Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland – as it happened
Arsenal were all over the shop against a dismal Sunderland, but the individual brilliance of Robin van Persie stopped the Emirates faithful going home with a face on (which, by the sounds of the rancour cascading from the stands for large periods of this match, they were preparing to do).
FULL TIME: Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland. Andre Santos will fit in well at Arsenal: free down the inside-left channel, he decides to try to walk the ball into the net rather than taking a shot, and the chance is gone. No matter, because the final whistle goes. Arsene Wenger allows a smile to play across his lips, but he’ll know full well that Robin van Persie has got his side out of jail here. A result fully deserved on the balance of play, but for a long time it didn’t look like Arsenal were going to seal the deal. No matter; they wheech up to 10th spot, while Sunderland remain in 17th position. I’m outta here, but please join Daniel Harris for FCF MBM coverage of Newcastle United versus Tottenham Hotspur.
90 min +4: Sunderland can’t get anything going up front, though this is hardly news. That hasn’t stopped the Arsenal support becoming very nervous indeed. The Emirates is one tense place alright.
90 min +2: A free kick, and a chance for Sunderland to launch one into the Arsenal area. Mertesacker deals calmly, heading powerfully clear. One from the George Graham textbook; fellow defenders please take note.
90 min: There will be FIVE added minutes of this. So sharp is the collective intake of breath by the Arsenal faithful, it’s a wonder the pitch isn’t sucked down their throats.
89 min: Walcott goes on a sortie down the right. He unleashes a cross-cum-shot, which is blocked out for a corner. Van Persie fannies around in the grand style, happy to run the clock down.
88 min: Benayoun plays a ludicrous backpass towards Walcott, down the Sunderland inside-left channel. Colback nips in ahead, then goes down with Walcott standing right behind him. He screams for a penalty kick, but stopped clock Howard Webb makes a correct decision, and waves play on.
87 min: Gardner replaces Cattermole.
86 min: The relief around the Emirates is palpable. Could this turn their season around? Lord knows they clearly need the confidence boost.
84 min: Ji puts the ball into the Arsenal net, slotting home confidently after being released by Wickham’s pass down the inside-left channel. But he’s a good yard offside, and the flag puts paid to Sunderland’s dream of an instant response.
83 min: OH YES THEY CAN! Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland. Another splash of brilliance from Arsenal’s star man, Robin van Persie, who clips a delicious free kick into the top right corner. Mignolet had no chance.
82 min: Brown oafs Van Persie into the air, a couple of yards to the right of the Sunderland D. This is a free kick in a very dangerous position for Arsenal, although their previous efforts have been nothing short of disgraceful. Can they finally get one right?
81 min: Arteta brilliantly beats three men down the left wing, showcasing some wonderful ball skill. Only problem is, he’s heading in the wrong direction.
79 min: Sessegnon is replaced by Wickham. Sunderland are not far away from what would be a very good point for them.
77 min: A gently amusing passage of play, Cattermole practically picking Benayoun up by the throat and running along with him in his grasp, dribbling the ball as he goes. He’s like a man taking the garbage out. Howard Webb, naturally, decides that Benayoun is the aggressor, and blows up accordingly.
76 min: Rosicky is replaced by the oddly under-rated Yossi Benayoun.
73 min: Brilliance from Arshavin, who wriggles like – sorry for the comparison, Arsenal fans – Ricky Villa in the 1981 FA Cup final, his toes twinkling past three challenges down the inside-left channel and into the area. He twists, turns, and pokes a clever effort just wide right of goal; if that was on target, it was in, the keeper caught flat footed. Wonderful play from the Russian; it’s lifted the crowd, who were getting a wee bit tetchy with Arsenal’s strange performance.
71 min: A Sunderland corner down the right. Szczesny comes out and flaps. The ball’s cleared, but dear me. Arsenal are betraying their lack of confidence again and again. They may well come away with a brave draw, or even a victory, who knows, but whatever happens today, this team have issues that need addressing.
69 min: By all accounts, nearly 40% of this second half has been played out in the Sunderland final third. Mignolet has had one save to make during that time, a block from a tight angle at his near post which he’d have been annoyed to let in. On the bench, Wenger is hunched forward, rocking gently, being comforted by Pat Rice. Ee, he’s a poor lad.
