Five Thoughts: Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland

1. Man, as soon as Man City went up 2-0, this became the most utterly pointless match in the history of association football, huh? Just punching the time clock, folks.

The truth is, most of this was an absolutely unwatchable dirge, even though if you go back and look at it, both sides had more chances than the memory would typically recall. Were there more on the line, we may have looked back on this as a somewhat decent match of association football. As it is, you're a liar if you say you'll remember this tomorrow...or even now, as you read this.

It almost makes you wish that there were some method to just declare on your regular season, much like you can do in your innings in cricket.

2. The story of the match is unquestionably another valiant-in-defeat performance by the young Sunderland keeper, Jordan Pickford. Were it not for him, this surely would have been done and dusted well before we managed to do so. It's not up for debate that he is an interesting talent, and it's probably more likely than not that he will do well in the next stage of his progression (cough cough Everton cough cough).

What you're going to see, on Twitter and elsewhere, is everyone in the world clamoring to sign him. Me? I'm...not so sure. The other old farts reading this will know this name immediately, but by way of an explanation let me introduce you to one Richard Wright.

Given that one of the first photos I saw on GIS is him in goal for a 4-2 loss to Charlton bloody Athletic, I think you can see where this is going.

Wright was one of the gaffer's more head-scratching buys in retrospect, but at the time it seemed to make a lot of sense. David Seaman was reaching the end of the road, and we needed a top keeper to replace him. We didn't have silly money to throw around, and I think the idea of an English player in the position was intriguing to Arsene, both for Champions League registration reasons as well as potentially being more comfortable with the crosses and physicality of the Premier League.

At the time, Ipswich Town had a cup of coffee in the Premier League, and Wright had a fantastic season for them as a 24-year old, In fact, Ipswich managed a heady 5th-place finish that season, absolutely unheard of for a club of their size, even back then. So, we bought him for the then-decent fee of 2M and handed him a 5-year contract.

As it turned out, he made 12 league appearances for us in one season, and he was promptly flogged off to Everton. A cautionary tale, this. Whenever he played, he looked like someone had yanked him off the street and threw a pair of gloves at him. He was lost, he was a poor shot-stopper and most of all he was emphatically not good enough for a club of our stature.

Here's the thing. Goalkeeping performance is not agnostic to outside factors. Right now, Pickford is in a relatively low-pressure scenario where few expected Sunderland to stay up, he only had to beat the bang-average Vito Mannone to win his place, and they give up so many unpreventable goals due to their defending anyway that the odd mistake gets comprehensively lost in the shuffle. To say that wouldn't be the case at Arsenal is an understatement.

Besides that, Roma have been clear at this point that they don't intend to make a play for Wojceich Szczesny on a permanent basis, even though he's been one of the best goalkeepers in Serie A this season. So, we have Petr Cech, who has reminded the haters and dipshits in recent weeks of how valuable he remains. We have Szczesny back on the last year of his contract. We have David Ospina, who presumably will want to find a new club where he can get the first-team football that he arguably deserves (albeit at a lower level). We have Emi Martinez, who is getting beyond the age of "hot prospect" and is hurtling towards the age of "shit or get off the pot".

So, now, your big idea is to bring in this 23-year old kid (almost the same age as Wright!), who has played well enough to start somewhere (and don't think his agent doesn't know this), while we have all of the rest of that shit to figure out in our goalkeeping department? Not to mention, bringing him in from the relatively obscure and safe space of a bad team even by Sunderland standards to the bloody CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, and the ongoing psychodrama that is Arsenal Football Club?

Honestly, do me a favor.

To give you a point of comparison, when Manchester City bought Joe Hart, he was 19 years old and was allowed to go on loan three separate times to develop away from the spotlight.

So, thanks but no thanks...9 saves on 11 shots on target in one meaningless end-of-season match or not.

3. Well, that was more words about one kid barely old enough to drink than I was originally intending to write about the whole sodding match. Funny how that works.

Anyway, the goals when they (finally) came were actually quite good. The first came from a lovely ball over the top by Granit Xhaka, who is now beginning to make serious fools of his critics. Mesut Ozil controlled it well, and sent it over to the back post for Alexis to smash in uncontested. The second was again scored unmarked on the back post, this time after Pickford had clawed away Olivier Giroud's excellent volley.

There were a million other chances besides, but nothing else managed to beat Pickford, or the woodwork.

4. Speaking of fine goalkeeping, how about that Petr Cech, huh? Our criminally-unloved stopper made a few excellent saves himself, doubly so because most came when it was still 0-0. Imagine if we had gone down 1-0 to this lot, huh? There might have been riots among the 14 or so people who bothered to turn up to the Emirates today.

5. I have to say, I don't recommend setting your heart too much on Middlesbrough or Watford doing us any favors. The harsh truth is that, over the entirety of 38 matches, we're just about the fifth-best team in the Premier League this season. We can talk about Arsene's ridiculous dereliction of duty in the transfer market in the season's first few weeks (I will always insist that it is criminal that it took as long as it did to get Shkrodan Mustafi in), and we can speculate on what might have been different if we changed formations earlier.

Neither of those things can be changed now though, and the fact is that the clubs currently in the top four have been simply better than us this season. It sucks and it hurts and it was so FUCKING preventable, but we are where we are.

Now, let's see what this club does about it.

In the meantime though, we have one match of any importance left in this season, and I want to see fight and I want to see a performance. Nothing else is acceptable.

Man of the Match:  Jordan Pickford