Quick Kicks: Thoughts And Reaction From Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal

Laurence Griffiths

Some thoughts and reaction to Sunderland's home defeat to Arsenal.

What The Gaffer Said

Di Canio was remarkably restrained following the game. He told the official site:

I am happy - not for the result but in the way we tried to come back into the game.

I didn't enjoy the first half too much. We were shy which I don't like, even against the top sides in the world, but it can happen.

That was the first real game for Mavrias and Ki, while it was Fletcher and Altidore's first time playing together.

In the second half we didn't look like a side which is a work in progress.

We dominated for half an hour and created situations to go 2-1 up, but it didn't happen and the energy was gone.

Against Arsenal you can pay the price and their second goal was fantastic.

Keiren [Westwood] was crucial to keep us in the game in the first half.

We lost distance, we were shy and didn't pressure their players at the right times.

They [Arsenal] have great ability individually and keep the ball well.

Obviously the elephant in the room was Jozy Altidore's disallowed goal, though he did express his disbelief at what occurred there in his BBC interview.

But it's good to see him focusing on the positives because there were plenty of them. His side gave a very good team a very good game and looked like a genuine threat going forward.

It's not really a time to be moping around, and talking the players up at this point will certainly do more good than ranting and raving about a referee.

Referee Rant

Fortunately, no one really cares about what I say, so I can rant about the referee all I want. I'm rarely one to do it, and in fact I tend to take a far more sympathetic to them and the job that they are asked to do than most.

However, on this occasion, Martin Atkinson, you were a total disgrace to your profession.

Let's not beat around the bush here. It wasn't a judgement call gone bad in the heat of the moment. It wasn't a case of an obscured view at breakneck speed. He wasn't deceived by a cunning dive. It definitely wasn't 'bad luck'. It was sheer and total incompetence and nothing else.

I can live with him not allowing the advantage. Yes it was wrong but it was a mistake. The same can't be said for him not sending off Bacary Sagna once play had to be brought back due to his whistle happy error.

It is rare that opinion and judgement can be taken clean out of a refereeing decision like this. The fact that the foul that stopped the game prevented an obvious goalscoring opportunity was axiomatic due to the fact that Altidore went on unopposed to put the ball in the net. You would have thought that having to call a player back from celebrating a goal to award him a free kick would have been a pretty sizeable clue that the foul was serious enough to prevent a goal.

It was at such a huge moment in the game too coming so soon after Arsenal's second goal. To draw level, or the Gunners going down to ten-men, there would have seen a massive shift in momentum going into the final stages of the game.

We are continuously asked to respect the referees, which I can live with, but not when they do not even respect the most basic and clean-cut rules of the game.

One Step Forward, Half A Step Back

The centre of midfield continues to be the big area of debate about this Sunderland team, but Ki Sung-Yueng provided plenty of reason for cheer on his debut.

The Korean was a composed presence on the ball and offered something no one else in the squad can. Over half of his attempted passes went forward, 89% of all his passes found their target, and he proved adept at moving the ball out of the central area quickly.

Sadly, his good work tended to be negated by David Vaughan's bad.

I think that Paolo Di Canio has fallen into the same Vaughan trap that the rest of us have at one point or another. He is almost a nice idea. A player with a tidy left foot, who keeps the ball reasonably well, chugs around the pitch quite honestly, and is capable of striking a ball like a dream.

Of course, the reality is completely different. He isn't quick enough to the point that if he was moving any slower it could only be justified by playing the tune from Chariots of Fire over the top of it, and his moments of quality are about as rare as a moment of actual comedy in an episode of Miranda.

Sunderland don't have that many central midfield options worth considering, but for this system and this team, David Vaughan is easily the worst of them.

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