Two away games, and two good performances. I have had enough of those times we have played well and not won, and the Arsenal contest was very much in that vein.
Giving a goal away so early in the game at the Emirates was always going to make it an uphill battle, even though Arsenal are not the powerhouse they used to be. However, they still have some great players and Robin van Persie was the difference between the two sides. Overall, as the away team, Sunderland gave as good as they got and the crucial 15 minutes up to half time decided the game in the end, when The Lads missed several excellent chances. Larsson’s excellent free kick was mirrored late on by Van Persie, so it was a 2-1 reverse, but fans will have been encouraged, even in defeat.
The Bolton game was very different, and very satisfying for the army of travelling fans. The defence held firm for the first time since the early away game at Swansea, with Michael Turner working well alongside the summer signings Wes Brown and John O’Shea. The return of Bardsley was noticed, but the real positives to take away were the total second half domination, Wickham’s full debut and the stunning form of Sessegnon. Although the goals came late in the game, they were always going to come.
One fears for the Trotters, who have lost 7 games on the trot at the Reebok. A satisfying win then at a ground where we have had a good record in recent years, and the pressure is now off Steve Bruce provided he can keep up the improvement, which I have always felt he can do.
This blog has been delayed by an amazing trip up above the Arctic Circle in Norway, but I will be up in Sunderland for the Villa game at the weekend, a chance to take in an exciting home game. Villa have slipped somewhat from their good early season form, and this looks like an even contest at least on paper, but on the day it can of course be different.
Will the homecoming of Darren Bent hog the headlines? To fair that player’s return should not dominate the game, and I am sure that Turner and Bardsley know how to play him, and that Cattermole, if he features, will give him close attention. I look again to the midfield to provide the momentum, where I feel we are still missing Jordan Henderson, and his box-to-box energy, as anyone who saw his volleyed cross for Suarez’ winner at Stoke in midweek will testify. Who will be closest to filling that slot remains to be seen.
I look to Sunderland to keep up their momentum form the last 3 games and to pick up at least a point.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen