By Randy Osae
Another opportunity missed, another fateful points squashed and another bout of allusion on how Arsenal may never reclaim that frilly top four place.
A fourth straight league fixture ended all-square for Arsenal at home to Sunderland and the same old vapid story remained, even with Andrey Arshavin’s company.
Aston Villa did buckle for once against Chelsea – losing 1-0 in an earlier event – but frankly, Wenger’s men showed little interest to make them pay. And that is not for once.
After a two-week wait, Wenger finally made use of £15 million hot-rod Andrey Arshavin. Carlos Vela was the man sacrificed, and like Fabianski and Gibbs, saw their places on Monday retrieved by senior men Almunia and Clichy respectively. Van Persie started, but Bendtner really was the gainer off Eduardo’s vacancy.
You would infer Arshavin had set the normal Emirates sparkle back even after Eduardo’s feat hinted earlier this week – the Russian first to attempt on five minutes.
And quite an attempt it was, as his shot after pouncing onto a loose ball brushed off the foot of the post. He would then hit a left-footed drive which tested Sunderland’s stopper. In between Arshavin’s tries Van Persie rounded off the keeper after been sent through by Denilson, but he beat the target too by inches.
Arsenal’s ascendancy was sometimes thwarted by Sunderland’s snippy breaks forward – ones of which saw Ferdinand and Whitehead force Almunia into impressive stops.
On the half-hour mark, Arshavin glinted again – picking out Bendtner in the box, but the Dane’s response was turned around the post superbly by Fulop. And then on the stroke of half-time, there was another denial as Toure ‘s looping header was cleared off the line.
Arsenal were mastering but not according to the scoreboard.
The second half though, was more of the Gunners’ lethargy. Seeming disinterested in build-ups, Wenger’s men constantly struggled with picking out simple passes as Sunderland contained them with ease.
That’s when urgency mounted and Arshavin was the scapegoat as Vela replaced him with less than half an hour to go. The Mexican youngster did heap some life into Arsenal but was at fault for scuffing two handy chances off target.
For a second game in a row, Clichy then left the pitch in pain for Gibbs.
A ball broke to Gallas, free on the edge of the area, but he provided a volley in anguish. The last act of one-route football was when Eboue – who had replaced Song – laid the ball off for Van Persie but the Dutchman’s volley was as that of Gallas.
And the result was as that of a side still wobbling at the top four’s shores.