By Randy Osae
Arsenal could only collect a lucky point at the Stadium of Light after another timid Premier League performance by Wenger’s men. Indeed, the Gunners were 90 seconds away from a shameful back-to-back league defeat until Cesc Fabregas uncharacteristically headed from a corner.
That goal was greeted with relief from the travelling fans, but it did little to spare the day’s blushes and yet again, Arsenal’s title credentials have questions all over it – from seven games, eight points have been dropped with ease.
There was only one change from the side that thumped Porto 4-0 in midweek – Alex Song replaced Samir Nasri.
Arsenal were unsettled by a well organized Sunderland backline through-out a goaless first half, making it another dull replica of last weekend’s event. Clichy was frustrated on the left by Chimbonda, Gallas was worked by Djibril Cisse several times and Theo Walcott was very sluggish.
Initially, Walcott’s mistaken pass to Toure was gifted to the afore-mentioned Cisse, whose effort from close range was denied by Almunia’s knee. The French forward then made an audacious try from the edge of Arsenal’s area, as a wet Stadium of Light buoyed in confidence. Fabregas, Adebayor and Van Persie failed to penetrate any sort of ball through a brick-walled Sunderland defence.
The second-half was much energetic and both teams, especially Arsenal, realized there was no time to coy on chances. Walcott took better advantage of his time on the right wing to drive a few tricky crosses with one of them been a low scrap to Van Persie. The Dutchman volleyed and sprinted to celebrate but the goal was wrongly ruled out to have been set-up after the ball went out for a goal kick. Replays showed Walcott did well to keep the ball in play accurately. And after the hour mark, Theo was replaced by Nicklas Bendtner.
Emmanuel Adebayor then teed up Samir Nasri, who came on for Denilson, but the Frenchman’s shot was easily toe-poked by Craig Gordon. A chip from Bendtner was received by Van Persie in the penalty box, and the Dutchman fired against a well positioned Gordon – that was the best goal scoring chance the match had seen so far.
On several occasions, Arsenal ran and passed all the way from their territory with attack in mind, but were given a master stop by Sunderland infront of their line. That meant little opportunities for Fabregas to make usual transparent passes and before they found their stride to resume another faint try, Sunderland were scrambling the ball in Arsenal’s half.
It eventually got onto the foot of subsitute Grant Leadbitter courtesy of Song’s giveaway and a familiar long-range strike dented Arsenal into deep woes four minutes from time.
Carlos Vela who had waited all day on the bench was finally introduced when the trouble was nearly unbearable and with less than three minutes and additional time to go, the Mexican teen could only give the little he had.
Arsenal then earned a corner kick through Fabregas’ deflected shot. And when Van Persie curled in the cross, the influential Spaniard headed in the ball with a heap. His teammates chased on to embrace him for the rescue and things went from worse back to bad for the seconds remaining which saw an Adebayor handball inches away from the net, but it had been disallowed already.
That was as much as another lethargic display could earn, but there was some spirit in it at least.