Yes, we could beat Newc**tle at Sid James', or whatever that stadium is called these days, but to be realistic, tomorrow's game against Arsenal is the key to our season, as well as theirs.
In my last blog I praised Arsene Wenger, but looking at Arsenal’s abject surrender in midweek in the Champions’ League, it makes me wonder if his model really works, because the Londoners have lost a lot of good players in sales, and to be honest, in that midweek game Arsenal were lacking depth in defence, midfield and attack. Why didn't Wenger just go out and buy a defence in the summer? I am sure that would have made Robin VP a lot happier about his prospects of winning something.
To remind you, the model is buy/attract cheap young players, bring them on in the “Aresene” way, and not spend much in the transfer market. The Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arsene_Wenger explains his philosophy pretty well. This “buy low, sell high” policy has indeed worked in the past with, say, Anelka and Fabregas, but the only problem with this approach is: Arsenal are in their 7th season of not winning anything, and are having a poor season by their standards. And tomorrow is their last chance of winning anything, and I am sure Arsene will go back to his grumpy “I did not see it” persona if they were to slip up tomorrow.
I loved Dom Raynor's re-Tweet of Wengerknowsbest's great line: Why did the chicken cross the road? I believe to get to the other side, but I did not have a clear view of the incident. I always though the chicken crossed the road to see his flat mate.
Arsenal having so many “offensive" midfield players means they lack a player who can help cover the back line, in the way that Lee Cattermole or Scott Parker would do, and they were obviously exposed in Milan. The back four itself looked out of place at the top level in midweek. So I expect Arsenal to go out of Europe, and now Sunderland stand between the North Londoners and their last crack at a trophy this season. Wenger must hope that the 2012 FA Cup is a chance for his side to exorcise the memories of that traumatic defeat at the hands of Birmingham in the final of the League Cup in 2011.
So the game on Saturday can bring either abject misery or total joy for the North Londoners. It will be another intense game, á lá our 1-0 defeat of Man. City just after Christmas, but I obviously feel that we have a chance, especially if Lee Cattermole comes back in midfield, and looking back at last week's game when we did threaten at regular intervals before McLean’s superb opener. The Gooners’ 2 goals were good but happily Terry Henry is now back across the pond, and surely they cannot hit both posts again with a shot.
Importantly, the home fans' support will make a great atmosphere, there is a worldwide TV audience, and to be honest anything can happen. This is Sunderland’s last chance of silverware this season and I’d take a 1-0 of course. I was there at Hillsborough for the 2-1 semi-final win in 1973, and although I was very young, that was an incredibly sweet moment, lodged forever in my memory.
A game like that tomorrow would suit me and many others just fine. Listen up, Black Cats!
©Lars J.S. Knutsen