Sunday 12 February 2012

A great response to a distasteful opener

Sunderland 1 Arsenal 2

The positive vibes continue to grow and a one-nil down, two-one up, injury time victory only makes things more encouraging. One team came to play football at the Stadium of Light yesterday and, while we couldn’t convert our domination of possession into clear-cut chances, Arsenal deserve real credit for not being thrown off course by conceding first.

Am I the only person to find Sunderland’s goal unsporting bordering on the shameful?

There was a debate in midweek on Radio 5 about the most sporting gesture people had ever seen on a football pitch and I struggled to think of any recent examples. Coming on a day dominated by the escalating Evra-Suarez enmity, the reaction of James McLean in exploiting Mertesacker’s obvious injury was – without wishing to go all Daily Mail – another, albeit smaller, example of behaviour typical in a sport that no longer values sportsmanship. Though having said that, had the tables been turned and we’d scored that goal I expect there would have been an outcry.

All three substitutions by Wenger were good decisions but the one that stood out was picking Ramsey to replace the BFG. Although you might think it was natural to start chasing the game having just gone a goal down, I thought he may have been tempted, with still 20 minutes to go, to bring on Gibbs in anticipation of the home side finding inspiration from taking the lead.

Instead, boldness paid off. We continued to take the game to Sunderland and, thanks to the invaluable contributions of the two other subs Arshavin and Henry, grabbed a very satisfying win.

Small margins
We live in a fickle world, of course, and had Sunderland come out of their shells and scored again I would no doubt have been bemoaning Ramsey’s arrival. And had Henry not managed to pop up with his goal, I would have been lamenting not taking more than a point from a match we dominated. But these are the fine margins we operate in and currently things are going our way.

This was the first of eight or nine tricky fixtures and we’ve started in the best possible way. Fourth spot remains achievable if we continue to build our confidence and avoid the kind of brain-freezes that cost us points at Swansea. You can’t escape the feeling the spirit that pushed us to victory yesterday remains brittle and one ‘devastating’ defeat could quickly lead to two, three or four.

But for now we are on an upward trajectory and the Milan game on Wednesday is one we can look forward to.


  1. There was nothing wrong with their opener at all. Mertesacker slipped and at the point Mclean ran past him there was no obvious sign of injury. What should he do, stop and look round to check on a player who slipped in the mud just to make sure he's OK before continuing? Besides, the rules make it clear that players should NOT kick the ball of play for a player on the floor- it is actively discouraged and the duty of the ref to stop the game if he feels it is necessary. At the speed of the game Mclean would not have known Mertesacker was injured, and even if he did he was under no obligation to halt the play. Moaning about this only strengthens our reputation as a bunch of whiny, moaning supporters who think the world is out to get us.

  2. Great result. To be 4th after the start to 2012 is great. 3rd is beyond us at this stage, however, if we continue to improve and bring players back who knows?

  3. Perhaps unfair to the sunderland forward, who has probably seen a slip by a defender leading to his opportunity. He's not going to be looking back over his shoulder, he's looking forward, to goal. Stopping the game is the responsibility first of the ref, then the injured players team, then the opposition. di Canio had a point to make when he caught the ball. Sheff Utd played on during the minute and half while their player lay injured before clearing the ball from Bergkamp's feet (the Steve Bruce tantrum replay)


  4. The injury to the BFG put us at a disadvantage; Mclean was virtually through on goal after the stumble. Although the letter of the law states that you play to the whistle, there has to be some degree of the Corinthian spirit. Had the injury been as result of a tackle or another part of the game then there would be no question of sportsmanship. As it wasn't it paints the goal in a different light. It makes me wonder if there would have been a greater media reaction had a more controversial player (Terry, Barton etc) scored the same goal. I agree with John B, the goal left me with an uncomfortable feeling. I work in the north east with Sunderland fans, some agree with me, some don’t, most are still moaning about TH’s winner.


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