Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland: slow start but patience required
So, first game of the season and Arsenal draw 0-0 with Sunderland. This means we’re in crisis, wasted money on two strikers who are useless, will never win a game again etc.
Anyone drawing radical conclusions like that from one game – the first game of the season at that – is quite frankly a moron. If the first game of the season dictated everything, we’d see Swansea and Fulham in the Champions League next season, Liam Ridgewell would end up in the team of the season, and Tottenham would finish somewhere in the bottom half. Although…
Compulsory Tottenham insults aside, the performance yesterday isn’t anything to be fretting about just yet, considering the circumstances. We had no Sagna, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Rosicky, so it wasn’t a full-strength Arsenal on paper. You also have Alex Song departing, so we had neither he nor his potential replacement available. The transfer window hasn’t even ended yet – we look set to get Nuri Sahin on loan, and, unless he’s Song’s replacement, a defensive midfielder. Maybe even another signing. Who knows.
Beyond players that weren’t available and that might be in the near future, let’s look at the players who did play. Considering Santi Cazorla played for Spain in Puerto Rico three days before the match, and had pretty much no pre-season, he had a very promising start to his Arsenal career, buzzing all over the pitch, eager to receive the ball, quick to release it again. He was billed as the typical Spanish midfielder and he certainly lived up to that reputation.
Lukas Podolski, by all accounts, struggled a little. While he did play as a lone striker last season in the Bundesliga, that was for a side who didn’t look to dominate possession and instead often scored from counter-attacks, meaning Podolski had quite a bit of space to exploit when Cologne attacked. That wasn’t often the case on Saturday, and he didn’t get a lot of joy.
Replacing Podolski in the second half was the third and final signing we’ve made so far, French striker Olivier Giroud. Our new number 12 is the one who provided the sensationalists and reactionaries with the moment our entire season fell apart, missing a chance when put clean through by Cazorla. “Van Persie would have scored that!” is the general reaction, and maybe he would have. So what? Giroud probably would have scored that open goal that Van Persie missed against Manchester United. I would have. My missus Sandra would have scored that.
Judging a striker on one miss is ridiculous. It was his weaker foot, his first real chance as an Arsenal player, and he hasn’t had a proper pre-season. Giroud deserves the benefit of the doubt before being written off – one miss means absolutely nothing until we see more from him. If that miss happened in the middle of the season, and Giroud had scored a lot of goals, would people be saying we miss Van Persie? No. Comparisons like that just can’t be made from one tiny incident.
Taking the positives, it was a great bit of movement from Giroud and superb vision from Cazorla to poke it through for him. If we see more of that, there’s no doubt we’ll see goals. It just wasn’t to be that time.
Through-out the game we seemed like a team who are still gelling – sorry for the cliché but it stands up on this occasion – with important members still requiring time to work on their sharpness before fully firing. It’s not surprising that we seemed like that, because it’s exactly what we are at this moment in time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, in the same way this team won’t start firing instantly. It’ll take a bit of patience and it’s foolish to write them off after one game.
Gervinho was lively, and was one of the main dangermen from what I saw (I was on a plane during the game, surrounded by the worst people in the world) and it seems like he’s going to be less of an enigma and more of a consistent thorn in teams’ sides. His directness will help us, as he’ll look to take players on with his superb close-control. He just needs to improve his decision making, which was by all accounts a feature of his play at Lille. He does like that cut-back from the byline, and it’s had some success at Arsenal.
At the end of the day, it was one game. We’ve drawn games before, we’ll draw games in the future. It’s not the end of the world. Our team is nowhere near hitting its stride, so until we have more to draw conclusions from, let’s be patient and wait and see what the team, and indeed Arsene Wenger, has in store for us.