Sunderland 2-0 Arsenal: Nope, Chuck Testa!

This is who we are, folks. Until the personnel or the management of this club massively changes, this is what we will be as seasons go by - an above-average side in talent who flatters to deceive in the beginning of the season until the winter...when every club in England remembers all at once that we have the mental solidity of plywood and attacks us in earnest.

Sure, we'll have the occasional moment where we blacken the eyes of a big side, but doesn't that win at Stamford Bridge look a whole lot less impressive in retrospect now?

Actually, what I should amend to the above is that each season will find diminishing returns as we keep losing our best players - honestly, what reason on earth does Robin van Persie have to stay with us next season? Next season we may get by on what Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can give us and how many Wojceich Szczesny can keep out...but 2-3 years from now, what reason do they have to stay?

Through it all, there will always be those who say "give it one more year, give it one more year". How many years do we give them? I mean, I've been doing this here for a year and a half or so, and previously off and on I've blogged on my own sites as well. You all surely can't be less tired of reading about our inability to defend, our endless string of injuries that doesn't seem to happen to other sides, our over-reliance on one player, our multiple passengers on the team, our utter lack of a Plan B, our mystifying substitution patterns and our manager who blames everything and anything except the reflection in his mirror as I am of writing about them.

And that, friends, is the thing that drives me insane. With certain exceptions, the guys wearing our kits in the last few years are just so unlikeable. It makes me happier than ever that, essentially, we root for laundry as opposed to the people who wear it. Honestly speaking, I would be happier supporting an Arsenal of honest journeymen who worked their bollocks off and finished in 9th than I would of these flat-track bullies who roll over and play dead any time they encounter the slightest resistance.

I mean, I could handle one Denilson, or one Andrei Arshavin, or one Theo Walcott, or one Johan Djourou, or one sicknote like Abou Diaby, etc and so on. We have them all (remember, Denilson is only on loan and Sao Paulo won't be keeping him. He'll be back next season).

Speaking of personnel, the major team news was Gervinho returning from Africa Cup of Nations duty to slot back into the left wing, Francis Coquelin coming into right back and Lukasz Fabianski maintaining his place as Cup keeper (a move which drives me crazy seeing as how this was our only chance of silverware this season). Aaron Ramsey returned in place of Tomas Rosicky, and the rest picked themselves.

Six minutes in, the Arsenal had already threatened the opposition goal more times than in 45 minutes in that late-term abortion of a match against Milan. A free kick from just outside the penalty area was taken by Mikael Arteta. His effort curved around the wall and went just wide, but at least it forced Simon Mignolet into a full-extension dive.

Two minutes later though, disaster struck our backline again. Coquelin had torched his man for pace down the right, but came up short after getting a very slight push in the back. He had to come off, and in his place came Sebastien Squillaci. A minute later, Sunderland probably should have had a chance to take the lead when Alex Song blatantly handled on a corner kick attempt. Thankfully, Howard Webb kept his whistle in his pocket.

Later on in the first half, Gervinho had a decent chance after being played in by RVP, but Mignolet was able to get two strong hands to it to tip it over. That said, one wonders what could have been if he had taken the chance sooner, rather than bring himself out wider into a more acute angle. Straight up the other end, Sunderland could have scored on a corner, but the ball eluded everyone on its way through the area.

The half wore on, mainly without incident. That is, until yet another moment of defensive brilliance from Djourou led to the free kick that gave Sunderland the lead. He took a backpass from Thomas Vermaelen, and with Craig Gardner charging him down, shoveled the ball right into him. Gardner was about to get around him, and Djourou responded with a waistlock. Needless to say, he was booked for that. Sebastien Larsson's free kick was cleared by TV5, but it came out to Kieran Richardson. He had a go, and it found its way in off of a deflection by the ever-reliable Squillaci. It was probably going wide without Squillaci's intervention, but it should also be noted that Bacary Sagna had given him all the room in the world, too.

That took us to halftime, but not before Sunderland could have scored again off a corner, this time, James McClean's wide-open header finding side netting.

The second period began much as the first ended, the Black Cats again handed a free kick in a dangerous area in the early minutes. Uncharacteristically, Arsene made his final two changes in the 53rd minute - Squillaci coming off for Walcott (Song dropping to central defense), and Rosicky coming on for Ramsey.

Now, OK. I'm all for early action to try and change the game in a desperate time, but what on earth was the boss playing at with these substitutions? I keep harping on it, but Rosicky's best qualities these days are in his defensive duties. There is nothing he does that can contribute to the unlocking of a packed defense. As for the other change, as maligned as he's been all season, Arshavin has shown some signs of life in recent matches. In just a few minutes against the same opposition a few matches ago, the little Russian provided the assist for Thierry Henry's storybook goal.

Instead, Walcott gets rewarded for one of the most cowardly performances of any Arsenal player in recent memory - to go along with his shoddy recent form in general - to get the nod over Arshavin.

There's just no explanation that I can come to in my head that makes any kind of logical sense.

A few minutes later, Djourou was extremely lucky not to be sent off. Thankfully for both us and Stephane Sessegnon, the Swiss man's reckless two-footed lunge did not actually connect with the Sunderland player. That so easily could have been a shattered ankle, and it so easily could have left us with exactly one available center-half for the crucial North London Derby.

I honestly don't know if Djourou makes that tackle if he plays for any other team in the Premiership. Where is the accountability with this team?

It took a while, but Sunderland finally put us out of our misery in the 77th minute. Oxlade-Chamberlain got muscled off the ball and the Black Cats were away. Sessegnon muscled Arteta off the ball like he was brushing off a fly. Only Djourou was back, as more Sunderland players came up in support. Gardner was the late option, having torn past Song, I believe it was. His shot from the back post had Fabianski beaten anyway, so I think it's kind of harsh that an own-goal was awarded to Oxlade-Chamberlain as he slid in to try and stop it.

Hell, at least the kid cares and he tried. That's more than can be said for some of his compatriots.

The remaining twenty minutes were played out with no indication that Arsenal would ever get back into it. This is, once again, a side in absolute free-fall.

Anyway, there are no ratings this week and no MOTM (not that I'd have an easy time picking one out from this rabble anyway) as I didn't watch the whole thing - admittedly, I had the score ruined for me and used the Guardian's MBM to point out which bits of the match to fast-forward to on my DVR. I was indisposed this weekend, at the funeral of a friend I knew from when I was younger. I don't want to be too cliche and go on about how it puts everything into perspective and all that, kind of does. Normal service should be resumed next week.

PS - if you're confused as to the title of the match report, this should explain it.