Vieira or even Essien recently who are box to box mid field players. Quite frankly Song never can be a B2B player. He does not have the kind of pace or the build required to storm around the pitch. He for me should sit there just in front of the back 4 and do what he does best and that is Tackle, win the ball back and play the ball to the mid field who will create goal scoring chances without him having to get involved too much.

    • Furovich says:

      Completely agree. Song is such an important player for Arsenal in the sense that if he’s not playing well, Arsenal suffer.

      • realex99 says:

        If that’s the case then Fabianski too is an important player, coz when he’s not playing well, Arsenal suffer.
        Really dumb statement!

      • Furovich says:

        Yes, Fabianski is an extremely important player for Arsenal. He is the second choice keeper and no doubt he will play at some stage this season so we need a good performance from him

        As for Song, specifically he is important as he is the holding midfield player. Tactically, he has to show great awareness in every match because otherwise, defensively he can leave us exposed on the counter attack. Getting exposed on the counter caused Arsenal to concede several crucial goals last season.

    • desigunner says:

      I’d say at least this season Song should focus on his defensive duties and in supporting the creative players, especially away from home.

  11. MSL says:

    Fantastically researched article. Well beyond my expectations. The main disruption was Song losing his mind and leaving things open to a 5 man midfield. I guess we could have used Diaby or Denilson on that day. I have no idea where Song got his instructions/ideas from.

    Wenger gives a formation a stipulated hour before he thinks of any changes. The advantage of our fluid system and our depth is to make changes and still stick to the plan.

    The back four were fab. Clichy cannot do it alone.

  12. SomeRandomGunner says:

    Great analysis. I also had some similar analysis. If i may post a link .
    However i think, the performance boils down to a very very bad game from Song which spread through the team.I dont know what instructions he got from Arsene. If Arsene did not ask him to attack then hopefully Arsene has had a talk with him.

  13. Geezer43 says:

    I am at a loss to understand why Arsenal concede late goals. If we can string together 24 attacking passes to score a goal, why can’t we string together 24 defensive passes to prevent one? Once we are into time added on, and leading, there is no need to attempt further attacks, just to play the ball around with safe passes in midfield. And yet in several matches I have witnessed risky attacking passes at this time, presumbly in an effort to score a late goal of our own that we don’t need. The opposition can only score late goals if they have the ball. Why do we give the ball away in time added on?

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t think it’s that simple. Almost any team that is leading the game tends to sit back to defend a lead late on. This is because the opposition has nothing further to lose and throws everything forward. Even United have conceded late goals against Fulham and Everton, dropping points in the process. These things happen, we cannot generalize it. It’s best to focus on the details and then look for mistakes that can be avoided.

  14. Gooner94 says:

    Football is about the full time result- which was better than we got there last season.
    Would you rather us played well and lost. Champions need to know how to play bad and still get a result.

    • desigunner says:

      Completely disagree with that. If that were the case I’d just read the results in the paper. Football is about football, and so was this article – simple as that.

  15. AllTimeGunner says:

    Finally… something that tells us FAIRLY on the performance … poor clearance by Clichy, poor finishing by Arshavin, poor penalty by Rosicky . We were lucky to get a goal, but were poor in keeping the luck. Arshavin seriously needs to buck up big time, Clichy too. I hope this performance will really drive the players to do better, rather than continue performing poorly… UP GUNNERS!

  16. Furovich says:

    After watching the game again, my original thoughts haven’t changed much. I completely agree with Desi that the gunners were disgraceful. In the first half it did feel like watching a relegation threatened side.

    Arshavin, Song and Wilshere basically just took turns of giving the ball away. Fabregas was M.I.A. Clichy hoofed the ball aimlessley whenever under pressure, but was also getting no support. Arsenal showed a lack of mental focus, intensity and consistency.

    The players are all capable of performing alot better as we have seen. It’s just a matter of how often they perform to their ability that will decide if they become a champion team.

