What is it about Arsenal? Some of us like them as a club, certainly by comparison with the rest of the London mob, and a few of us think the world of Arsène Wenger, myopia and all.
But when it comes to talking about us, some Gooners do have a special way with condescension. Forget the relatively recent times when Arsenal’s greatest ambition was for the clean sheet and single-goal win; anyone else doing it these days is “parking the bus”, worse still doing it “proverbially”.
We may make more clear-cut chances than them – Fletcher, twice or three times in the 0-0 draw at the Emirates and they came early in the second half, not late – but if the emphasis was on at least avoiding defeat, because that was utterly crucial to our survival, we must be anti-football and undeserving of sympathy.
So it is with Gunners Town, an Arsenal fan site, and its look at other teams, starting with by far the most absorbing part of the last Premier season, the relegation struggle. The question of which brand might occupy the top four places was so much less interesting.
Sunderland are one of those perennial strugglers in the Premier League who always seem to escape relegation by virtue of three or four teams being worse than them. They were masters of the draw this season, obtaining 17 draws over the course of the season – on some occasions, they were simply unlucky, while on other occasions, like the match vs Arsenal, they simply set up to park the proverbial bus while looking to nick a late goal (14 goals of theirs were scored in the last 15 minutes of their matches in the Premier League).
‘Sunderland’s best signing, Patrick von [sic] Aanholt. That’s not saying much’
As such, I have little sympathy for this club, who routinely spend massive amounts of money on average players, managing to find little quality despite their expenditure on transfers.
This season was had some exceptions to that rule, though. Gus Poyet brought in Liam Bridcutt at the start of the season, who was probably their worst player and possibly most baffling signing, as he was a defensive midfielder unproven in the Premier League who was coming in to a team who needed a more experienced campaigner due to their inevitable struggles. John O’Shea was unconvincing as always, being occasionally very poor (I’ve never liked O’Shea as a player so I may be a bit biased) [much more often, he was very, very good – Ed]
Probably their best player over the season was Patrick van Aanholt, the former Chelsea youth and reserve team left-sided full-back, who impressed both defensively and offensively for Sunderland in his first season there – definitely their best signing recently. I think they overpaid for Jermaine [sic] Defoe [actually we paid nothing; it was a player exchange for Jozy Altidore – Ed], who did by all rights work very hard as a wide left-sided forward, but didn’t score much after his arrival from FC Toronto in the January transfer window.
… Sunderland are likely to need two new centre-backs (O’Shea and Brown are aging and somewhat injury-prone), a new full-back or two on either side, a defensive midfielder (Cattermole gets suspensions and Bridcutt is simply not good enough) and at least one more creative midfielder and a striker who can regularly hit the net. A big ask, but I’m sure Ellis Short will scrape together funds for at least some of their targets.
Hands up, he didn’t get it all wrong. We can overlook Timothy’s inability to spell O’Shea (kept writing o’Shea, which I’d agree is small beer), van Aanholt or Jermain and for thinking nothing was a bit excessive as a fee for the latter.
He can also be forgiven for not recalling that our sitters at the Emirates were long before the end of the game. And few of us would quarrel too much over Bridcutt.
But, promising as he was, van Aanholt was absent too much to be our player of the season, an accolade rightly won by a former Gunner, Seb Larsson.
To be fair, Timothy did offer some balance in his later comments and he was hardly less critical of
* Aston Villa
“dreadful league form compounded by terrible luck with injuries and a terrific run all the way to the Final .. for Villa to really progress, a buyer with deep pockets is needed”
* and Newcastle
need a new owner and “the only way NUFC will change is if the fans vote with their feet and not go to matches”
Maybe it’s just that snide norf landen tone … I’m sure he’ll turn up here any day soon bearing olive branches.