Caution advised to save the usual grief

HAVE you noticed it’s always those who tell you to “chill out” who snap first? During the pre-match tipple we speculated on the forthcoming fare, and few saw anything other than a comfortable victory.

I didn’t answer any of the incandescent texts afterwards.

It’s churlish to feel too superior if dread is your default position anyway. Optimism bewilders those who even foresee a lottery win triggering a thousand unpleasantries.

It was a surprise when Kenny put so many new faces in at once, in addition to the recently returned Suarez, but only the sackcloth section was disappointed at half time.

True, Dowd was in rulebooks-are-for-mortals mode and that penalty is still hurtling towards Jupiter but we’d done reasonably well. Adam’s first set-piece resulted in the goal, Downing was dangerous and we’d gone close occasionally.

Much was made of Sunderland being perennially mid-table at best but there’s something about the sight of the old enemy that makes Bruce much more determined to fly into the ointment.

It’s always the tiny niggling stuff too; the 2-2 with Birmingham that made Houllier rethink his short-lived attacking streak, Anderton’s winner with their only shot on goal (much like Saturday) and ruining Fowler’s comeback a year later. He even eked an equaliser out of Titus Bramble once, and a night at Wigan where even Rafa’s cult cast doubt on his divine omnipotence. Don’t even mention the beach ball.

And here he was again, spearheaded by his rottweiler Cattermole and the latest rags from Fergie’s charity box, dismantling our dream start and smooth transition from Hodgson stodge to Kenny splendour.

As always we helped out with a few well aimed bullets to the foot. We can expect more errors from Flanagan, despite his good start last season. Hopefully he has the character to learn from such lapses and the three ‘seniors’ who were left stranded by one pass before the cross came in will own up to their portion of the blame.

Once the inevitable tiredness set in (so much for pre-season sorting that out) our hopes faded with Suarez and the hoof to Carroll became far too convenient.

He’s looking a bit Crouch-like; heading technique not really matching his height, defenders given license to drag him every which way whilst the merest touch from him is a free kick. It denied him a goal on Saturday.

People are already muttering about Henderson, citing Hodgson’s Law: “We knew he’d be rubbish before he came so that gives us the right to slag him off immediately.”

There was little he did to get excited about granted, but he was never going to be that kind of player anyway. It was probably a mistake to sacrifice Kuyt’s work-rate and goal threat.

There were more calls for Aquilani, without anyone checking whether his and Aurelio’s absence from the bench was for the usual reason. Adam certainly faded badly and a booking didn’t cure his predilection for ankle tapping.

So when a little momentum was needed we’ve stalled already. Since Houllier we’ve had little to smile about on opening day anyway and we’ve still gone on to have some decent seasons despite this.

Of course that pitiful double-deflection own goal on Sunday raised the déjà vu quotient more than a notch and knocked any straws we were clutching down to the floor.

The official website’s video page screened 15-minute highlights; they went directly from Sunderland equalising to the final whistle. That ought to tell you a lot. Not only do we never stage late comebacks any more, we have perfected the art of throwing games away.

Over 30 points have been dropped from winning positions in less than two years. Whilst also lacking the fortitude to change losing situations, there’s the gap from Champions League qualification closed right away. After the Houllier and Benitez eras, when we often played first goal wins, it was a shock initially but it’s become dangerously predictable.

By all means say it’s a good time to be playing Arsenal. As ever, caution is advised. It saves a lot of grief in the long run.

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