What The Gaffer Said
Although the scoreline might suggest otherwise, it was a fairly decent performance from his side, and Sam Allardyce was keen to stress that there were positives to be taken in defeat. He said:
At 70 minutes we didn’t know which way the game was going to go, it was very tight and there were chances at both ends.
We couldn’t continue our progress, we did well for 70 minutes, but as we know a game is 90 minutes.
I’m a little sad at the goals we allowed Arsenal to score; we should have done a lot better than we did and in the end we made it easy for them to win the game.
However, we move on as there are lots of positives to take from the game. The squad have shown that they can play at this level, maybe not quite as well as they should have today, but the players have shown that they can step in and do the job.
In the end we gave Arsenal too much space and opened ourselves up, they took advantage of that and ultimately that won them the game.
[Jeremain] Lens did well today. He is strong on the ball as well as talented and that’s very important for us, I’m hoping to see a lot more from him. It’s a big test coming to the Barclays Premier League and he’s still in his first year. Hopefully he can improve on what we’ve seen today.
Jordan [Pickford] has been on loan and he’s been terrific for Preston North End. He’s a young lad who is a Sunderland fan and he’s been playing well, so I thought it was high time we gave him a chance to show what he can do. I thought he was excellent today.
Some of these players will be changed over the next couple of games in order to recover. We’ve got a very difficult week with three away games and all of the travelling.
We rotated the squad today and I thought we played very well, for 70 minutes. Hopefully the team on Wednesday play well for the full 90 minutes and we get a result.
From reading that it would appear that Jeremain Lens does have a future at the club, despite his relationship with Allardyce seemingly hitting a road block a few weeks ago. Jordan Pickford clearly impressed the manager and he's now got until the end of the transfer window to convince him that he should stay at the club for the rest of the season and be our number one.
We Need To Stop Playing Billy Jones At Centre Half
I'm not even sure where this has came from but the notion that Billy Jones can play at centre half needs to end now. Although it would be unfair to single him out and make him the scapegoat for why we lost the game, it's something which has confused me ever since the disaster that was Everton away - why does Sam keep putting Jones in a position that he's clearly not comfortable in?
The old manager tactic of putting someone out of position to indicate a point to the board - something we've seen in the past under the likes of Martin O'Neill and Gus Poyet - could be one reason, but even that seems like something Sam wouldn't be daft enough to do. With Tom Beadling on the bench it would have made sense to bring him on when it was time for John O'Shea to leave the field but instead we opted to put a right full back there. Strange. We did the same when 1-0 down against Liverpool - with Beadling on the bench we instead opted to bring on DeAndre Yedlin and move Billy Jones inside when Sebastien Coates came off with a dead leg.
Anyways, it's a minor point. We've got Jan Kirchhoff now and I'd like to think that with him available for the fixtures we have coming up we'll have seen the end of Billy Jones playing in the middle because, quite frankly, I hate it.
Jeremain Lens May Yet Have A Future Here
I wrote in my quick kicks piece after the Chelsea defeat that I thought it was time we let Jeremain Lens go, largely due to the obvious issues with his attitude. That said, he was given an opportunity to impress both the manager and the fans when he started in the number ten role against Arsenal and, for me, he was our best player.
His goal was taken superbly, and he made a mug of a very good player in Laurent Koscielny - his talent is there for all to see.
It's clear that Lens doesn't like to do the dirty work required of him playing on the wing. It's just not in his make-up. He's very happy to express himself on the ball, but when it comes to spending most of his time covering the full back and making up ground closing down opposition wide-men I think that it's safe to say it's just not in him.
Since finding himself out of the team, however, Sam Allardyce has opted to play with a 'number ten' - a player who sits in front of two deeper, defensive-minded players and is the bridge between our midfield and attack. Brilliant. It's something I've been championing for years. The issue, however, is that we've played Adam Johnson there, who has struggled all season and generally sees the majority of games pass him by.
Now by no means am I saying that Lens is suddenly the answer, but his showing against Arsene Wenger's men on Saturday will have given Big Sam food for thought. With Swansea up next it's an ideal opportunity to go against a team that traditionally have most of the ball for the ninety minutes you play and utilise the likes of Lens to try and hit their leaky defence on the break. I have to say, with options limited, I think I'd much rather see Jeremain Lens play there than Adam Johnson or Ola Toivonen.
Time Is Now To Return To 5-3-2
Now that we've signed Jan Kirchhoff, we can safely return to playing 5-3-2. With the cover in that central defence position now available we should be going back to the system which served us well in the wins against Stoke and Palace - the likes of Patrick Van Aanholt and Sebastien Coates seem to struggle for consistency when asked to play as part of a four-man defence and an away game against Swansea is the perfect opportunity to re-align ourselves and set up to hit our opponent on the break.
I'd expect that we'll see Vito Mannone return to the fold at the Liberty Stadium, something that Sam Allardyce has indicated over the weekend in the press. Fingers crossed we'll have Dame N'Doye signed in time, with it clear that Jermain Defoe is most prolific when partnered with another centre forward.
Had injuries to key players not occurred I suspect that Sam would not have moved away from the five-man back line - lets hope we see it return for what is a must-win game in South Wales on Wednesday night.