There were many contributory factors to this defeat. The fact that virtually our entire squad had played quite a few international minutes over the previous week combined with a lot of air miles would undoubtedly had an effect. The number of injuries we have been subjected to of late also made a difference, the recent injuries include RVP, Diaby, Clichy, Gibbs and Bendtner. Sunderland are no mugs and have a very decent home record. All this combined with a bit of bad luck meant that we lost a game one nil which we really need to be winning if we are to challenge for the title.
The injuries and fatigue will have meant that Arsene didn't have a great deal of choice when it came to the starting eleven. I suspect Arshavin was not fresh enough to be starting, Theo was also only just back from injury and not ready for a full ninety. I think that this meant that our starting eleven didn't quite have the pace and directness in the front three that you need to break down a well organised opposition defence. Having said that we controlled the game, overall a stunning 65% possession was ours over the ninety, we just couldn't turn this domination into piercing the onion bag.
We weren't far off though. The first half saw some very decent chances come and go. Rosicky tested Fuller early on with a stinging low drive that was expertly kept out by the Sunderland keeper. The best chance of the half fell to Eduardo who, after some great build up work with Alex Song, got the ball stuck between his feet, his mis-hit effort went agonisingly wide as Song followed up and was only inches away from sticking it into the empty net.
The Sunderland goal was an utter fluke and anyone pretending otherwise is being a tad dishonest. Bent won the initial header but it wasn't threatening the Arsenal goal until a remarkable Sunderland miscontrol at the back stick saw the ball fall perfectly for Darren Bent to slot home, if the ball had fallen anywhere else it would have been safe enough, it really was a piece of great fortune for the average Bent. It must be admitted that we did freeze somewhat after the first ball was won, Rosicky could have reacted a tad quicker, but then again we would not be saying that if the miscontrol had gone straight at him for an easy Arsenal clearance, it really was a massive slice of luck for a Sunderland side that didn't look like scoring.
Despite going close through Arshavin late on and being denied a good penalty shout after what looked a clear foul in Vela in the box, we didn't create as much as we should have given our domination of the possession. You have to put the ball in the net if you are going to win games like this and we didn't do that. Even the nil-nil that we deserved would have been a bit of a frustrating result, less frustrating that losing to that scabby Bent goal though. The directness and pace of Walcott and Vela seemed to make a bit of a difference, arguably Rosicky and Nasri are a bit too similar to each other and we needed a bit more pace and directness to support Eduardo up front. The media's version of events are fantastical to say the least though, Sunderland did not win the midfield battle, they had 35% of the ball and rarely threatened, in reality this was more of a self inflicted result, we had the opportunity to win this game and we simply didn't take it.