Arsenal succumbed to a disappointing 1-0 loss to Sunderland on a rainy Saturday at the Stadium of Light.
Strong performances by Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and William Gallas were overshadowed by the lacklustre efforts of Tomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri, Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey as the effects of the international break well and truly took their toll on the team.
There was no lack of effort or desire but a distinct lack of urgency as our boys huffed and puffed throughout the first half, creating a couple of decent chances but ultimately failing to really test Martin Fulop in the Sunderland goal.
Sunderland put in a superb defensive performance to stifle our attacking play in the second half and capitalised on a lucky deflection in our penalty area to score the game’s decisive goal. While the introduction of Carlos Vela and Theo Walcott later in the game increased our attacking threat with a couple of incisive runs, it wasn’t to be for our boys as Sunderland held on to record a win and keep us scoreless for the first time this season.
The starting team was the one that I predicted with the only difference being Armand Traore at left-back instead of Emmanuel Eboue. In hindsight Arsene Wenger may have rued that decision as the Frenchman struggled in his first game of the season, often giving the ball away and not really helping the attack in the way the manager would have envisaged. He was not really helped by his teammates.
While Song was our best player for the umpteenth time this season and Fabregas did well with the space that was provided, Rosicky and Nasri were particularly disappointing. The pair’s usual strength is their quickness of thought and continual movement but for two players who did not have to do much during the international break, their contribution to this game was unacceptable. They left Eduardo completely isolated and although Aaron Ramsey certainly could have played better, two players with the quality and experience of Rosicky and Nasri must do better.
It was always going to be a tough test playing away from home against a good Sunderland side following the international break. Yet with the stakes so high – a win would have put us within touching distance of the top of the table – I can’t help but feel we could have done a lot better. As I mentioned earlier, Rosicky and Nasri were particularly abject and with Nicklas Bendtner and Robin van Persie out for a little while yet they will need to pull their finger out.
The pressure is now well and truly on to get a result against Chelsea next weekend with a loss leaving us 11 points off the pace. Standard Liege before then though.
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