Steve Bennett, not Salut! Sunderland‘s favourite referee by a long shot (even when we get his name right – see comments), so comprehensively annoys opposing sets of fans that he probably feels he must be getting something right. While Gooners bleat that he allowed our ruffians to hack away at their cultured elite, Sunderland supporters point to his failure to dismiss Fabregas for as clear a second yellow offence as could be imagined.
Pete Sixsmithintensifies the war of words …
That’s the weekend games over, and incredibly, we have only dropped one place in the Race To Get Out Of The Premier League And Into the Championship Table. This is clearly not good enough, and Bruce must ensure that we lose the next four games so that we can join the Doncasters, Bristol Citys and Watfords of the footballing world.
If the world were turned upside down, that would be a distinct possibility. There appears to be a lemming like rush to get out of the top league as all the bottom eight teams bar one, lost – and that was West Ham, who beat Hull City, a fellow struggler.
Bolton, Burnley and Wigan all lost on Sunday to make the weekend a darn sight less gloomy than it could have been. All three Lancashire clubs look as if they are can’t wait to visit the Keepmoat Stadium. Bolton can’t score (until they play us, presumably), Burnley are hopeless away from Turf Moor away (see earlier comment), while Wigan appear to be playing on the mud flats left behind when the tide goes out on the Wear. Even the Rugby League players find that pitch an embarrassment.
Survival is clearly in our own hands. If we can beat the likes of Burnley, Bolton, Fulham and Birmingham at home, we should survive for another season in “the worlds greatest League”. If we fail to win these games, we can always hope that there are two sides even less organised, motivated and inspired than we are. Portsmouth will do well avoid liquidation and will almost certainly be docked points, meaning that one relegation place is filled.
Can we do it? I would not be inclined to respond with a ringing, Obama like “Yes We Can!!!!!”. Saturday was better than some recent performances, but not much. It’s like saying that Gordon Brown’s public image is better than it was a year ago; you get my drift?
That anything other than an Arsenal victory would have been a travesty is not up for argument. They were streets ahead of us and they played some lovely football at times. A draw would have been a steal, but we had the chances.
The best one fell to Kenwyne, who took a superb ball from Richardson, timed his run perfectly, had a great first touch…. and planted it wide. In games like these, you don’t get many, if any, chances and to fail to take such a good one is unforgivable.
I though Jones had a decent game; he and Bent worked hard, looked for the ball and both helped an at times, beleaguered defence. But when presented with a clear run on goal, you have to take it. These are the moments that define your season and define you as a player. If Jones is ambitious, he needs to be sharper.
Another player who did well was Craig Gordon. He looks a very good keeper and I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger were seriously considering him for next season. He was composed and brave and made a number of outstanding saves. He settled the nerves of our wobbly defence and looked the authoritative figure we all hoped he would be.
Other than that, Mensah made a number of outstanding interceptions and he really should be our No 1 central defender. It’s just that when he goes down, you wonder if that’s the last you will see of him for a month. Richardson did well and tried to open up the Gunners with perceptive passes and thoughtful runs. As for the rest, Turner, Ferdinand and Hutton were ok, Cana looked a pale shadow of the player we thought he was in summer and autumn, Campbell appears to be completely out of his depth and McCartney ended up being employed as a fill in player rather than the classy left back we once believed him to be.
That we avoided another drubbing was down to hard work and Arsenal’s desire to make three passes when two will do. We now have some “winnable” games coming up. The players and the management have to make sure that attitudes are right and that they have the confidence in their undoubted ability. It’s what they are paid for.
Bruce could also ask the FA to keep Steve Bennett away from us for the rest of the season/year/decade/century/millennium. He is a shocking ref. He looks the part and struts as well as any I have seen, but he is a bottler. He COULD have sent Cana off, but he SHOULD have sent Fabregas off. Both tackles were nasty; if he thought Cana’s deemed only a yellow, well we got away with it. But the Fabregas tackle on Mensah was violent and was intended to hurt. He saw it, spoke to Fabregas and he knew it should be a yellow followed by a red. He ducked it. Cowardly refereeing which makes sure that sad people like me see a conspiracy behind every door.
Fulham on Sunday is the most important game of the season so far. If we don’t win this one, we could be in the bottom three – an unbelievable thought in October. It’s a big week for Sunderland AFC.