Are you still awake? If so, thoughts as follows.
* It was an interesting line-up that hinted at the current pecking order within the Arsenal squad. Jenkinson is going to be given a chance at right-back in Sagna's absence, rather than Coquelin or Yennaris being asked to fill in. Gibbs is currently a starter ahead of Santos, and Diaby will probably be preferred to Ramsey, if it comes down to a choice between the two. People may say that the line-up today was based on a certain amount of tactical reasoning, but, really, Arsene is one of those managers who does have a first XI, and often tries to pick as close to it as he can. (Indeed, he is notably less of a tinkerer than, say, Ferguson, to Wenger's detriment, in my opinion.)
* People will accuse Sunderland of playing negatively, and for large swathes of the game they were content to stay in their own half. But they had a series of good chances in the first half, and could easily have nicked the game thanks to a few defensive lapses on our part. We still look like a side that can always give the opposition a goal, but Per and captain TV were solid for the most part.
* Fundamentally, we looked disjointed. The beauty of club football, when done correctly, is that allows individuals to become a truly cohesive unit by playing with each other over a period of weeks, months, and even years. Today, on more than one occasion, I saw players run into each other. Put simply, a lot of players seemed unsure with their positioning. In particular, their was a real lack of understanding between the banks of players - attackers ran into midfielders, and midfielders left huge gaps behind them, as they were unsure about who was meant to be shield the defence. Yes, we have a lot of new players, but isn't this a consistent problem for us in recent years? More on that in a bit.
* Cazorla looked bright. He is clearly a very talented footballer - a smaller, swifter, and perhaps fuller realization of the player Cesc was and might become. His pass to put in Giroud towards the end was breathtaking - a moment of world-class talent that lit up the entire game. Considering he'd flown to Puerto Rico and back this week (fuck you FIFA), it was quite the impressive debut. As long as he doesn't slip into a comfort zone of flashy, but ultimately ineffective passing, he could be quite the player for us.
* Gervinho was the other real highlight. He looked like a player with a point to prove, and opened up the Sunderland defence on a number of occasions. But, he still seems to be a player who lacks an end product. Beating a few players and creating space is useless if you then fall over/give away the ball, or just blast the ball into a cluster of players. Fairly or not, attacking midfielders are graded on their goals and assists, and he provided neither today.
* It's safe to say, however, that Gervinho was a lot better than Walcott, who was, frankly, appalling. His first involvement in the game was to miscontrol a pass, and let it bounce into touch. It set the tone for his performance. Symbolically, I think it's important that Theo gets a new deal, and the fact he was on the pitch today suggests he will be signing a new contract. But I just can't help but feel that he really isn't very good. If he can't grab games like these by the scruff of the neck and make a difference, when is he going to become a top player?
* One thing which was noticeable was the lack of overlapping runs by the full-backs. I fully expected Santos to appear as a means by which we could push forward on the flanks. Jenkinson did OK, but we missed Sagna's bombing forward runs.
* So Song has gone - more on that in a later post. For now, it was clear that his absence equated to a confused midfield. Diaby does not have the discipline to play as a defensive midfielder, and strolled round the pitch in his vaguely effective manner, as is his wont. This season is surely make or break (perhaps literally) for Diaby, so he will be given a chance, but I wonder if he really has the grit to make it as a top-level midfielder. Arteta does - he dropped in when it was clear that Diaby was going walkabout, and did a job, as he always does. I honestly love Arteta at this point. He is majestic. If only we'd bought him earlier. Judging by today, though, we need reinforcements in midfield. Ramsey was poor. Sahin may well come in, but is he what we need? We already have the player we really need - but when will we see our new number 10 in an Arsenal shirt?
* Giroud - undeniably handsome, but it's hard not to worry about him. One decent season in Ligue Un could mean anything. Today, he could have won the game, but missed the target with the best chance of the game. Taking chances like that is the difference between 1st place and 4th place. Let's hope he settles down soon, because I am terrified of having another Chamakh on our hands.
* I fully admit to chuckling when I saw Arshavin coming on. I didn't think that we'd see the little Russian in an Arsenal shirt again, and there's something slightly poignant about the fact that he won more trophies in a three month loan spell at Zenit than he has done during his entire AFC career thus far. I would still wager on him leaving before the window shuts, but who knows? I've always been a fan, and maybe a second act to his Arsenal career beckons.
* Today, in all honesty, was weird. The season seems to have started far too early (for once) after the Olympics and the Euros. Moreover, it really felt like a lot of people were putting on a brave face when confronted with what's been a depressing week. The fact is, we can crow about getting a good deal for van Persie, but, ultimately, we've sold our best player to a team that have left us behind. We now seem to lose our top players each summer because we no longer compete for trophies. And this puts us into a repeated, vicious cycle, where new sets of players have to try and gel as rapidly as possible, in order to keep us in the champions league qualification places.
If van Persie plays today, we win. And I'd rather win games and trophies than bank another cheque. Yes, we've bought three players this summer who may well be very good. But I still feel we need more. Otherwise, get ready for another long, frustrating season.