  17. critic says:

    i always believed this was the realistic blog for arsenal fans…..neither over positive nor negetive…

    • desigunner says:

      I try to be that way but I criticize only when I believe the evidence is valid and sufficient, and with the intention of making constructive points. I don’t like negativity based on speculation.

  18. winston says:

    Worst performance of Wenger era?A little hyperbole?All I can say is it is all just self indulgent drivel.yes we could have won it but a point and still second in the table at this early stage is not bad at all.

  19. metalhead says:

    I think Arsenal played badly but weren’t disgraceful by any stretch. They battled and battled. Some days you play well some days you don’t. If you don’t then you battle (win or lose) and that is what Arsenal did. Some people are describing this as the worst performance since Barcelona (4-1).Let us for a moment consider this to be one of the worst performances, well, we nearly won the match! How good is that? You play one of your worst matches and still manage to nearly win it. If this is the case then who is to say we won’t steamroll Chelsea and ManU when we are playing well!
    Tactically we got a few things wrong. Alex Song should know what his limitations are. He is a defensive midfielder and he should stick to his role. I expect Wenger to correct this in the coming games. As far as Wilshere is concerned, yes, he is the weak link but I have no reason to believe that he won’t improve. Committing mistakes is not a problem but not learning from it, is. If Fabregas wasn’t thrown into the deep end during the Vieira era who knows if he would be the player he is today! If Arsenal want to see the best of Wilshere we have to throw him into the deep end just like we did with Fabregas. Losing patience with him after 1 bad game is not going to help. It is this very trait that bore fruit for Arsene Wenger. Patience and faith in young upcoming players. Henry, Fabregas, Vieira, Flamini, Walcott, Van Persie……….

    • desigunner says:

      I’m not sure it’s right to bring the result into the picture when analyzing a game. To me the loss at Camp Nou was not that bad a performance. It had some bad moments which proved decisive. This one was a really shoddy performance for large periods.

  20. shottagunna says:

    Your analysis of the game is factual but you went Over The Top by concluding that “…we were completely outplayed by a rather ordinary Sunderland side.”

    Yes we were outplayed most of the game, but to say it was a rather ordinary Sunderland team is patronizing and disrespectful. Not only do they have some good players but they were energetic and motivated. They always are when playing Arsenal at home. We simply couldn’t match their energy especially in midfield. I won’t repeat your findings which are well made and supported by game stats. Like you I am a getting concerned about Song’s role. It is not disciplined enough for my liking. He is playing like a box-to-box midfielder rather than sitting in front of the back four. I thing his passing and foot speed over the ground is not good enough to drive the team forward. Admittedly the absence of Diaby may have forced Wenger to push him forward than he would like but it needs to be revisited.
    As for Clichy’s hashed clearance, you suggest that it could have been calmly ushered out for a corner, but given the fact that the ball pinged around a couple of times in the box with Gyan all over Clichy, I think you may be guilty of a little Monday Morning quarterbacking as they say in the NFL. But I get your point that this is in the context of a pattern of non-Arsenal relegation-type hurried clearances.
    Overall I don’t mind your critique. It is essential for us to have a balanced perspective but I urge that you give the opposition credit where deserved. This is certainly not the last time we will see teams match us in this manner.

    • santori says:

      We were not outplayed by a better team, we were out smarted by better tactics (Hate to give credit to Brucie)

      It’s the result of us lining up 4-3-3 against a side packing 5 across midfield. We were simply swamped by numbers.

      With 4-3-3, the wide men forward tend to have to cover more ground tracking back.

      As a result, when our defenders cleared the ball, they had little option in the middle of the park as there were too few Arsenal shirts to carry the ball forward. They then elected to hoof it and Sunderland gained the second ball.

      4-2-3-1 would have suited us better in this instance particularly as it would have enforced more positional discipline with regards Song and Wilshere.

      Instead Wenger (as per usual) was too slow to switch things around.

