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Arsenal v Sunderland - Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Emirates Stadium

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Two Up, Two Down: What are the biggest positives (argh!) and negatives from the Accy draw?

“You got a draw, away from home? What are you complaining about?!” Well, let us tell you... we come up with a bunch of positives and negatives from our trip to the north west at the weekend! Can you give some of your own?

Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Rich Speight says...

TWO UP!

Aiden O’Brien’s second-half performance will give Lee Johnson food for thought. He’s not spectacular, but he is effective in this kind of game. He can hold the ball up and bring others into play, and he has the physicality to “mix it” with the League One bruisers. There’s been lots of talk about him leaving in this window but while we’re short on numbers and struggling to cope with some of the rudimentary tactics of teams lower down the table, he might be worth hanging onto.

Doyle on the ball. The lad is raw, he’s only 18, but how good does he look when travelling with a football at his feet? His confidence to drive forward from defence created our goal on Saturday. I’m 100% behind Lee Johnson’s determination to keep the side playing out from the back, and this wouldn’t be possible without a player of his quality for Hoffmann to distribute to. Add into this the fact that he looks cooler in dealing with defensive duties than his more experienced partner, and despite his inexperience, Callum Doyle remains an invaluable asset to the side and one of the success stories of this season.

TWO DOWN!

Our collective naïvety. Opposition teams will not just lie down and accept that we’re clearly the better footballing side once we’ve taken a lead, or even when they’ve gone down to 10 men, and allow us the win. They will fight. We need to be up for that battle as a collective and stay absolutely focused on the task at hand.

The individual errors and poor choices. We need the players who have a hell of a lot of experience - including some at international level - to demonstrate that when it really matters by keeping their heads. We are so vulnerable to daft mistakes and lapses of concentration by individuals that undo all the good work of the team - I find myself wincing in anticipation at the impending mistake on far too many occasions. It sometimes seems like there’s an expectation that someone else will take responsibility to make the tackle, the clearance, the final ball, or the cross. This isn’t just at the back - some of the decision-making in the final third is utterly inexplicable at times. We have lots of tricky players but sometimes the intelligent and effective move is to release the ball rather than beat the man.

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

TWO UP!

Break time. It is rare for me to say this as I’m usually desperate for the next match to come, but I’m pleased we’ve now got a run of just one game a week coming up. Some rest time and a chance to get on the training pitch could do us the world of good, and hopefully, the next few days will give us an opportunity to get some reinforcements in - whether they be new signings or players coming back to fitness. Whilst it was encouraging to have a few of the Covid lads back against Accrington Stanley, I know myself through having it recently that just because your isolation period is up it doesn’t mean you are suddenly firing on all cylinders. A less hectic schedule gives integral players like Leon Dajaku time to get fully back up speed and hopefully lets everybody regroup.

Scenes! I think the younguns say ‘limbs’, but whatever you call it the celebrations when we went 1-0 up were superb. I think being on a terrace helped, as did being so close to the players, but people were going wild and I was loving it - following football is meant to be fun after all, and for all the frustration of Saturday afternoon those moments when everybody loses it are what it is all about.

TWO DOWN!

Who threw all the pies? My ‘2 down’ are quite closely linked to my ‘2 up’ choices. For all I loved the celebrations when we scored, one or two people went over the top and threw various items onto the pitch. It happened on at least one other occasion during the match too and is becoming quite common at games I notice. I know people get caught up in the heat of the moment but this needs to stop now, before somebody is hurt or sanctions are imposed on the club.

Pritchard could be a miss. When I referred to players coming back to fitness I certainly include Alex Pritchard in that. Fair play to him for wanting to turn out recently whilst not 100%, but he has become a key player for us and when he is at his best he is a level above, so hopefully his withdrawal at half time was a precaution more than anything else. Aiden O’Brien looked the part when he was introduced and I love his professionalism - players like him and Pritchard that seem to keep themselves right and are desperate to play are always needed, but I hope the latter is not now at risk of a long term lay off.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Papa John’s Trophy EFL Trophy Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Kev Campbell says...

TWO UP!

We got another point on the board. We’re second in the league. We’ve only lost one league game in the last 12. At the beginning of the season, this would have been viewed as a relatively strong position.

As a team we handled a team that plays a more physical game much better. Doyle and Wright especially, played really strong and weren’t bullied in situations that our defence has been so far this season - a marked improvement in these types of games, and that’s a good sign for the run in.

TWO DOWN!

Another late, match-defining concession. How many games have we had now flipped from win to draws or draws to losses late on in games? I know it’s not a ton, but it’s more than we should have. Not seeing games through is a problem that must be resolved.

Not imposing our style on matches like this. I don’t mind that our team isn’t necessarily the most physically imposing. We have a style of play, finesse, attacking, pressing, pacy, build up from the back. But when we do play more physical sides, it seems we aren’t as aggressive in taking the game by the scruff and playing our brand of football. It turns sloppy at times, as it did in patches on Saturday.

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