67 min: A change for both sides. Larsson is replaced by the 20-year-old Don-Won Ji, while Arshavin replaces Gervinho. ”There are few finer sights in football than the Wes Brown reducer,” opines Daniel Harris, “though YouTube is sadly silent on his December 1998 game-ending wellying of Guardian Le Saux into the Old Trafford hoardings.”
65 min: Van Persie – remember him? – shoots from a tight angle on the left, but his effort is kicked away by Mignolet. In the stands, the home support begin to use words such as eff and cee.
63 min: Another yellow flourished by Howard Webb, the world’s most useless referee. Koscielny is punished this time, for knocking Sessegnon to the ground. Great stuff from the Sunderland striker, incidentally, who performs a quadruple roly-poly, the sort of preposterous over-reaction I’ve not seen since acting was invented in the 1980s.
61 min: Rosicky drives down the inside-left channel, then slides a peach of a pass forward to Walcott, who looks to break further down the channel and into the box. Brown hoves in from the right and upends him crudely, earning himself a booking, and giving Arsenal a free kick just outside the left-hand corner of the box. Walcott gets up and takes the set piece himself, finding the top-right corner of the stand behind. Arsenal are playing well in most areas of the pitch, but they’re flailing around wildly when they get sight of the goal.
59 min: O’Shea clatters into Rosicky, just to the right of the Sunderland D, like some sort of clumsy oaf. A free kick in a dangerous position for the Arsenal. Arteta stands over it, and converts for three rugby points. Appalling.
57 min: Song is booked for hacking down Sessegnon. From the free kick, O’Shea heads weakly wide at the left-hand post.
56 min: Walcott is sent scampering down the right by a glorious crossfield pass from Rosicky. Walcott attempts to clip the ball into the centre, but his effort hits Richardson on the chest and arm at close range. Arsenal make a half-hearted shout for a penalty, but the collective heart’s not really in it.
55 min: Larsson is booked for dragging back Van Persie. A needless caution, because the striker was, like Arsenal, going absolutely nowhere.
52 min: Vaughan is booked for bringing down Rosicky. The resulting free kick, by Andre Santos, is the worst in the entire history of football, spooned about 60 feet into the air and wide right of goal. An absolute nonsense. The home crowd aren’t experiencing the sensation of happiness at the moment, and are reacting accordingly via the medium of sound.
50 min: Keystone Kops stuff in the Sunderland box. Walcott causes some bother down the right. Mignolet palms his low cross out to Cattermole, who batters the ball into the face of Brown, and out for a corner. Nothing comes of the set piece. Gibbs goes off, meanwhile, to be replaced by Andre Santos.
48 min: The crowd is quiet, but not silent. You know that bubbling uncertainty, bordering on dissent? It’s that. I’m sensing rancour.
46 min: Arsenal nearly start the second half as they did the first, Song looking to slot a shot from the edge of the area into the bottom right. His effort is blocked, though. No dream opening this time round.
And we’re off again! It’s the second half, folks. No changes, although Arsenal could be doing with a new attitude. No word yet on whether our John Reid (41 mins) is just a common-or-garden John Reid, or Afghanistan’s John Reid, the one who had over 70p’s worth of pot fags stashed in his house.
HALF-TIME ENTERTAINMENT, FOR YOUR LEISURE AND PLEASURE: Both goals so far, courtesy of the kind folk at 101 Great Goals.
HALF TIME: Arsenal 1-1 Sunderland. The home side depart to boos, and no wonder. They could easily be 3-1 down here, at home to a(nother) struggling side, despite an opening half hour of almost total dominance. Arsenal are so delightful to watch at times, and yet occasionally a complete shambles of a side. Sunderland are almost the complete mirror image, a total rabble capable of moments of brilliance. This promises to serve up an intriguing second half; don’t be a stranger, now.
44 min: A deep cross from the Sunderland right. Larsson, level with the far post, heads back into the centre, where Colback volleys just over from 12 yards. This Arsenal defence is beyond description, so I won’t bother. What a shambles. ”Sunderland’s shirt sponsor, Tombola, sums up this game so far,” quips Ollie Irish. Do I win a box of After Eights, a bottle of Pomagne, and a tray of frozen chops, then?
