Arsenal 1 (van Persie 71) – 2 Manchester United (Valencia 46, Wellbeck 81)
Man of the Match – Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
There we are again! Another loss and everyone is talking about the Gunners starting into the abyss. A 3rd straight league defeat, this time to arch-rivals Manchester United, means the North Londoners lose more ground on catching up with 4th placed Chelsea, to 5 points.
The game in itself was a pretty strange ocassion. With both teams missing key players, and having to juggle with squads, it was Manchester United who had the stronger bench, but Arsenal had some good news when Thomas Vermaelen passed a late fitness test to be adjudged fit to start. There was a huge cheer in the stadium when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was chosen ahead of Andriy Arshavin.
A bright start in the first 10 minutes from Arsenal soon drifted in the hands of Manchester United, who heaped immense pressure on Arsenal with every foray. Luis Nani was unstoppable on the left flank as he got past a hapless Johan Djourou countless times, only for his cross to be met by Per Mertesacker. Meanwhile, Vermaelen was resolutely defending his flank against an in-form Valencia.
Phil Jones twisted his ankle and was replaced by natural right-back Rafael da Silva. Arsenal’s only bright point in the first half was the skill displayed by 18 year old winger Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. He had Rafael all in wraps on many-a-ocassion on the counterattacks.
Despite his stocky build, the former Southampton winger, showed why Arsenal payed a huge amount for him. Patrice Evra, then beat Alex Song, and passed to Nani, but his shot was well saved by Szczesny. Ryan Giggs, showed tremendous pace for his age, as he beat compatriot Aaron Ramsey on one ocassion, while Nani scuppered a couple of chances.
Wayne Rooney was pivotal in the game, and central to everything good United were creating. He, Carrick and Giggs controlled the game brilliantly, and won the midfield battle against Song, Rosicky and Ramsey.
Manchester United took the lead on the stroke of halftime, when Ryan Giggs’s cross was met by Antonio Valencia, who rose above Thomas Vermaelen, and headed in.
Arsenal began the second half in completely different fashion as they shed their defensive mentality. Nico Yennaris came on for Johan Djourou. Tomas Rosicky made most of a Smalling slip to set up for van Persie, but he inexplicably shot wide.
Arsenal were getting close to the equaliser, but Rosicky had his shot blocked by Evra and Chamberlain’s shot went wide. United could have made most of it, but Wellbeck’s shot was cleared off the line by Mertesacker.
Arsenal’s deserved equaliser came in the 71st minute, when Laurent Koscielny, got possession, and passed to Rosicky, who released Chamberlain. He made the perfect pass and van Persie made no mistakes this time, as his shot went through the legs of Evans and past Lindegaard.
But, that’s how good it got. A chorus of boos coincided with the withdrawal of Chamberlain, who was replaced with the out-of-sorts Russian Andriy Arshavin.
Minutes later, Valencia made most of Arshavin’s poor form, as he marauded his way past him and a packed Arsenal defence, to set up Wellbeck, who slotted home the winner.
Arsenal threw on Park Chu-Young, but Manchester United held on for 3 points, while Arsene Wenger will have a lot to ponder upon, as non-qualification to the Champions League looms large.
Szczesny (7) – Couldn’t do much about the 2 goals conceded on the day.
Djourou (4.5) – Poor. Pathetic.
Mertesacker (7) – His best game in a long long time. Won almost every header he contested.
Koscielny (6.5) – Could have done better with both goals conceded.
Vermaelen (6.5) – Again, could have done better with both goals conceded.
Song (6) – Good in patches.
Ramsey (6) – Again, good in patches.
Rosicky (6) – He is certainly no Arteta.
Walcott (6.5) – An improvement from last game, but still needs to improve his ability to beat defenders.
Oxlade-Chamberlain (8.5) – Arsenal’s best player on the pitch.
van Persie (7) – Did the best of whatever little service he got.
Yennaris (7) – Put in a good shift today.
Arshavin (5) – Got to feel for him. Whatever he does, turns out to be catastrophe.
Park Chu-Young – Came on too late too make an impact or get a rating.
Overall Team Rating – 6.43