Saturday, 5 March 2011
Arsenal 0 - 0 Sunderland - getting fed up with this now
Firstly let me say this - Arsenal didn't play very well today. Right, that's out of the way. While I no doubt run the risk of being labelled a "whingeing Arsenal fan" I want to point some fingers towards the men masquerading as match officials again today. Since New Year Arsenal have been on the end of a succession of questionable refereeing displays. I say questionable because I am losing faith in the idea that everything in the Premier League is "straight." The odd bad decision here and there is genuinely part of the game but what we have seen in the past two months feels more like an orchestrated campaign against Arsenal. The dodgy offside that kept Szczesny on the pitch last Sunday is the only major decision I can remember recently that has gone our way (people will point to the penalties at home to Leeds and Huddersfield, but a brief look at the replays of those incidents will show the clear fouls). The latest gem to be unearthed within the FA/Ferguson/Abramovich (*delete as appropriate) sponsored academy is Anthony Taylor. I'd neither seen, not heard of, this guy before this afternoon. By 5pm I'd seen more than enough of him and his incompetent friend running the line in front of the East Stand. One has to wonder what is going on. These referees must have been achieving certain standards to reach the Premier League list, so what goes wrong when they get on a pitch with Arsenal? The second-half was littered with unbelievable decisions from a referee who seemed so far out of his depth he was in danger of needing a decompression chamber. We saw Arsenal players being booked for nothing, and free-kicks going Sunderland's way for even less than that. Titus Bramble decided to try and pull Arshavin's arm off when the Russian was through on goal, and then shoved him in the back as he pulled the trigger - no penalty for Arsenal though (the idea that Arshavin may have paid the price for being honest and staying on his feet is really quite galling). Then, of course, there were the offsides. Twice Arshavin was flagged in the second-half, both times he was not even close to being offside. The first was the disallowed goal - ultimately the reason we didn't win the game. When you're not playing well it is important to grind out the result. To all intents and purposes Arsenal did that this afternoon, only to be robbed by a mug with a flag in his right hand.
As I said at the start, Arsenal didn't play well today. We were missing four top players before we started. Unfortunately Denilson and Diaby had me feeling, at times, that we were playing with nine men. Diaby's display was absolutely his worst for Arsenal. By the time he was finally given the hook by the Manager the feeling in certain parts of the crowd was bordering on what Emmanuel Eboue experienced a couple of years ago. However, his removal, and the change it made to the make-up of the team effectively took Arsenal's chances in the game with it. When Denilson was replaced by Chamakh we finally got Samir Nasri in to the "Fabregas" role. For ten minutes Sunderland couldn't handle Arsenal. Then Wenger decided to put Rosicky on in that position and Nasri dropped back alongside Jack Wilshere. At no point did our formation change with Bendtner simply moving from centre-forward to wide-right upon the introduction of Chamakh. Once again we were devoid of any tactics whatsoever, and were indebted to Szczesny for a superb save to deny Welbeck a late winner.
For all that we were poor, Arsenal did have chances. Bendtner couldn't quite get on the end of a Wilshere cross, and the same player forced a superb save from Mignolet with a volley shortly before half-time. Samir Nasri was denied by the goalkeeper from a free-kick, while Chamakh set up Arshavin with his first touch, but the Russian hit his shot straight at the goalkeeper. Finally Chamakh had our best chance of the game when he headed against the crossbar from inside the six-yard box. I've heard the radio reporters after the game saying that Sunderland deserved something from the game. Maybe that's the case but at the same time, despite being poor, Arsenal did enough to have won the match.
The 0-0 result does little for our pursuit of Manchester United and now we really need a favour from Liverpool tomorrow. The players can begin to concentrate on the Barcelona game, but I will still be fuming about the referee and his linesman. I am seriously beginning to get fed up with my weekend being ruined by the ineptitude (or otherwise) of a referee. We keep being told they have a difficult job to do - well so do most people, but if we made the kind of mistakes that cost people thousands of pounds in our jobs we would get the sack. When you see Clattenburg courting controversy again today, after the Rooney business last week, then you know that different rules apply to football officials.
I'll preview the Barcelona game on Monday afternoon/evening. In the meantime get your curly wig and false moustache out and become scouse for the day (if you really want to get in to character dig out your shell-suit and go out stealing hubcaps).