41 min: A lull in what’s been a pretty entertaining, if vaguely surreal, half of football. ”My God I didn’t realise how shite Sunderland were,” splutters John Reid. ”They should team up with my beloved Celtic and Nottingham Forest to form a new club – CRISIS FC. Nothing will be able to stop us!” Hold on. John Reid? Celtic? You’re not the John Reid, are you? The warmongering one? Nah, you won’t be that one.
38 min: Arsene Wenger is sitting on the bench looking confused, an almost total lack of animation. If you didn’t know him better, you’d say he’s every inch the broken man.
35 min: Well, Sunderland should be 2-1 up. Larsson robs Jenkinson. Sessegnon tears clear down the left. He hesitates when he should be shooting, but still manages to clip the ball across to the far post for Cattermole, who stoops to head goalwards from point-blank range. But his header is straight at Szczesny, who parries brilliantly. A great save, but one he should never have been allowed to make. Arsenal’s defence is a circus act.
32 min: How on earth are Sunderland level? Simple: the Arsenal defence is an egregious disgrace, bringing all sorts of pressure onto itself and giving the opposition plenty of encouragement. What of the feelings of Adams and Bould? Anyway, the equaliser is probably fair enough in moral terms, if you listen to the righteous Callum Hamilton: ”Bit unfair of Arsenal to have Robin Van Persie score, who was supposed to be injured in the last international fixtures. Of course, it’s *technically* within the rules, but… come on. This sort of gamesmanship is ruining modern football. No respect for tradition.”
31 min: GOAL!!! Arsenal 1-1 Sunderland. A free kick for Sunderland, Arteta handling while challenging for a high ball a few yards outside the Arsenal D. That came after some comedy defending on the edge of the area from Song (falling on his arse) and Van Persie (a wild shank into the sky). Larsson steps up to take the free kick, and curls a peach into the top left corner. What a goal! What a grimly hilarious scoreline, given what’s gone before.
27 min: All this dominance, and yet Arsenal nearly concede an equaliser. A simple ball down the left gets their back line in all sorts of bother, Sessegnon tearing clear. Szczesny races rashly off his line and out of the area, and he’s rounded by the Sunderland man, who reaches the byline but can’t find a pal with his cutback. Danger over. What the likes of Tony Adams and Steve Bould would think of this Arsenal defence is anybody’s guess. (It doesn’t take much of a guess.)
25 min: Vaughan is off getting treatment for a broken head. It’s the first time any of the Sunderland midfielders have captured the attention.
23 min: It’s the Gervinho show now. First he shoots over after cutting in from the left. Then he wins a corner down the same wing. Then he sends a header goalwards from a tight angle just to the right of goal; it’s cleared off the line, though admittedly had no pace on it whatsoever. Sunderland are a complete waste of everyone’s time.
21 min: Nobody’s noticed Howard Webb yet, so here he is, blowing hard through his whistle as Larsson commits a workaday foul, wandering around with his chest puffed out like some sort of self-inflated windbag. Hello, Howard, what kept you.
18 min: Van Persie has glue on his boots, Charles Charlie Charles style. He twists and turns on the edge of the area, and nearly gets a shot away; it takes three blue shirts to put a stop to his gallop. We’re less than 20 minutes in, and already this is shaping up to be a memorable individual display. In other words, if he keeps this going for another 72 minutes, I may actually remember it. Anyhow, here’s some trenchant analysis from Ollie Irish: “Bruce the player: Mr Indomitable. Bruce the gaffer: Mr Domitable.”
17 min: Van Persie hasn’t had a shot on target for over two minutes now. Richardson tries his luck down the other end from 30 yards. It isn’t in. ”So since Steve Bruce has proved adept at wasting Ellis Short’s money, how long before he gets the sack and Martin O’Neill gets an opportunity to prove he’s just as adept at it?” asks George Templeton, a Villa fan I’ll be bound.
14 min: Now Van Persie twists around Turner and sends a dipping shot just wide left from the edge of the area. He’s on heat today. This is a magnificent one-man show. Sunderland are an abject disgrace, having said that.
