Arsenal Soapbox: Miliband right to turn his back on Gunners

Forget Louise Taylor, good as she is. Put the reports from the two Echos and Journal to one side. This is the essential post-match read. Pete Sixsmith looks back with relish on a grand day out, leaving us unbeaten in the Smoke after visits to Tottenham, Chelsea, Fulham and Arsenal – and brings you a David Miliband scooplet …

That’s better. Everything we didn’t do at the crumbling ruin known as Goodison Park last week, we did at the ultra-modern Ashburton Grove this week.

Last week, we were disorganised and disappointing. On Saturday, for the full 94 minutes, our players kept their shape, remained focused and took a deserved point off a team with a genuine chance of winning the League title, the Champions League and the FA Cup.

We got a break when the assistant referee put his flag up a split second too early and, wrongly, gave Arshavin offside. But who is to say that Arshavin would have scored had the flag not gone up? Mignolet pulled out of his challenge because he knew that the whistle had gone. The kind of game that the young Belgian was having suggested that he would have comfortably dispossessed the Arsenal player.

He was outstanding, not just because he pulled off several brilliant saves but also because of the calm way that he organised his defenders and ran his box. Were I Craig Gordon’s agent, I would be looking at the possibility of alternatives for next season.

He wasn’t the only youngster who played well. I thought Jordan Henderson had a tremendous game. He ran, harried, tackled, passed and carried the ball as if his life depended on it. On MOTD, when Alan Hansen highlighted our successful pursuit of Arsenal, Jordan was there, looking to win the ball or prevent the Arsenal player from wriggling away with it.

It was his great run and pass that created the opening for the impressive Sessegnon, one of two very good chances that we created against a side who, rightly, regard themselves as one of the top teams in Europe.

I thought every player was brave and committed and it is clear that words have been said after last weeks little disaster. Mensah and Bramble stayed on their feet, Ferdinand concentrated throughout, while Muntari looked an Arsenal player as he picked up the ball from the back four and laid it off to an ever willing Malbranque, Sessegnon or Henderson.

Up front, Gyan hunted for scraps and never allowed the two Arsenal centre backs to settle and to knock the ball around. When he went off near the end, he was clearly exhausted.

The real plus point of the game was the return of Danny Welbeck after his injury. I imagine Alex Ferguson has spent time whispering in his ear, saying “go and get the winner against the Gunners” And he very nearly did, with a marvellous turn and shot that forced Szczeseny to make the save of the match.

As well as a good result and a good performance, it was a good day out. The coach was no more than half full due to weekend breaks being booked and Mr Horan and I were allocated the back seat, which meant we could stretch our legs out, listen to Sounds Of The Sixties, read the paper and carve a statue of Niall Quinn out of blocks of marble.

The Lamb’s splendid Young’s Bitter was on top form and it was good to see the Wood Brothers shaking off the previous nights excesses with such ease and obvious pleasure. We strolled round to Russell Square station with them, boarded the tube to Arsenal – and shared a carriage with the Sunderland vice chairman.

David Miliband made eye contact, spoke and then put down his paper (The Independent, I think) and joined us as the train rattled along the Piccadilly Line. He was fulsome in his praise for SNQ and Ellis Short – probably because one of them had picked up the tab in an Italian restaurant the previous night – and he said next season was the big one and that plans were afoot for the summer that would be very, very interesting.

If he were still an Arsenal fan, he would probably be worried about the disappointing performance his team turned in. No doubt Monty and Rupert, the Ant and Dec of The Emirates, were chuntering into their Pimms post match about the inadequacies of Arshavin (looked disinterested), Bendtner (big bugger, but thinks too slowly) and Wilshere (talented, but spends too much time moaning at referees).

I wish them well in the Nou Camp, but I think it could all end in tears for them and for Arsène Wenger, who actually made a complimentary remark about Sunderland (is this a first – ed? ) before expressing disgust at the referee. I thought Anthony Taylor had a good game and handled the players well.

So, another week off before Liverpool pitch up at the Stadium, fresh from hammering Manchester United. That’s good news for Wenger and the Arsenal fans, who were as quiet and well mannered as they usually are. Lovely stadium but lacking in passion and noise. Maybe Monty and Rupert and their chums haven’t got that bit yet.

9 thoughts on “Arsenal Soapbox: Miliband right to turn his back on Gunners”

  1. Maybe it was the booze, but that was probably the least stressed I’ve felt watching a Sunderland game in weeks. We looked very comfortable for the most part.

    Couldn’t get a ticket, so watched in a pub beside the Holloway Road tube station. A few Sunderland supportes in there, but mostly Arsenal. They were very quiet for the whole game – which tells you their team didn’t really create a lot.

  2. A good, positive, report but (I think) a little OTT.

    Certainly, we kept our shape for the majority of the game but (for me) there were still too many occasions, especially down our left side, when we did not.

    Having said that the performance was a vast improvement, when compared to that at Goodison.

    Maybe the difference in our analysis can be based upon mine being TV based (I live in Thailand) and yours being live – although both (I think) were alcohol influenced!


  3. Much has been made of the alledged offside. The margins we are talking about are miniscule and to blame the officials is really not considering the fact the officials make the decision instantly and do not have the benifit of slow mo and freeze frames. What is worrying is Gordon on the bench, if he is not fit he can’t play so why put him on the team sheet. I know he is in negotiations for a new contract and it doesn’t seem far fetched that made he wants too much and has upset the powers that be. Recent performances have been poor so maybe we have a difference of opinion, that only ever leads to the player leaving or hanging on for a Bosman. Mingolet seems more than adequate so if we can get return on out GBP9m It could be a possibility

  4. As usual a really accurate report of the game.Without freeze-frame technology no-one would have quibbled about the offside decision;there was very little reaction in the stadium.A good team performance overall with some excellent individual displays.We were in the Bree Louise near Euston before the game and some most friendly conversations with Millwall, QPR and West Ham fans ensued, just as it should be.By the way I hope David Milliband wasn’t being ‘fulsome’.

  5. Really. I thought the Most significant move of the match was when the linesman bought his flag up for offside against Arshavin or perhaps it was when the referee failed to blow for a penalty.

  6. if there were any dounts about Welbeck’s fitness, that take-down dispelled them. It looked a goal all the way until the keeper’s fingertips did their job

  7. No, Adam. It was Sessegnon’s cross which Welbeck brought down before turning and shooting. Beyond any doubt, and without hint of “glimmer”, the move of the match.

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