      When we went a man down. We had to re-jig to cover Song. In effect, it meant more bodies parked across the centre of the pitch for us which allowed us to bring the ball up more effectively.

    • desigunner says:

      If you see my article immediately after the game I’d said Sunderland deserve credit for their endeavour. Even in this article I mentioned that last season we could give them credit for their defending.

      If I don’t watch a game and someone tells me Arsenal had 35% possession in the first half I’d think the opposition must have been exceptional because even top teams like United and Chelsea don’t achieve that against us. In this particular context Sunderland were quite ordinary. They didn’t dominate possession because they were brilliant but because we were woeful. Does that explain it better?

      I saw the goal we conceded frame by frame and changed my initial opinion that Clichy didn’t have time. When you see it in slow motion you can see Clichy had more time than we thought and a lot of space in which to knock the ball. Of course, he can’t act in slow motion but I’d say it was a problem of panicking at the wrong moment.

  21. Ajinkya says:

    No Cesc for chelsea again. I think we should start playing 4-4-2 once again. Arshavin has been unable to perform in that left wing position, so we let him do what he does best. In the 4-4-2, keep him behind Chamakh or RVP, a sort of 4-4-1-1 rather.

  22. Dave says:

    Jeezus, what a load of Spuddy spuds you lot are. Even the Invincibles drew a few games, y’know.

    • Viejo says:

      Desi’s article is about the performance from a tactical and technical perspective as is clearly stated in the title of the piece, and not a result motivated reaction like you allude to. Pay attention!

      And to call a gooner a spud is disgusting, that’s the lowest of low and totally uncalled for.

      • desigunner says:

        Thanks for your support. It’s unfortunate that some people don’t make any effort to understand what is being said.

  23. gangwork says:

    I agree AJINKYA with your thoughts on this. I had been facing the same problem

  24. Edmond Dantes says:

    The analysis is quite informative

  25. Viejo says:

    I like your analysis Desi, i think you have highlighted exactly where the team failed in this game and i too was disappointed with our performance, however, worst performance in the Wenger era it most definitely was not.

    I have little doubt it was mainly due to the hangover from the CL game in mid-week and our poor passing, lack of winning tackles and reacting to the second ball was caused by tired legs. Yes, Sunderland played well, better than last year it would seem, but we should’ve be better than what materialized out there. In effect, our poor play allowed them to dominate us when normally we wouldn’t even let them have 40% of the ball.

    People are complaining about Song venturing forward too often, and i believe this was a problem because it left the defense over-worked and allowed Sunderland to win the ball back immediately from a clearance and put straight back into the danger area again. But i have a feeling AW has instructed Song to get forward more and trouble their defense with his size and presence. I remember at the end of last season Song came out and said he has to add goals to his game if he wants to become as good as Essien. Also i have noticed that when we play with the 4231 the defensive midfielders are allowed to take it in turns to attack and in reality all 3 and sometimes the wide players too drop into the middle to cover, it’s the total football way AW is trying to play. I think Song is trying to expand his game ultimately to good effect but his decision making for when and how often to make these runs has been misjudged. It probably wasn’t the best time to experiment so self-indulgently with Wilshere next to him or when the team are so hungover.

    • realex99 says:

      The fact is, calling Song the next Essien has gotten into his head, he needs to realize his limitations and play accordingly; just sit in front of the back four and allow the more creative players to do their thing. His lack of discipline as DM is really irritating.

      • Viejo says:

        I agree, he’s still learning the position and he shouldn’t try to run before he can walk so to speak. I hope Wenger reins him back in because against Chelski especially we’re going to need that discipline in the centre of the field.

    • desigunner says:

      I’m willing to accept that this wasn’t “one of the worst performances of the Wenger era” if you can point out games where we played worse than this. I’m not talking about results but quality of football. We’ve lost some big games with bad looking scorelines but I’m not sure those performances were that bad.

      Agree with you about Song going forward. It could be that Wenger has asked him to contribute more. But he will have to get the timing right. At home against smaller teams is the best way to start.

