Will United Regret Not Finishing Us Off?

Manchester United (1) – (0) Arsenal
Old Trafford, Manchester

Overall a disappointing performance but in the end a 1-0 defeat isn’t catastrophic, considering what could have been.

For the first half an hour United were all over us and we had to rely on Almunia to make some really fantastic saves; from Tevez and Ronaldo in particular.

The fact was United were much better. We lacked any urgency which was surprising considering this is the Champions League Semi Final. Once again Adebayor was infuriating as he lacked any energy or desire, and added to his poor touch it’s clear the form of last season has completely disappeared. For a 5 man midfield to work the striker needs to hold the ball up well and while Adebayor did this fantastically last year, this season he has been a shadow of his former self.

Diaby and Walcott were on the whole ineffective, and as an attacking force we didn’t click at all. Lots of pretty passing triangles but no real penetration or goal threat. Fabregas was lost and you couldn’t help thinking he would be far more dangerous playing deeper where he can control the game, and play those brilliant through balls.

Nasri was okay, but along with Fabregas struggled to make any real impact because of the lack of intelligent running from Diaby, Walcott and Adebayor.

It was hugely disappointing considering Porto and even Spurs scored twice at Old Trafford recently and Liverpool managed four. But we didn’t have the man who bailed us out at Anfield – Andrey Arshavin.

We can afford to play badly if you have a genius like that in the side but not with jokers like Adebayor.

But despite the poor attacking display, there were some positives.

As I’ve already mentioned we only lost 1-0, which is quite frankly a miracle considering the chances and possession United had. Almunia was excellent and Ronaldo hit the bar in the second half – trust me we were lucky to only concede the one goal.

And despite the terrible defending for the corner from which United scored, overall our defence was good.

Kieran Gibbs was sensational, and along with Toure and Almunia was possibly our best player. Even Ronaldo was reluctant to take him on and tended to drift inside instead. His composure and overall performance was excellent and he was one of the few positives tonight.

Toure was another player who had a great game, and I lost the amount of times he cleared up at the back. He made some brilliant tackles and put in a fantastic shift tonight. Even Silvestre (who setup the United goal) did well at times, as did Sagna on the right.

So despite a poor performance tonight, we have a second chance at the Emirates in 6 days time, and we have to step it up at home and I have no doubt we will. We have to make sure that we make United regret not finishing us off at Old Trafford, because trust me they could (and probably should) have.

It will be a completely different game at The Emirates, but the danger is if United nick one then we need three. But we got past Roma (just) with a 1-1 aggregate score in the 1st round knock-out stage so anything is possible.

Bring on the second leg.

Andrey Arshavin: A Masterclass Analysis

Last night Andrey Arshavin showed us all a master class. Since yesterdays performance (where he literally carried the team) I can’t stop watching the goals because they were truly phenomenal.

If the finishing wasn’t impressive enough, the sheer desire in this guy is top class. Only a handful of players were actually bothered and make no mistake the Russian got us out of jail.

Don’t forget, we were playing a side who are fighting to win the league. And although there were a lot of negatives (including the poor defending and the lack of desire) the fact is we were leading the match 3 times with a patched up back five. With Gallas or Djourou alongside Kolo at the back I seriously doubt we would have conceded some of those sloppy goals.

But obviously the main positive was that man Andrey Arshavin.

Every goal had something special:

Goal 1

A nice ball wide from Song to Nasri plays the ball into the corner which Liverpool get back for Mascherano to lose to a Fabregas challenge. Nasri picks up the loose ball and plays a beautiful reverse pass into Cesc who looks up and picks out Arshavin to smash the ball into the net off the bar.

Arshavin Analysis

Despite having 7 Liverpool players in the box when Fabregas plays it square Arshavin cleverly waltzes in between central defenders Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher and has the quality to shoot first time and pick his spot in a crowded penalty area.

Goal 2

Fabianski’s goal kick is headed on by Arshavin which is headed towards Arbeloa by Jamie Carragher. Arshavin nips in front of Arbeloa, runs towards goal and fires the ball into the side netting.

Arshavin Analysis

When Carragher heads the ball forwards Arshavin is a good 7 yards behind Arbeloa and still manages to get the ball. The desire and ability to dispossess the defender is impressive enough but the finish was world class. He had 3 defenders charging him down but he still had the quality to rip the ball past Reina from the edge of the box.

Goal 3

Nasri has a little run in the middle and passes to Arshavin out on the left. He plays it back to Nasri who crosses first time and Aurellio ‘clears’ the ball which goes straight to the Russian who controls the ball with his first touch and scores with his second.

Arshavin Analysis

How many Arsenal players would have just slashed at the ball and missed? The only other player in the squad who would have the ability to control the ball in the crowded area and pick his spot would be Eduardo, which highlights how well the goal was taken. After playing in Nasri out wide he has the awareness to take up a position on the middle and the composure for the goal is breathtaking. Watch it again, he makes it look so easy it’s unreal.

Goal 4

Arsenal defend a corner from which Theo Walcott runs about 50 yards and plays in Arshavin who smashes the ball past Reina for his fourth.

Arshavin Analysis

It’s the last minute and yet Arshavin runs 80 yards to support Walcott on the break. To take the goal so well after busting a gut is sensational and he’s made all 4 goals look so easy. Fantastic desire, fantastic goal and fantastic energy so late in the game.

And if you didn’t love Arshavin already then here’s an interview on the Arsenal.com website. He plays down his contribution in the first half and talks about how he needs more time to settle in at Arsenal!

Arshavin Embarasses Liverpool – And Arsene Wenger (w/ Player Ratings)

Liverpool (4) – (4) Arsenal
Arshavin (36′, 67′, 70′, 90′)
Anfield Stadium, Liverpool

What a crazy game.

And what shambolic defending, from both teams.

The bottom line was that tonight too many players (possibly because of an FA Cup Semi Final hangover) weren’t in the game at all. Denilson was particularly dreadful, and Cesc Fabregas wasn’t in the game at all. Bendtner was lazy and couldn’t even be bothered doing the simple things such as closing down or making runs, and then we have our defending.

And somehow we drew the game 4-4.

On reflection, we didn’t deserve anything from tonight’s game. We were very sloppy at the back, we were completely beaten in midfield and upfront Bendtner was toothless. So how the hell did we score 4 at Anfield?

Two reasons; Fabianski and Arshavin.

Fabianski had to be called upon so many times it was ridiculous. Liverpool dominated throughout and he really kept us in the match. And Arshavin had 4 attempts, 4 of which were on target and he scored 4 goals.

This guy is world class. All 4 goals were superbly taken and he was our best player by a country mile. I cannot tell you how good this player is – without him we would have left Anfield with what we deserved – absolutely nothing.

Make no mistake, tonight was a smash and grab in every sense of the word.

So you wonder why the hell Arshavin didn’t start against Chelsea at the weekend. The mind truly boggles – what was Arsene Wenger thinking? This guy has been our best player since he arrived and not to play him in the FA Cup was a travesty – I still can’t get over it. If he can score 4 stunning goals against Liverpool at Anfield then what could he have done against Chelsea?

Arshavin didn’t just embarrass Liverpool tonight, he embarrassed Arsene Wenger.

Because all he needs is one chance. He proved that tonight.

Liverpool’s first equalising goal came from a shocking ‘clearance’ from the usually solid Sagna, who looked a bit jaded after only just coming back from injury. Kuyt had two chances to cross the ball and he finally found Torres for a well taken header.

The second was from a deep cross which somehow made it over the line, and the third wasn’t great either. Torres did well to make the space and score but it was far too easy, and once again Fabianski was exposed.

And the fourth was in injury time.

As a defensive unit we weren’t comfortable all night. Liverpool were on top for the majority of the match and throughout the game made chance after chance. It was almost the Fabianski show and he had to make a lot of decent saves to keep us in it.

But against the run of play Arsenal amazingly managed to take the lead. Fabregas did well to nick the ball away from Mascherano on the edge of the box and find Nasri. Then the little Frenchman played a brilliant reverse pass back to Cesc who squared for that man Arshavin to smash the ball into the net.

