By Michael Clements
If I said that the Sunderland match was one of the most intense, exciting nil nil draws I'd ever seen, with Arsenal showcasing their diversity and adaptability...I'd be lying.
You can have exciting 0-0 draws. They've happened. Just not Wednesday night.
It was clear within the first minute what Sunderland's game plan was, and to be fair to the northerners they executed it very efficiently. Ten men behind the ball at all times is something not every team can sustain for 90 minutes. This is partly due to the fact that most teams would rather play football and try to possess the ball for a few minutes rather than watch the other team tap it around like a training session. Sunderland kept their composure, didn't falter from the plan and didn't try...well, anything.
It's nothing new that teams have figured out a way to shut Arsenal down by parking the rudimentary bus. Sometimes we manage to sneak one in and get away with a One nil to The Arsenal, and we've also seen these sort of matches go the other way. How we handle it is another problem all together.
Our possession was fantastic, our defenders played their part well in winning the ball back high up the pitch and dispersing it right back into the flow. That problem arose when we perched ourselves at the top of the Sunderland box. Bellerin and Gibbs (particularly the Spaniard) kept drilling in quality crosses, but having Giroud in the box surrounded by seven Sunderland players was never going to be an easy target to pick out. Sanchez looked frustrated as he continued to dribble his way into dead ends. With the quality we have I found it amazing that we were't taking more shots from distance.
The fact that Giroud is no longer effective for Arsenal is not a problem with the Frenchman himself, but in our inability to change the way we approach the game. Wenger is notorious for having a Plan A and sticking with it, even if he has managed to 'grind out' those messy games with slightly altered tactics. At the end of last season, and even the first half of this season, Giroud excelled at his role as the target man up front with his back to goal, dispersing the ball to the wide men. The problem now is that's all we do. When we come up against an opponent that can handle that particular tactic, we've got nothing else. We've almost become even more one dimensional over the last few weeks.
I sincerely hope we're getting all this out of our system before the FA Cup final next weekend. We had a similar dip in form before last years' Final, but the luxury this year is that we're not fighting for our coveted 4th spot. Here's to finishing the season off strong, very strong.
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon!