TERRACE TALK: Arsenal - Victory against Sunderland papers over unconvincing display

The atmosphere at Saturday’s encounter with Sunderland was so muted for the first half an hour that I pitied the poor couple who found themselves sitting in front of me.
TERRACE TALK: Arsenal - Victory against Sunderland papers over unconvincing display

As hard as I tried to direct my incessant hollering, up and out, over their heads, watching these two constantly recoil every time I bellowed behind their sensitive shell-likes, I felt half-tempted to lean forward and apologise for spoiling their sedate afternoon’s entertainment.

Aside from the customary grace of Mesut Özil and the determination of Koscielny, sadly the Arsenal barely resembled a side targeting the table’s summit.

And it was evident that in the absence of Alexis, and following the further depressing blow of the long-term loss of Cazorla, the majority of our morose crowd was more concerned with the funereal prospect of being overtaken by Spurs, instead of fulfilling our obligation to inspire our team to establish themselves in the box seat as title challengers.

With it being likely that the Gunners would be devoid of any penetration, whilst we remain deprived of the forward impetus of our Chilean dynamo, I fully expected a frustrating afternoon of sideways football, camped on the edge of the Black Cats’ penalty box.

But it seems Allardyce had plans on springing an alternative masterplan.

Time was when an under-privileged background was almost a prerequisite for the hunger necessary to carve out a top-flight career. As the son of the FA’s former chief executive and with his first-class honours economics degree, Duncan Watmore hardly fits this profile.

The lad caught my eye, ever since I happened to catch his performance, coming on as a sub for England’s U21s, where his intensity energised all the lamentably blasé looking youngsters around him.

Whether Watmore has the talent to match his obvious drive, remains to be seen. But as part of a three-pronged attack, he very nearly caught us cold in carving out the opportunities which could’ve resulted in us already being 0-3 down, by the time Joel Campbell eventually stirred the slumbering stadium with our opening goal.

Sadly, for the third successive game, the Gunners promptly went back to sleep and failed to survive until half-time with our lead intact.

But until Giroud inadvertently ruined Petr Cech’s chances of achieving the clean-sheet record, we once again had our keeper to thank for preventing our goal from being breached.

This was a prime example of Petr’s points-saving capabilities, as his imposing physical presence forces strikers into believing they need to do something special to beat him and Borini patently wasn’t up to this task.

The on-pitch, half-time interview with Stefan Schwarz had me fondly reminiscing on one of my all-time favourite European encounters; v Sampdoria in 1995.

Yet I was abruptly stirred from such reveries by the gob-smacking discovery that the number on the back of my programme was only one away from winning the signed match ball! I was convinced that this “so near yet so far” moment was a marker of our fortunes for the rest of the afternoon.

Mercifully, Giroud managed to make up for his own-goal by glancing one in at the right end. I spent the last 30 minutes waiting for Sunderland’s inevitable equaliser and it wasn’t until we scored a third in added time that I could finally breathe easy.

It was amusing to hear Wrighty comment on the box later that night that Ramsey was his man-of-the-match, with “the most passes, touches, and shots”.

The fact that most of us spent the entire afternoon coating Aaron off for constantly misplacing his efforts, makes a complete mockery of all such statistics.

It sounded as if the performance of Ranieri’s remarkable outfit was far more deserving of their place atop the Premier League pile, but Jimmy Dunne’s goal-scoring record survived intact.

My father-out-of-law was regaling me with tales of how Dunne refused to give the Nazi salute to Hitler and I marvelled at his recall of seeing Dunne score for Shamrock Rovers.

Arsenal could do with demonstrating some of this Irishman’s mettle, if they are to achieve the necessary result in Greece.

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