We lead 1-0 at half-time and collapsed in the second. Silvestre seemed hell bent on playing short back passes which put us under pressure time and time again. Toure was trying to do what he could but he couldn’t cover for the hopeless Silvestre, who in all honesty is past it and I am really worried about playing Manchester United twice with him in the side because it will be a massacre.

But after Liverpool took the lead Arshavin popped up again.

Arbeloa got dispossessed by the little Russian and he ran towards goal before smashing the ball into the side netting for 2-2. Simply a stunning strike by anyone’s standards and amazingly we were back in it.

The third was terrible defending from Liverpool as Aurelio decided to do a Sagna and give the ball straight back to the opposition from a cross. Unfortunately for him it fell to Arshavin who duly smashed the ball under Reina for his hattrick!

Don’t be mistaken, no-one else in the Arsenal side would have scored that goal.

And to really put the cat among the pigeons his fourth was another sumptuous strike. Walcott went on one of his slalom runs after a Liverpool corner and played in Arshavin, who smashed the ball passed Reina with his left foot.

4 attempts and all of them went in.

This guy is unbelievable. Two goals with his left foot, and two with his right.

If we had him available to play in Europe I’d be confident of going all the way. Because Bendtner and Adebayor aren’t good enough or clever enough to out fox defenders like Vidic and Ferdinand.

Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski – 8/10
Put the nightmare of the Chelsea game behind him, despite conceding 4 goals. He made some excellent saves throughout the Liverpool barrage and you couldn’t fault him for any of the goals, which were all caused by shocking defending. Kept us in the game because you wouldn’t have argued if Liverpool scored 7 or 8.

Kieran Gibbs – 8/10
One of our better players despite only being the youngest in the side. Coped well with Kuyt for the most part but wasn’t helped by Silvestre’s antics at the back. Very energetic and always wanted to attack although he was caught out defensively a few times during the first half.

Kolo Toure – 7/10
Made some excellent tackles and tried to keep the defence together the best he could. Torres caused him problems all night but managed to keep him down to 2 goals when it could have been more.

Mikael Silvestre – 4/10
Truly terrible. Slow in body and mind, Silvestre is sadly past it. Struggled at the weekend and struggled tonight – 2 games in 4 days is probably asking too much but the number of lazy passes (both to the goalkeeper and other team-mates) was unbelievable. He was always in trouble once a Liverpool player was running towards him and has Fabianski to thank for keeping it down to only 4 goals.

Bacary Sagna – 6/10
The usually reliable Sagna looked a shadow of himself tonight, making several mistakes. But you can put that down to a return from injury because he hasn’t played that badly since he’s worn the Arsenal shirt.

Samir Nasri – 6/10
Floated in and out of the game but ineffective overall. Had a tidy game but hardly influential.

Cesc Fabregas – 6/10
Well he has kept his unbeaten league run going as Arsenal captain but bar the assist for the first goal was pretty anonymous. Moved the ball well but couldn’t get control of the game which was disappointing considering Steven Gerrard wasn’t even playing.

Alex Song – 6/10
Did okay, and was much better than Denilson. Made some descent tackles and passes but at times wasn’t interested in helping the team defend. Too many times Liverpool players had shots from distance and he would just stand there and watch instead of closing down.

Denilson – 4/10
I’m not sure if he’s tired or in his comfort zone but he was terrible tonight and contributed nothing. Actually, that’s not strictly correct since he did manage to give the ball away several times in dangerous positions. His ‘pass’ to Torres after 4 minutes to set up a shot sums up his performance.

Andrey Arshavin – 10/10
He didn’t get much of the ball throughout the game from his team-mates but that didn’t matter. He took all of his goals superbly and showed the quality he is, which is world class. He’s been our best player for the last 4 months now and it was a shame his team-mates didn’t show the same desire tonight, because despite playing badly overall we could have even won the game because of this guys brilliance. It is not an exaggeration to say he carried us tonight.

Nicklas Bendtner – 6/10
Pretty lethargic and like most of his team-mates didn’t seem bothered. For a player who is supposed to be hungry and fighting for a first team place he didn’t even attempt to close down defenders or make runs for his midfield which is something you have to do if you’re the lone striker.