      • Viejo says:

        Would Barcelona 1st leg count, or any number of chelsea games where we failed to dominate, or does the quality of opposition affect this comparison? There are plenty more shocking performances against the likes of stoke in the fa cup or middlesbrough back in 2007/08 but to be honest my recollection is hazy and to spend the time searching for reports and stats seems futile.

        It’s difficult to compare anyway because in the past we have been guilty of atrocious defending and lacklustre attacking with average midfield. On this occasion it was just the midfield that really let us down, and arshavin. Look at how many shots on target each team had. Look at the changes in our play after song was dismissed and arshavin taken off. Overall it wasn’t as bad as you think i believe.

      • desigunner says:

        Yes Barca 1st leg first half will surely count. I’m not sure the Chelsea games would count. If you remember Cesc said we could have kept the ball in midfield as long as we wanted. The game was lost because we weren’t incisive enough and made some stupid mistakes at the back. That’s not the same as a poor team performance.

        I agree with your point about difficulty in comparing the games.

  26. manav says:

    Arshavin is beginning to look like a 1 dimensional player. If he doesn’t improve then Wenger should consider off-loading him. I know he scores some great goals but they appear to be few & far between. Against Braga he assisted Vela with a great through ball but for most of the time he’s anonymous. It’s like he does something fantastic and then goes into hibernation for the rest of the game. He lacks the kind of presence that those who played for Arsenal before him in that very position had. And it’s not just about size. Walcott isn’t a big fellow but his runs make sure that no-one dare forget him. At times he appears to be disinterested, just whiling away his time in the middle. I’m trying to be objective in analyzing Arshavin & his work,……and I’m not getting any positive vibes. :-/

    • santori says:

      I wouldn’t castigate Arsharvin entirely. Nasri was equally ineffective in the first half.

      We played 4-3-3 and were swamped by a 5 man Sunderland midfield.

      There was too much ground to cover for both attacking wide men in this instance and not enough bodies to carry the ball out of midfield.

      We should have switched to 4-2-3-1 affording Song and Wilshere more positional discipline and keeping our middle a little more compact.

      Without the midfield, our defenders had to resort to hoofing the ball up field which played to Sunderland’s tactics.

      We’ve done ourselves in again I’m afraid (albeit, it’s still a draw and not a loss thankfully)

    • Jonathan says:

      Arshavin played terrible and there is no excuse for such performances however if u take a look, as terrible as he is performing he is still one of our best players. Offloading players when we are facing an injury crisis is just dumb. Not to mention as terrible as he has been playing he has 3 Goals 5 Assists in ONLY 6 GAMES!!! Dont cut him down just yet. Everyone performed terribly, the only reason we are feeling that it is two points dropped is because of a LAST GASP GOAL! If they scored 5 mins after Song went off then everyone would praise the performance and the grit for holding on… Sometimes my fellow gooners are so bi-polar

    • Viejo says:

      Prior to the Sunderland game Arshavin had started all 5 games (4 EPL + 1 CL) scoring 3 goals and assisting 4 others. I wouldn’t call that anonymous. In fact by those stats he was our most influential player. Also during those games he actually put in decent shifts by his standards, tracking back and winning balls while arguably still under performing due to his poor finishing. You have to consider when criticising him that this is just the way he plays, he is not a winger or someone with a natural propensity to defend and if you deem him not good enough for Arsenal then that is your right to opinion. Maybe he doesn’t fit into the Arsenal system of team work and unlimited running all over the pitch and that makes him stand out from the rest but his goal threat and attacking influence is plain to see. He is what he is, i’d say a ‘luxury player’ in our system, someone who can make the final difference and that is very important. Maybe when Vela stakes his claim and Wellington Silva or Gallindo or Pedro come in to the squad Arshavin will make way but for now he is the best we’ve got and he’s been effective so far. The Sunderland game was a blip for almost everyone, there’s no need to single out one player and call for his head.

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