A miserable day of travel, due to line closures meaning I had to get two trains and two tubes to the game, was topped with a miserable match. We lined up perfectly, tactics seemed to be spot on, formation was dangerous but our finishing was poor again. The one change I would have made to the starting lineup was Cazorla or Rosicky for Ramsey. The Welshman is not the player he was last year and gave the ball away far too much.
The opening ten minutes gave everyone optimism for the result as we were dominant and Manchester United looked a nervous wreck. Their makeshift defence was even worse than our makeshift defence. Van Gaal even lined up with three at the back and a crocked Luke Shaw playing wing back.
When we did break through their defence and got shots away, they were straight at De Gea. There were times where he made some decent saves to keep us out but we really should have tested him better. Jack Wilshere had two golden opportunities.
The first was a drive through the middle (his trademark) and shot directly at De Gea when either side would have been a goal. The second was from a poor kick from De Gea, under pressure from Sanchez, which ricocheted off Ramsey and found its way to Wilshere who ran through the defence and once again shot directly at the keeper. Either side and it was a goal or even a simple pass sideways to the open Alexis Sanchez who had a tap in.
Once Jack missed those opportunities everyone around me grumbled and muttered that we won’t get a result now. That’s the atmosphere that the club has now bestowed upon the fans. There is no positivity around the stadium as we know we don’t take our chances and all of our games appear scripted. We have plenty of possession and apply pressure only to be countered on a quick break and concede with the opponents first shot.
Welbeck had a good header from a corner (shock!) go over the bar and an audacious back heel attempt go wide. Di Maria curled one just wide. Jack was lucky to not get a red card as he pushed Fellaini with his head, probably in frustration as the Belgian is all flailing elbows and pushing in 50/50s.
Man Utd opened to scoring through an own goal by an unlucky Gibbs. The ball came in and for some reason Szczesny and Gibbs both went to challenge it. Was there no shout from either player? Szczensy went down injured, shot back up but the resultant shot-cum-cross hit Gibbs leg and went in. The keeper was down for a lengthy amount of time and was replaced by Martinez. On further inspection, Fellaini actually backed out of challenging the ball and pushed Gibbs in the back towards Szczesny.
Arsenal seemed to throw everything forward trying to equalise and fell victim to our most common enemy, the counter-attack. It happens game after game and I even spoke about this in yesterday’s blog. We had far too many players in the oppositions half, including Mertesacker who fancies himself a striker, that a simple ball to Di Maria left us 2 on 1. Di Maria and Rooney turned Monreal inside out, who had actually had a decent game, only for Shrek to dink the ball over Martinez.
All the fans had enough and were flooding out the exits. Wenger made his final sub with around 15 minutes to go, as usual. Giroud almost made an instant impact from a corner as he met it with a header. Could Giroud’s absence this year explain why we are so poor at defending and attacking corners? Something we were more effective with last year.
In the end the fans that stayed were treated to a sublime finish from Giroud. I also think if we had a fit Ozil then he would have played in place of the woeful Ramsey and opened up their defence again and again. But hey ho. Giroud offers a lot more to this team and we thought when he played week after week.
After the game, Wenger had this to say about our defensive performance:
“I don’t know why we had nobody at the back at all – you could see straight away that giving a two against one in your own half means you will be punished against these players.”
Really Arsene? The team and players you are paid over £7million a year to coach and you have no idea why you had nobody at the back? Considering this has now happened more than three times already this season it is becoming a joke.
At 1-0 down I was expecting someone to step up as a leader and offer the players encouragement and force the game. Monreal tried but no one took notice or didn’t want to take notice. In the teams of old they would have assessed the situation and adapted to what was going on. This is how Wenger instructs his teams to play, with no instructions but to just ‘play their game’. It worked superb with previous teams due to the players and their strength of character, intelligence, leadership, experience and awareness. This team lacks all of them and needs to be instructed how to play.
“At the end of the day we were not efficient enough in the final third, defensively, and we made a mistake at the back which they took advantage of. That’s the story of the game. We had plenty of chances. Their keeper is man of the match. That tells you the story of the game.”
Yes, their keeper was man of the match because we made every shot easy for him by shooting directly at him. We are simply not clinical and ruthless enough against anyone anymore. What made this defeat hurt most of all is that this Manchester United side is the worst one, as well as being depleted, that I have ever seen.
As soon as we went a goal down our “tactics” and shape went out the window. If you want to win games you need to be disciplined and there was none after we conceded. Maybe Wenger should take a leaf out of his predecessor’s book and re-learn how to not lose a game before trying to win a game. He even has one of Graham’s disciples on his management team. Mourinho is a manager who, in big games, always opts to not lost first and then try to steal a win if the opportunity arises.