Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland: Dowdesque officiating strikes again

There isn't a whole lot that needs to be said about this one - a turgid affair low on chances and excitement that was further marred by mystifying decisions from referee Anthony Taylor and linesman Andy Garratt. It's frustrating because this isn't the first time a referee has cost us points this season, but time has proven it to be an OK result in the face of today's events. Arsenal now find themselves 3 points behind United with a game in hand and only trailing in goal difference by 3.

This is still doable, I promise you that.

I can't report on much of the first half as transportation issues (our subways are as useless as Denilson here in NYC on the weekends) caused me to miss the first half-hour. I apparently missed absolutely nothing, to go along with the almost nothing I would have missed in the following 60 minutes. I do recall a cheeky bicycle kick from Nicklas Bendtner that went right into the arms of Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet, who also had one or two more decent saves before halftime. Samir Nasri also had a half-chance somewhere in there when he slalomed around two defenders but found himself on the goal line penned in by two defenders. Other than that, there wasn't much joy for the men in red.

Photo: The Guardian

Honestly, there were two reasons for that. First, Sunderland played very compact with two disciplined banks of four, which is the usual tactics of overmatched visitors to the Grove. It's hard to maintain it for a full 90 minutes, but the Black Cats did it about as well as you can (though they still should have lost 2-0). Second, while there was some good play down the wings from Nasri and from Andrei Arshavin, there was absolutely no creativity or fluidity in the middle of the park for us on the day. Jack Wilshere did not have a great game by any means, but that can absolutely be forgiven in the wake of his recent brilliant performances (and the whole "being a rookie" thing). Less forgivable is the heaping pile of dog crap served up by Denilson and Abou Diaby. The pair of them gave the ball away constantly, conceded needless free kicks, and generally served to break up many of our attacks before they could get started.

As I've said before, the Boss doesn't tend to make early substitutions. But, Denilson was so bad that he found himself parked on the bench where he belongs as early as the 62nd minute. Marouane Chamakh replaced him, and we immediately looked more dangerous. Interestingly, his addition gave us two distinct looks - sometimes the 4-5-1 was maintained with Bendtner drifting wide right (even though HE'S NOT A FUCKING WINGER), and sometimes they paired up top in more of a 4-4-2. It caused the Sunderland defense a few problems in working out which was which at the time, and I think it opened up the game somewhat.

Diaby was withdrawn for Tomas Rosicky, who gave us the square root of fuck all once again. It's maddening at times how there are so many average players in the squad, all seemingly playing in the center of the park. It's not exactly a mystery why we miss Cesc Fabregas so badly when he's out, huh?

Photo: The Sun

A few more shots came at Mignolet, most of which were the type you'd expect your keeper to save comfortably (the furious wanking about his performance from the FSC guys showing once again that pundits know jackshit about goalkeeping, and that it was a such a shite game that they had to get a MOTM from somewhere). As the game crawled to its conclusion though, there were the two incidents that should have given all three points to the Gunners. Bendtner sent Arshavin free with a fantastic through-ball, finished with aplomb by the little Russian. However, up went the flag of that jug-eared wankstain Garratt, wrongfully judging Arshavin to be offside. Look, I get it that these guys have a tough job but that was clear as fucking day, and we seem to get the worst of these decisions more than anyone else. The Russian's frustrations were compounded a few minutes later when he torched Titus Bramble for pace (big shock there), but was taken down from behind with a two-handed shove.

If he dives, he gets a penalty and we in all likelihood win the game. Isn't it funny how the guy doesn't get any plaudits for staying on his feet though?

Photo: The Sun

Of course, we fell asleep and let them in for one chance at the death...but our man Wojciech Szezcsny made fools of the idiots blaming him for the Birmingham disaster (and those wittering on and on about how we need a goalkeeper) by saving our collective bacon once again with a brave block at Danny Welbeck's feet. It was such good goalkeeping too - he came out but instead of diving out horizontally, he stayed upright and took the shot off of his shoulder. Brilliant stuff.

So, 0-0 then and a hideously frustrating one at that. Still, Liverpool did us a huge favor this morning and frankly United look like a team in a bit of a tailspin. If we beat them at the Grove, I think at this stage we're going to win the league. Before the season, I didn't think we had the team to do it...but if they pull it off this'll be one of the sweeter titles for a good long while.


The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szezcsny 7, Clichy 7, Djourou 7, Koscielny 6, Sagna 7, Wilshere 6, Diaby 5 (Rosicky 6), Denilson 5 (Chamakh 6), Arshavin 8 (MOTM), Nasri 7, Bendtner 6

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