12 min: Remember that goal Eric Cantona scored against Sunderland back in the day, a chip he celebrated by throwing a Jesus pose in 360 degrees? Well, Van Persie nearly replicates it here, spinning away from Richardson down the inside-right channel and clipping the ball over Mignolet and off the left-hand post, the keeper totally stranded. Sublime brilliance.
11 min: A corner for Sunderland, after some fiddling around between Sessegnon and Jenkinson down the left. From which Elmohamdy heads wide left at the near post. That was half a chance.
9 min: Arsenal are stroking it around nicely, in the grand Wengerian style. Rosicky rolls a tasty ball down the inside-left channel for Gervinho, who twists and turns, shimmies and shakes, and slaps a low cross into the Sunderland six-yard box. Mignolet and Brown combine to hack the thing out for a corner. From which Walcott wins a header. Walcott! Mignolet claims with some disdain.
6 min: Arsenal look to set Walcott free through the centre, but the long ball’s too weighty. With their team already a goal up, the Arsenal fans are whipping up a real storm at the Emirates, with the noise levels reaching a heady 3 decibels. Come on, folks, put a wee bit of effort in.
5 min: Arteta goes on a sortie down the left flank, that wing having already given up one goal. He’s bustled off the ball just before he gets to the area. Sunderland look absolutely shellshocked, though I doubt any of their fans will be surprised.
4 min: No, Bruce is still here. He’s sitting on the bench with a proper face on.
2 min: Bye, then, Steve.
27 seconds: GOAL!!! Arsenal 1-0 Managerless Sunderland. What a start for Arsenal! O’Shea gifts the ball to Gervinho with his big club foot. Gervinho burst down the left and slips the ball inside to Van Persie, who calmly dispatches a low shot into the bottom-right corner, Mignolet totally helpless!
Anyway, the teams are out. Arsenal in their trademark red-and-white garb, with their new 27-metre crest, Sunderland in powder blue, surely the prettiest kit in the Premier League. And what’s wrong with pretty? We’re all metrosexuals these days.
Pre-match insults, the George Templeton way. ”Arsenal are perfect for your site,” he writes, “because it’s getting harder and harder to remember when they were any good.” Well, then. Isn’t this a pretty pass. This site is less than 25 hours old, and already we’ve got our first You’re Not What You Used To Be email. I would say the only way from here is up, but we all know that isn’t true.
Kick off: 1.30pm.
Clown, who I can’t for the life of me work out how he manages to get away with it: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)
Sunderland, managed by the Lawrie McMenemey de nos jours: Mignolet, O’Shea, Turner, Brown, Richardson, Elmohamady, Vaughan, Colback, Cattermole, Larsson, Sessegnon. Subs: Westwood, Gardner, Wickham, Ji, Meyler, McClean, Laing.
Relegation-haunted Arsenal, a side with a 1913/14 retro sheen: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Song, Arteta, Rosicky, Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho. Subs: Fabianski, Park, Andre Santos, Djourou, Arshavin, Frimpong, Benayoun.
As for today’s football? Well, relegation six-pointer, innit.
What I’m saying here is, I’m not up to speed with the software on this site yet. I am simple folk.
Roll on 47 years, and yesterday the FCF launched with coverage of Liverpool versus Manchester United, and a massive site jigger on 80-odd minutes which cancelled out the only exciting bit of an otherwise dreadful game. Gaw. This MBM, then, is our equivalent of Tuohy blowing out the BBC2 candle. Only instead of extinguishing the flame with a deft puff, I’ll be setting fire to the front of my trousers, then running around the place in panicked confusion, unwilling to batter the flames out because to do so would involve me slapping myself hard on the front tail. A real catch 22, and no mistake, readers.
The launch of BBC2, in 1964, didn’t go to plan. The corporation had planned to transmit Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate and some fireworks from Southend Pier on the opening night of its new channel, but there was a massive power outage in central London, and the schedule was jiggered, the nation presented with a caption screaming MAJOR POWER FAILURE instead. The following night, the channel transmitted a second launch programme, presenter Denis Tuohy archly referencing their appalling luck by blowing out a candle in a dark studio. Ho ho ho, the stoic British humour.