Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal: Stuff Happened, Sort Of

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Alternatively, the score in the header could have been Sunderland 2-0 Themselves, which honestly goes much further towards describing what actually happened here. The Gunners were incidental to proceedings, so many Vladimirs and Estragons vainly waiting for Godot while Sunderland went about the task of their now-usual comedic self-implosion.

I fully understand that this probably sticks me in the "miserable bastard" section of the fanbase, but this was utterly dreadful to watch. Sure, I'm happy that we got the three points, and I do hope that it gives us some momentum to take maximum value from a kind section of the fixture list upcoming. But, if the idea that we play beautiful football hadn't been killed off by now, surely today is when the doctor declared it DOA.

Theoretically, I could describe proceedings in rough chronological order, like I usually do. But, honestly, what's the point? We've all heard this song before - dominate possession, pass it sideways, watch in wonder as the opponent masses ten outfield players (plus the tea lady, four stewards and a literal double-decker bus) behind the ball while they wait to counter on the break...even the Groundhog Day comparisons have gotten old by now.

Sunderland, to their credit, were largely solid given the circumstances of last week. There was always the possibility that their previous result could have sent them on a tailspin the likes of which could see them relegated by Christmas, but they fought hard and were only undone by two ludicrous individual mistakes.

Our lot, meanwhile, did what they always do. The team almost entirely picked itself, but interestingly the boss went with two deeper midfielders in Mathieu Flamini and Mikael Arteta. That seemed a bit odd to me given that the Mackems showed little attacking inclination. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was handed a start out wide, but there was no place for midweek hero Lukas Podolski.

So, the game ambled along, as our games tend to do these days. Somewhere along the line, Wes Brown (this man once played for Manchester United...really) whiffed on a backpass that was a questionable decision in the first place. It ended up turning into a hell of an assist for the marauding Alexis Sanchez, who was in alone on old boy Vito Mannone. The Italian demonstrated why he now plays at Sunderland, coming off his line a bit but then stopping, putting the Chilean under no pressure. Then, as Sanchez arrogantly chipped over him, Mannone dove the wrong way. Our man was probably always scoring anyway, but the keeper didn't exactly make it difficult on him.

The goal was a brief flashpoint in the vacuum, to which we returned immediately thereafter. Sunderland tried, but for the most part their best player was referee Kevin Friend. He sure did wave yellow bits of cardboard around at anything in a matching-colored shirt, didn't he? That said, Arteta was unbelievably lucky not to walk for his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon impersonation. His high kick, missing only some spinning nunchucks to complete the affect - only warranted a yellow in Friend's eyes.

Back to our slumbers we went until just about the end of the match. You'll be stunned to know that with weapons like Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Joel Campbell on the bench, we did not make any subs (with the exception of Hector Bellerin on for the crocked-once-again Kieran Gibbs) until scant minutes before the end. Here, I note the contrast to Southampton, who were still bound and determined to put the boot to Sunderland's throat even when they were 5-0, 6-0 ahead. Anyway, like I've said before, I don't even get mad at this shit anymore. Why ask why?

That said, the Sunderland AFC Comedy Troupe had one more act for us in injury time. Santiago Verigni, aka the man who scored the wonder own-goal last week, played a ludicrous backpass to Mannone. The Italian was immediately put under intense pressure by Alexis, and he could only shovel the ball a yard or two ahead of him. Sanchez, for the second time on the afternoon, accepted the gift and slotted the ball into the empty net.

Honestly, I feel for Mannone here. While he wasn't fantastic on either goal, neither was entirely his fault either. But, he's now coming off an 8-0 loss (also not entirely his fault), and now a second match where he's made a mistake...with Costel Pantilimion lurking on the bench. The glamorous life of a goalkeeper, folks.  Oh, and sidenote: Yeah, maybe Szczesny shouldn't have come off his line at the end there, but aggression is his game and for eff's sake he did just enough in that situation. The way some people are talking, you'd think he picked up the ball and threw it into his own net. 

At the end of the day, I suppose that the three points were the most important priority and we take them back to London with us. I've largely resigned myself to the idea that the pretty football that we've played in seasons past will be reduced to isolated moments in a sea of sideways passes. If it's going to be a grind, I'll take boredom and three points over boredom alone, that's for sure. The next fixture is Burnley at home, and that's another one where boredom and three points is the absolute minimum acceptable benchmark. We'll see.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Gibbs 7 (Bellerin 6), Mertesacker 7, Monreal 6, Chambers 7, Arteta 6 (Ramsey N/A), Flamini 7, Cazorla 6, Sanchez 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 5 (Rosicky N/A), Welbeck 6

Man of the Match: It's safe to say that there is literally no other option that Alexis Sanchez.