Arsenal 1 Sunderland 1: Horror Show at The Stadium of Light

Simon JohnsonCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2008

Arsenal just weren't themselves at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Maybe it was the defeat to Hull City last weekend that had shaken their confidence.

Maybe it was the fact that they began the game playing an unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation.

Who really knows?

The one thing that was obvious is that there is a certain nervousness about the Arsenal players now when they play teams lower than them in the league.

The weather obviously didn't help either side, with driving rain and gusting winds blowing around Sunderland's home ground.

All that aside, Arsenal started brightly with plenty of the ball but never really threatened Craig Gordon in the Sunderland goal.

The passes just didn't seem to quite flow as they should and although Arsenal had the lion's share of possession in the first half, it was Djibril Cisse and Sunderland who went closest to scoring in the opening 45 minutes.

After the break, Arsenal maintained their control of the ball but still couldn't manufacture anything decent in the final third—crosses were either too long or too short, shots were wayward, and the entire Arsenal team knew their season was teetering on the brink.

Walcott managed to cut a ball back from the by-line to Robin van Persie who scored, only to have the goal chalked off by the officials as they determined the ball had gone out of play before Walcott's cut back.

Even television replays failed to clear up the matter and the game stayed at 0-0.

To only speak of Arsenal would be to do Sunderland an injustice.

Roy Keane obviously had his players well drilled playing a 4-5-1 formation, and kept Arsenal to mostly speculative shots whilst causing some problems of their own on the counter.

Enter Grant Leadbitter for Sunderland late in the game, a local boy playing for his hometown club.

Within minutes of coming on to the pitch, Leadbitter scored for Sunderland and broke into tears, you could see what it meant to him to score for his club in such a big game.

It looked like Sunderland would take all three points and condemn Arsenal to their worst start to a season since 1994, when they eventually ended up 12th in the table.

Then, with a minute to go, Cesc Fabregas rose from a corner to head home the equaliser for Arsenal, the players celebrated but there was not a lot of joy in this game for the Gunners.

So, a point saved for Arsenal.

Is it enough, or have the young Gunners let their season fall away before it has even begun?

Their current form reminds me of the form slump they suffered at the end of last season, whereby they have the lion's share of possession (68% again yesterday) but can't convert it into scoreboard pressure.

Time will tell...the emotional rollercoaster continues...