There was a time when Ferguson would only play one up front against us, even at Old Trafford, and pack his midfield full of defensive players like Fletcher and Park. It was quite the compliment. But he no longer needs to do that as this Arsenal side has deteriorated so much that we require no more special attention than a visit from QPR or Reading.
A central duo of Carrick and Cleverley comfortably outplayed our ‘dream’ midfield of Arteta, Wilshere and Cazorla. Rooney dropped deeper to help them out on the rare occasions we mounted an attack, but that wasn’t often as the hosts completely dominated proceedings. Rumours that de Gea nipped off for a cup of tea and a rubdown in the first half are unconfirmed.
As Arsenal fans have been accustomed to recently, we started slowly and captain Vermaelen made a glaring error as he mishit a routine clearance straight into the path of the one player we didn’t want to score today. There you go Robin, knock that in to settle your nerves. It was the fifth time in our last six matches that we’ve conceded the first goal and further proof that we are far too lackadaisical in our approach to matches. As was the case against Reading, QPR, Schalke and Norwich we looked poorly motivated from the off and the team were woeful for the first 45 minutes. Does Wenger actually give a pre-match team talk anymore?
RVP does the decent thing, unlike Adebayor
Suitably buoyed by their perfect start, Man Utd battered us and would’ve gone into the break further ahead but for some wasteful finishing, not least from Rooney who pulled a penalty horribly wide. My opinion is that the decision was harsh as Cazorla’s hand was in front of his face, not out to the side or above his head. Having said that, if Ferdinand had done the same thing at the other end would I now be arguing it was a definite penalty? Quite possibly. It was one of those where a valid case could be made for either argument, but what was never in doubt is that the call would go Man Utd’s way.
Lucky to still be in the game, I fully expected Walcott to emerge for the second half. We had no pace at all with Podolski on the left and Ramsey on the right, so any time we won possession Man Utd would have ten men behind the ball before we could hurt them. Ramsey is a decent central midfielder, but a wide man he ain’t. In the absence of Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain we needed a speed merchant out there and they don’t come much faster than Theo. After his scinitillating hattrick in midweek he should’ve started, but Wenger is trying to prove a point to him.
It is utterly ridiculous that his contract situation still remains unresolved literally weeks before he can sign for someone else for free. What’s even more ludicrous is that in trying to show who’s boss, Wenger is damaging the team. It was a spiteful decision to leave him out today — we don’t have many players in form and leaving him on the bench for 52 minutes was a disgrace.
We should’ve been 4-0 down by the time he came on, but his willing running and the threat his mere presence posed clearly unsettled United. The rest of the team looked visibly lifted and we started to play a bit. Giroud hit a half chance against the post as the home crowd grew anxious that they were going to pay for their profligacy in front of goal.
A few minutes later though we gave them the comfort of a second when shocking marking from a set piece (for a change) allowed Evra a free header which he planted past Mannone from ten yards. Just in case anyone at Arsenal should chance upon this, let me make something clear for you: OUR ZONAL MARKING SYSTEM DOESN’T WORK. We have now conceded poor goals from set pieces against Man Utd, Chelsea (twice) and Man City. All of them could’ve been avoided.
Any slim chance we had of a comeback went with Wilshere as he walked for a second bookable offence. In fact it was a third bookable offence, but Mike Dean had been lenient with him moments earlier as he was with Cleverley and Ashley Young, who blatantly dived early in the second half whilst on a booking. Cazorla was livid, but Dean ignored it, as did the Sky commentary team who only like to highlight simulation when it’s been perpetrated by Johnny Foreigner.
In injury time Gazidis rubbed his hands in glee as Cazorla increased next summer’s transfer fee with a stunning consolation, but all it did was add an unfair shade of respectability to a match in which we were soundly beaten.
Of course, Wenger didn’t see it like that:
“I think we were a bit unlucky, especially with the penalty decision. We had the better chances but overall in a game like this you ought to not put yourself on the back foot when you are one down.”
We had the better chances?! I lose more respect for this once great man every time he opens his mouth these days. He even said Wilshere’s red card was harsh despite replays clearly showing he caught Evra late and hard.
Much pre-match talk had been of last season’s 8-2 drubbing and I suppose at least we avoided a repeat of that. What worries me though is that even in that match we still created chances whereas today we barely looked like getting two corners, never mind two goals. The loss of van Persie isn’t just his ability to put the ball into the net, it’s his movement and skill at bringing others into the attack and creating chances himself. Last season he was eighth in the Premiership assists table. His are big boots to fill and we clearly don’t have anyone up to it.
Regular readers will know I promised to wait until ten league matches had been played to judge this team. Well, this was our tenth and the verdict is in — we’re a pale shadow of recent seasons, tactically predictable and badly motivated by a man living on past glories.
Consider this — the last time Wilshere played before his recent return from injury we had Fabregas, Nasri and van Persie on the books. Our policy of stockpiling large amounts of cash while selling our best players will bite us on the arse come May when we finish 5th or 6th. I just can’t see where the goals are going to come from to shoot us into the top four and I think more and more players (not to mention supporters) are losing faith in Wenger.
I can’t end this report without a word for the Arsenal fans at Old Trafford. They were outstanding, singing throughout and attempting to encourage the side even as it became clear to everybody that the game was beyond us. This current board doesn’t deserve such loyal fans to rip off and it saddens me greatly that we are now seen as an insignificant source of revenue instead of the lifeblood of the club. I agree wholeheartedly with what the fans sung during the first half at Reading last week: “We want our Arsenal back! We want our Arsenal back!”
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