Fergie outfoxed Wenger for the umpteenth time as another chance of silverware disappeared on a frustrating evening at Old Trafford.
Man Utd did what they always do against us, sitting back with two banks of four when we had the ball and letting us play our pretty, ineffective football in front of them. Don’t mistake our superior possession stats for any kind of dominance. They allowed us most of the possession because they know they can deal with it, especially without Fabregas playing.
The gameplan worked perfectly for the first goal. An Arsenal attack fizzled out to nothing and van der Saar bowled the ball out to Fabio. Diaby and Wilshere had gone forward leaving Denilson to guard the back four, a job he did with remarkable ineptitude. As Fabio ran at him, Denilson made a half-hearted attempt at a challenge in the centre circle which was sidestepped with the ease with which a father dribbles past his 8 year old son in the garden. Our defence was now exposed and the ball was crossed in to Hernandez, who forced Almunia into a decent parry. However, Fabio had continued his run and while Koscielny ball watched, the Brazilian nipped ahead of him and lashed it into the roof of the net. (Something tells me that Vidic wouldn’t have let his man go like that, but we have no chance of seeing a Vidic in our back four ever again as Wenger doesn’t spend any money on proven premiership quality.)
"Hey Arsene, thanks for picking Denilson & Diaby, I was worried this match was going to be tough"
Fast forward to the 49th minute and it happens again. Another Arsenal attack is easily dealt with and van der Saar throws it quickly to Valencia for a counter attack. He moves it onto Rafael who ghosts past a very poor Gibbs challenge and when the ball is tossed into the box, Man Utd get lucky with the bounce of the ball and Rooney nods in a simple header.
Up until that point both sides had carved out three decent chances, the difference being that Man Utd took two of theirs and we didn’t thanks to some good saves from van der bloody Saar, who still has the reflexes of a 20 year old. So it sounds as though we were unlucky then, having created the same number of chances to be 2-0 down. Maybe, but let’s not forget the weak nature of Man Utd’s line up. Playing seven defenders including a midfield of Fabio, O’Shea, Gibson and Rafael, the poorest I can remember Alex Ferguson fielding for a long time, we should’ve won with relative ease. So why didn’t we?
Well one reason is that for the second Saturday running Wenger played Dumb & Dumber alongside Wilshere in midfield. Did you not watch the first hour against Sunderland Wenger? Did you not see how impotent we were, how pedestrian our forward play was? How Dumb Diaby slowed the tempo too much? How Dumber Denilson makes only sideways passes and has no positional sense?
Of course he noticed, but our leader decided in his infinite wisdom that Dumb & Dumber needed yet another chance to prove they can make the grade. Never mind that between them they have racked up 308 appearances for Arsenal, stubborn Wenger picks them yet again in the forlorn hope he can make solid premiership players out of them. Don’t forget this is the man who played Dumb & Dumber ahead of Arshavin and Nasri in the 2009 FA Cup semi final, citing the reason that he “wanted them to believe they could win against a team like Chelsea”. Well, two years on they’re still underperforming and haven’t acquired any mental strength. How many more years are you going to give them Wenger?
I understand that with Fabregas and Song injured Wenger was short on options in midfield, but my point is why are these two players still in the squad? Why haven’t they been sold and replaced with experience to balance the age of the squad a bit? Look at who Redknapp has bought in midfield recently – van der Vaart for £8m, Pienaar for £2.5m, Niko Kranjcar for £2m. Then there’s players like Scott Parker, who was bought by West Ham for £7m in 2007. I’d prefer any of these to Dumb & Dumber. Don’t tell me good players aren’t available at good prices if you know where to look.
So anyway, surprise surprise, the lack of penetration we showed against Sunderland happened again. For an hour we had plenty of the ball, did very little with it and proved how unimaginative we are in the final third without Fabregas.
We improved when Chamakh came on for Dumber and he should’ve scored a couple as we immediately livened up and started to create (and waste) chances. Don’t let our late rally fool you though, by then it was all too late.
Let’s face it, Man Utd wanted it more. That’s not the first time I’ve said that about our opposition this season. The Brazilian twins buzzed around the park with menace from the first whistle, Rooney was fired up while Vidic and van der Saar were determined nothing was getting past them. Only Wilshere (again) and Nasri seemed overly bothered today. We lack the mental ability to compete properly in the big games and until Wenger either buys an experienced leader or stops pampering mediocre players like Dumb & Dumber, our trophy cabinet will continue to gather dust.
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