With Arsenal producing their third successive goalless draw and no real star performers this season, is this the dullest Premiership season so far?
Manchester United sit at the top of the Premier League after a 2-1 win over Blackburn. The gap in quality between the sides was evident but United weren’t exactly comfortable; they had a few scares which makes one wonder if the opposition were more adventurous they may have got more out of the game. Rafael on the right had a torrid time against Pedersen while Evans is not yet of Vidic’s quality. With the changes Sir Alex Ferguson made Blackburn had the greatest of chance that any team have had playing United in their record breaking run. The Red Devils have weakness just as any other team and it would be nice to see a manager show more inventiveness rather than succumb to the challenge of facing the league champions.
Arsenal on the other hand produced their third successive goalless draw in the league in what is becoming a common occurrence at the Emirates this season. Sunderland like Bolton, Portsmouth, West Ham and countless other opponents before them, defended with ten men behind the ball. The Black Cat’s showed no adventure to get a goal producing another display of ‘anti-football’ which is ruining the Premiership spectacle. It is understandable why sides are displaying such a tactic, as the amount at stake plus the closeness of the league table are reasons to be cautious but the notion of the Premiership as the most exciting league in the world is no more. In La Liga, Betis were hammered 6-1 by Real Madrid but at least they lost playing for the win while Espanyol, the bottom club defeated Barcelona albeit against ten men.
Yes, Arsenal should have found a way through by showing more variety and dynamism, indeed they had their chances but the understanding from fans is not there. Any team will have trouble breaking down such a stubborn defence (Villa haven’t yet been faced with a similar challenge as of yet and Man Utd have won their last 8 of their last 13 games 1-0) and one must remember the Gunners did break down defensive teams last season playing their passing game though they did have a bit more variety (long balls and crosses) and better movement. The signs are there with Arshavin and Eduardo, the Gunners will get there.
Arsenal’s first half performance was not too bad; Denilson was dictating play while Arshavin showed his magic in the limited opportunities he had. However as mental and physical fatigue kicked in for both sides, the second half was less inspired. One could sense as Van Persie’s chipped effort early on drifted agonisingly past the post it was going to be one of those days. Sunderland can pass the ball as they showed in their only real piece of adventure in the whole match; to get to the corner flag wasting two minutes of the game. Credit to Ricky Sbragia for at least showing some ingenuity as his side defended in a deep compact block and forced Arsenal away from the goal to wide areas. As the full backs vacated the wide areas, the Black Cat’s looked to counter through the channels.
In other games, Aston Villa dropped crucial points against Chelsea while Liverpool once again clawed themselves back from the brink of defeat and produced another draw. Everton’s chances of a UEFA cup place look to be slimming with the unfortunate injury to Arteta.