Malcolm Dawson writes……it’s fair to say that Pete Sixsmith was incandescent after yesterday’s performance. I have no intention of bringing on a cardiac arrest about something over which I have no control so rather than rant and rave as the BBC moved to interview Arsene Wenger I chose instead to chill out to Joni Mitchell, Donald Fagen and Van Morrison. After all a comprehensive defeat at home to one of the sides who’ll be in the title mix in a few months time was not unexpected. I find quiet resignation keeps the blood pressure under control. I elected instead to save my ire for drivers blocking off the exits on the Wearmouth bridge roundabout delaying the journey home. Fortunately Pete finished his report of yesterday’s dismal performance before this morning’s batting collapse in Dhaka. What with that and New Zealand’s single point victory over England in the RL Four Nations yesterday I assume he is now curled up in darkened corner of Sixsmith Towers with Rafael, his Spanish manservant bringing him hot toddies and cold compresses to ease the pain.
The death of Dad’s Army creator Jimmy Perry this week at a ripe old age – he would have been a teenager when we last won the league- brought out the old clips. There was Private Walker selling dodgy nylons and illegal ciggies for vastly inflated prices (remind anyone of our transfer policy this summer?), Private Pike showing his naivety and believing that everything will be all right (like a David Moyes press release) and finally, a man we can all identify with – the gloomy Scot Private Fraser, with his mantra of “We’re doomed, Captain Mainwaring” so reminiscent of our manager after the home defeat to Middlesbrough eight long and tortuous league games ago and of the vast majority of the home support. Throw in the fact that three of our better players in O’Shea, Pienaar and Defoe are veterans and we really are a Dad’s Army.
For make no mistake, doomed we are and doomed we shall stay. The Coat of Optimism has been consigned to the cupboard under the stairs and the Sword of Hope has been placed in its sheath where it will remain for goodness knows how long. There is more chance of my gall bladder being re-installed than there is of avoiding yet another relegation. That the players are not good enough is obvious. That they seem to have little self-belief after they concede a goal, equally so. Tactically, we set ourselves out to disrupt and spoil and have little idea of how to break down a good or even average side. We had a mere handful of attempts on the Arsenal goal before they stepped up the pace and put us out of our misery.
And misery it was. Three goals, all well taken but all avoidable, were swept into our net as defenders stood looking and midfielders fell down on their tasks. The disappearance of the industrious Pienaar (at 34, the hardest working midfielder in a red and white shirt) and his replacement by the seemingly indolent Januzaj, encouraged Arsenal to take advantage of the gaps that appeared down that side and slaughter us with crosses into the box that went to their players. Kieran Gibbs had so much space that he could have had a couple of goals for himself, but the inch perfect cross to Giroud sufficed as the substitute restored the Arsenal lead with the kind of deft volley that Jermain Defoe is quite capable of producing should he ever get a decent ball played to him in the box.
He had levelled for us with a well taken penalty, this coming at the end of a period when we actually played some decent stuff and did not look like conceding, although Arsenal fans may disagree, even though the whiny, disagreeable but excellent Sanchez had a good penalty claim turned down.
All Arsene Wenger did was to send on a big centre forward and we capitulated. All Giroud had to do was stand about a bit and our defenders would have had a fit of the collywobbles. As it was he scored two quick goals and finished the game off. His second showed our defensive frailties off to a tee. A good corner, nobody jumping with him and a firm header planted into the net. It was the kind of goal that a lowly Under 15 team would concede on a school field or a scratch pub team on a public park. We concede them regularly as Lukaku and Benteke will affirm.
Sanchez wrapped it up after a spot of football pinball in the box, that goal not as good as his first, a crafty header from a lovely cross by Oxlade-Chamberlain. We may ask why O-C was given so much space by Duncan Watmore (rapidly turning into the new James McClean) and why Kone (a future Sunderland captain according to the increasingly beleaguered manager) was caught on the back foot. He was probably distracted by deciding which Arsenal jersey he wanted for his collection.
There are no positives to take from this. We came up against one of the league’s top sides and they swatted us away as if we were a mere inconvenience. At no stage did we ever look like winning the game, although I thought Moyes was bold in putting on Januzaj. In some ways he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Last week criticised for sending on a defender, this week for putting on an attacker. That the player let him down badly with a display that made it very clear that the delights of Rusholme far outweigh those of Seaburn was hardly his fault.
Where do we go from here? Well, in my case not to Bournemouth or Liverpool or Swansea or Manchester United. By New Year’s Eve, when we set foot on Turf Moor we will be so far behind that we will need a pair of binoculars to see the Tigers’ tail and the Swans’ wings.
The return of Cattermole, Kirchhoff and Borini may settle things a little bit, but we still cannot defend and I would imagine that Kone will increase his demands for a move in January. Pickford is another one who may be sold as we raise money to buy players who might get us out of the Championship at the first time of asking. I cannot see the current owner putting a huge amount in the hands of Moyes in this window; the poor returns we have had on Ndong and Djilobodji will dictate that.
Hard times for Sunderland supporters and I fear that there is worse to come. Lose the next two games and the manager’s position becomes completely untenable. That Sunderland should even contemplate losing to Bournemouth and Hull City shows how much the game has changed – in our case not for the better.
We are in for a long, hard winter…….