Saturday 25 September 2010

Win the next three as well and I might forgive you for Sunderland

Sunderland 1 Arsenal 1

Spurs 1 Arsenal 4

347 words. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 35 seconds

It’s taken me a week to get over the concession of yet another last minute equaliser – winning at White Hart Lane, whatever the competition, has helped.

I always try to write something original about Arsenal’s performances but I am struggling when it comes to reviewing the Sunderland game. What is there to add that wasn’t obvious? We didn’t play well overall, seemed to have toughed it out despite having 10 men but then blew it by missing a penalty and conceding another horrific last minute equaliser.

The botched attempt to clear a hit-and-hope ball late on had disturbing reminders of Birmingham last season. It undermines my hope that the basics were being addressed in defence and that we stand more chance of keeping clean sheets this year. Our inability to stop opponents from scoring remains Wenger’s biggest tactical flaw although last season’s number of clean sheets, 14, was only one less than the Invincibles’ total.

What is more staggering is comparing our efforts to Man U and Chelsea between 2003/04 and last season:

Chelsea: 150 clean sheets, average 21 per season

Man U: 130, 18 per season

Arsenal: 104, 14 per season

Just think what a difference it would make to have an extra four or seven games every season where a single goal would be enough to claim three points, not one. In fact, it shouldn’t take too long to think about it – just cast your mind back to last Saturday.

At least a comprehensive victory over Spurs during midweek restored a bit of belief. Some fans are keen on us going all out to win the League Cup – I wouldn’t be particularly proud of the achievement and I can’t see Wenger committing to it either (he fielded a stronger team this time to ensure we weren’t embarrassed like the last cup trip to the Lane). But I admit it could be of benefit to this group of players. Nothing aids winning more than winning and a pot of some kind might help convince them they are ready to make a proper fist of the league.

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