Arsenal 1 (Walcott 2) – Manchester United 1 (van Persie 42)
Man of the Match – Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
It was not like one of the usual games. Games with Manchester United always are special occasions, but this one was different. More different for my liking, or for the liking of any other Arsenal fan.
Having to form the guard of honor to the champions is fine, but knowing that a big part in the title win was played by an ex-player, who left ‘to win’ trophies, and returned to vindicate his move, made it even harder to watch the game.
A huge swarm of Arsenal fans and glory hunting noobshits, calling themselves as Manure supporters intersected at Dugout, in Bangalore, and there was a brilliant atmosphere with chants, rants and abuses being hurled all over a small screening area.
Arsene Wenger continued with his central defensive pair of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, while Kieran Gibbs was chosen ahead of Nacho Monreal. Jack Wilshere was not named in the starting line-up, probably too soon to make a return from injury. With Olivier Giroud suspended, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott both started, while Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky made starts as well.
For Manchester United, Rio Ferdinand and Johnny Evans started in defence, while Phil Jones was named to bolster midfield. The traitor, of course, had to start, and did.
It was a moment of contemplation for the Arsenal board, fans, players and staff alike as the champions walked out of the tunnel to a standing ovation from Arsenal players. Not too long ago, the sides were neck to neck in Premiership battles. Sigh!
Maybe it was a jerk reaction to the guard of honor, but Arsenal immediately set about their task. In as early as the 3rd minute, the Dutch traitor gave the ball away in midfield, and Rosicky played the ball through to Walcott who was marginally offside, and finished past David de Gea.
Arsenal were looking to build more pressure, as a Tomas Rosicky effort went wide while de Gea had to make a great save, as Santi Cazorla unleashed a left footed effort. Arsenal were looking comfortable in midfield, with the trio of Ramsey, Arteta and Rosicky drawing strings.
Manchester United, however had a great chance to go level, but Phil Jones made a complete hash of it. Aaron Ramsey was having a good game, and almost set up Podolski, but for a good save from David de Gea.
At the back, Arsenal were putting a committed performance, and when Portuguese winger Nani found some space, he was met with a lunging Kieran Gibbs. The traitor had a great chance to level matters, with a header, but it was too close to Szczesny, and the Arsenal keeper saved with his, er, nose. Ouch! Phil Jones miscued another chance.
For all of Arsenal’s good work in the first half, it was undone by one moment of mediocrity. Bacary Sagna’s misplaced pass fell right into the path of Judas, who surged forward. Sagna, in an attempt to undo what he had done lunged for a tackle from behind, but instead fouled the traitor in the box.
He, who else, stepped up, and leveled matters from the spot. In the second half, Arsenal got to work right from the beginning, and Tomas Rosicky curled a shot just wide having played a one-two with Aaron Ramsey.
However, Arsenal were giving the ball away too easily and making too many lapses in concentration, giving Manchester United some good chances to take the lead. A cross from the traitor could not be met by an uncharacteristically quiet Wayne Rooney.
Rafael looked to score one of his trademark goals, trying to cut inside, but missed, as the ball flew narrowly wide of the post. Rooney headed straight at Szczesny from close range, as Arsenal were increasingly looking weary.
There were few chances as the game progressed, with the best one falling to Ryan Giggs, who could only find a blocking Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain.
In the end, it was a pretty even contest, with Arsenal proving to be marginally, by small margins, better than Manchester United, on the evening. The point, however, leaves us in a situation, where Champions League places are still out of our hands. Sp*rs, who drew Wigan the previous evening, are two points behind, with a game in hand.
Positives and negatives then. The players displayed good character in this tussle with the champions, and matched them for most of the game, and proved to be slightly better. In all honesty, there is very little to choose between the sides, but for a certain thing called mentality.
United have shown all season, that even though they do not boast the most glitziest of squads, they conjure up results with a single minded determination to win. Arsenal, at this moment of time, need that very mentality, to first secure a top 4 finish, and to make sure that they are in the title race next season, and do not fizzle out before it is even December.
Laurent Koscielny has been brilliant and without doubt, is Arsenal’s best defender at the moment. His tenacity, reading of the game, pace and willingness to battle the strikers makes him a very important player in the side. Bacary Sagna, despite all his consistency over the years, has had an error-strewn recent past, and his contract will be one that will be hotly debated about at the end of the season.
Arsenal’s midfield is starting to look increasingly balanced. Yes, it’s almost the end of the season, but hey, better late than never. Aaron Ramsey looks sharp, decisive and seems to have gotten rid of those irritating back passes and all. Cazorla and Rosicky look like two good attacking midfield options to start off with, and it will be interesting to see if the manager decided to haul Wilshere back into the fray.
Up front, Lukas Podolski looked clueless, and had to make most of the running in behind him, with little or no service. Walcott had a decent game, apart from the goal and a few moments of spark. Having been played on the right, he had to contend with the combination of Jones, Evra and Evans constantly heckling him down.
A point gained, rather than two points lost. This was always going to be a tough encounter. Arsenal definitely need to win their remaining 3 games, to absolutely guarantee themselves of a Champions League place next season.
Jai Arsenal 🙂