Sixer’s Arsenal Soapbox: this Sunderland defence just don’t like it up ’em

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.

arsenalsoapbox

ARSENAL (H)

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.

'SAFC more Dad's Army than Red Army,' says Sixer  via Jake's graphic
‘SAFC more Dad’s Army than Red Army,’ says Sixer via Jake’s graphic

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.

Jake: 'no impact substitute'
Jake: ‘no impact substitute’

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…….

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9 thoughts on “Sixer’s Arsenal Soapbox: this Sunderland defence just don’t like it up ’em”

  1. john mac – I always enjoy analysis, and it is surprising what coaches can learn from it.

    I reckon it is a long time since we had anyone who was likely to cause havoc in this zone – or anywhere else – maybe Kevin Phillips?

  2. Pickford looks shell shocked. Doesn’t command 6 yard box, and should have done better with the third. But, with the defenders he has in front of him , he has a tough time.
    Just hope he doesn’t move to sit on the bench somewhere and become the next Ben Alnwick, because he is far better than that. Kone, I’d sell him for £20m because he will be worth a faction of that in May

    • I really feel for Jordan Pickford. He is a brilliant young prospect, albeit not yet the final article. He does not control the box. I think he is more a shot stopper but that is not unusual, even in the Premier League, and at present he is getting little or no protection from his defence.

      I made the same point about Kone on this site a couple of days ago. With the benefit of hindsight we should have sold him when Everton were interested. It is simply not worth keeping players who don’t want to play for you. At the moment we need everyone on the pitch to be 100% committed. You are better off with lesser player who cares.

      • He made two or three good saves but one was from a short that his own error had caused and you are right, William, his command of the box, initially a feature of his game, has gone. I have noticed that if any other side can take a decent corner – Arsenal’s were superb – we are guaranteed to be under pressure. We cannot cross – witness Khazri’s two laughable attempts in the first half – and now that Kone is playing with less serious intent, we don’t have anyone capable of contacting well with head on the rare occasion when the cross is not hopelessly overhit, underhit or misplaced. The closest we got to scoring a headed goal on Saturday was when Djilobodji beat Pickford, but luckily the bar too, with a crass attempt to clear. Not sure, but may even have been what led to the third goal.

      • A point about corners and crosses. I read an article, some years ago, which showed that more than 50% of goals arose as a direct result of crosses into the penalty area [ can’t remember the exact % but it was high ]

        If this is true, and, having played and watched football for 70 odd years, I wouldn’t dispute it, I can never understand why managers don’t pay more attention to it? [ both defensively, and in attacking strategy ]

        Tony Pulis clearly knows this to be true. He has demonstrated through the years, that [a] well drilled defences can reduce the effect of both in-play crosses, and corners, and [b] vital goals come from this tactic [ even to the extent of using long throws into the box [ it is interesting that we never thought to utilise Rory DeLap’s expertise in that area! ]

        Pulis, and he is only one example, had never had the luxury of being able to sigh multimillion pound players, but he has always understood how to drill tactics into ordinary ones.

        As you say, we are absolutely wide open to any decent ball into the box, and we desperately need some realistic coaching, or we are certainly doomed.

  3. On yesterday’s performance I can’t imagine Pickford commanding much of a fee. I know he’s not our main problem but every manager in the Premier League is aware that a ball in the box will find central defenders and ‘keeper totally ineffective. The young lad needs a break before his confidence is totally shot. I’m sure he’ll wish to forget yesterday’s game. Just because he’s a local lad and we all wish him to become a new Monty doesn’t hide his weakness in the six-yard box and the lack of trust it seems to produce. As Mr. Sixsmith says we are doomed this season, we have cheated the hangman too many times. Can we make 11 points or are we after Derby’s record?

  4. Wouldn’t necessarily criticise Moyes for sending on an attacker, per se, but that particular attacker…oh yes! He could have put Gooch on, an industrious midfielder who would have at least put some pressure on Arsenal players, nor would Moyes have then had to change Khazri’s position and go to a 4 man midfield in order to put Januzaj next to Defoe in order to try and minimise his absolute lack of focus or desire to close anyone down.
    I don’t want to sound like a smartarse, but I called what was going to happen the moment Januzaj came on the pitch; at no point this season has he proved himself to be a player to count on when the going gets tough. He is the ultimate luxury player, a luxury we cannot afford! Aaaaaaaahhhh!

  5. Virtually relegated before the clocks had even gone back. A hard winter indeed beckons…although I’d love to be proven wrong.

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