Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0: Lessons as Gunners falter against Black Cats
Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0: What did we learn as Sunderland held Arsenal to a goalless draw at The Emirates on Saturday?
Newly-appointed Arsenal assistant manager Steve Bould has already implemented new ideas. A near-post flick on virtuoso in his playing days, the former centre-half has altered the team’s corner routines to his preference. All of Arsenal’s corners were aimed towards the near post area, where 6 ft 6 German defender Per Mertesacker could be found lingering. Poor delivery meant this was often ineffective at The Emirates on Saturday, but could prove to be an act of tactical genius by Bould.
Santi Cazorla, taking everything into consideration, was very impressive for the Gunners. The diminutive Spaniard played in a more advanced midfield role, and constantly found pockets of space in behind the opposition’s second bank of four. He completed seven key passes – the highest on the pitch, and seemed to fit into the Arsenal system perfectly. If he is able to produce a sparkling display against Sunderland after no pre-season with the club and after playing for Spain a few days earlier, imagine how influential he could be as the season progresses.
Sunderland defended stoutly throughout and were smart in possession – typical for a side managed by Martin O’Neill. Lee Cattermole was excellent, breaking up play with his usual tenacity and distributing the ball adroitly. An observation worth noting is how few free-kicks Sunderland conceded in potentially dangerous areas of the pitch. Again, one can see the effect O’Neill is having, in what is his first full season as Sunderland manager.
Arsenal strong at centre-half
New Arsenal skipper Thomas Vermaelen was typically dominant, and the decision to hand him the captaincy was widely approved amongst the Arsenal faithful. His partner, Mertesacker, was also solid, despite a few misplaced passes. The German’s game is all about reading the play and timing. Adhering to this, he ensured Arsenal kept a clean sheet, which Bould will certainly be pleased by.