Arsenal (1) – (3) Manchester United
The Emirates Stadium, London
What a shambles.
Manchester United will not have an easier game all season. It was a walk over, and extremely difficult to watch. Men against boys? You’re not far off.
The match was effectively over by half time, and Park completely killed off the game as a contest on 53 minutes.
There were a lot of positives going into the game. Wes Brown and Jonny Evans were starting in central defence for only the 4th time this season, with Vidic injured and Ferdinand suspended. In 3 previous games together this season, the partnership of Brown and Evans had failed to win, losing twice and drawing once. So surely an attacking team like Arsenal could expose the same frailties Burnley did?
The sad fact was our biggest attacking threats were Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas, and that in itself tells its own story. And massive defensive errors cost us dearly.
Credit to Manchester United however, they turned up to the Emirates and had exactly the same gameplan that worked so well when they visited us in the Champions League game last season. United were technically and tactically far superior today. They showed intelligence in their play and confirmed that The Premier League is a two-horse race.
It’s a shame we didn’t adapt our game considering they did exactly the same to us less than 9 months ago. If it was a one off performance from United you’d understand but it’s the fact they’ve done this before which is the most disappointing thing.
I might as well have watched last years Champions League tie.
Anyway, if we lose to Chelsea next weekend, we’ll be 8 points behind and they will have a game in hand. Which would effectively put us 11 points behind the league leaders.
The simple fact is however it wasn’t the defeats to Chelsea and Manchester United that did the most damage, it was the needless draws to teams like West Ham, Burnley, Everton and Aston Villa. We’ve simply dropped too many points lower in the league.
Back to today though, and the first opening 10 minutes looked promising as the game was end to end. Andrei Arshavin came close a couple of times and so did United. The problem with Arshavin was that he was clearly not interesting in passing or playing in a team mate, but kept putting his head down and trying to shoot. That didn’t bode well as the game went on because our passing game completely deteriorated. Players like Fabregas, Rosicky and Nasri just didn’t provide the support as the match progressed because they knew the little Russian wasn’t going to pass.
The goals we conceded were a disgrace, but we’ve seen it all before.
Last season it was the Ronaldo show but this time Nani’s pace and invention ripped us apart. Arsenal are predictable and Alex Ferguson knows this – he persists in starting Rooney with Nani and Park in support despite the fact they’ve hardly scored this season. Why? Because pace rips our team apart. We can’t cope with it.
It’s better to analyse the goals individually to find our shortcomings:
Nani had the ball on the right hand side with Clichy and Nasri seemingly giving him nowhere to go. A simple (but nice) piece of skill takes them both completely out of the game and he waltzed passed Fabregas, gets the byline and chips the ball into the middle, only for Almunia to palm the ball into his own net.
In Almunia’s defence, it looked like Rooney and Park were both unmarked at the far post so they probably would have finished off the move anyway. But the question I ask is why didn’t he palm the ball away from goal? He obviously tried to push it over the bar but unfortunately he failed miserably.
Poor defending all round but United will love the skill involved from Nani.
As Arsenal were pushing for the equalising goal (with Arshavin and Gallas trying to be too clever) United win the ball back and it breaks to Wayne Rooney. He plays in Nani who goes on a 60 yard slalom run completely unchallenged, and then picks out Rooney who coolly lashes the ball into the bottom corner.
The problem I have with this goal is United only had 3 players involved in the attack (Rooney, Nani and Park) while Arsenal had 6 players chasing back. Nani wasn’t even put under any pressure and the fact Rooney’s run wasn’t tracked was a complete disgrace, and shows a complete lack of defensive understanding. We had 6 players chasing back yet Rooney (in the middle of them all) finds space and scores. Both Denilson and Nasri were next to Rooney when he scored but failed to pick him up. All one of them had to do was track Rooney but they switched off. Totally shambolic and Rooney won’t have scored an easier goal.
Another goal from a break.
Clichy was exposed with two men (Park and Nani) running at him but instead of giving Park something to think about he stay between the two United runners and let Park stroll in and slot the ball passed Almunia for their third.
I understand that you have a responsibility to block off the square pass but Park (like Nani for their second goal) literally ran 60 yards unchallenged. At least if you make him think about the pass it puts him under pressure, but as it transpired he walked into the area and had an easy decision to make.
So 3 amateurish goals to concede.
With United’s injury problems and the fact we were at The Emirates, you would expect today’s game to be the one more likely to win with Chelsea coming up next week.
I’m not going to bother with individual player ratings today, but the only people in an Arsenal shirt would can be even remotely happy with their performance today were William Gallas, Thomas Vermaelen and Alex Song. Everyone else was a disgrace.
Andrei Arshavin had a chance to really hurt Manchester United but didn’t take it. His selfishness in the opening 20 minutes really set the tone for our attacking play and the passing and fluidity we usually have wasn’t there. We really had 2 or 3 real openings in the first 15 minutes and some vision for the final ball could have made this a different game.
Denilson was the worst I’ve seen him this season. He gave the ball away so many times and I did think for the moment he should be wearing a Manchester United shirt. His passing, positioning and all round play was well off the pace and the way he gave away the ball from United’s third goal summed up his performance. Should have been taken off well earlier (at half time) and replaced by Ramsey, or made Rosicky or Nasri drop deeper.
Update: Just watching MOTD2 and also forgot to mention that Denilson almost scored an own goal from a United corner, and he was the one who let Nani stroll passed him for the first goal.
Rosicky, Fabregas and Nasri were all on the periphery of the game.
United defended well so they never really got into the game. Fabregas had moments of skill but couldn’t make anything happen. Rosicky and Nasri we ineffective and in all truth, Song and Vermaelen were Arsenal’s biggest threats.
Song and Vermaelen played well but were sorely let down by those around them. Song had 2 or 3 half chances and did well to get into those positions – but when you’re relying on your defensive midfielder to score goals then you are getting desperate. Vermaelen once again had that desire and scored with a left footed volley, and came close with a header. Gallas also had a glorious chance to get a second goal with 4 minutes remaining which really would have made the final minutes interesting.
Arsenal’s best chance of getting anything from the game was just after Vermaelen scored on 79 minutes. For a good 5 minutes Arsenal went for it and put United under the most pressure they’d experienced throughout the whole game. We had 1 or 2 half chances but just as Arsenal were getting some kind of momentum Almunia’s inability to deal with a simple pass back effectively killed off any hope of a miraculous comeback as United had the perfect chance to kill time and the game.
And that summed us up really.