Manchester United 1 (van Cunty 26) – Arsenal 0
Man of the Match – Shrek (Manchester United)
Another late late review coming your way, owing to the lazy, meaningless and frustrating abyss that is the International break. It is always frustrating going into the international break with the bad aftertaste of a loss to your rivals still lingering in the mouth. But here we are.
Well, to start off with, there wasn’t much of a difference in terms of quality between the two sides. Manchester United had a pretty decent start, knocking around the ball in confidence, before the goal, after which Arsenal seized most control, with United happy to sit back and invite the pressure.
It is funny how these things work, and how it usually balances out play after a goal is scored these days. Tactics and approach make a complete u-turn for both teams. Manchester United, under David Moyes have used that extra robust midfielder, considering their lack of an out and out central attacking midfielder of the quality of Paul Scholes.
There has been a hesitance to play Shinji Kagawa, which I still cannot understand why and Adnan Januzaj is still a novice in the Premier League. Tom Cleverley, is well, Tom Cleverley, and Michael Carrick has been played in deeper positions than is usually his position.
Arsenal’s late flu problems, which struck Per Mertesacker, and Tomas Rosicky were definitely a blow, and the manager had to draft in the returning, yet not fully fit Mathieu Flamini, and captain Thomas Vermaelen, making a league start in quite some while now. To add to it, it seemed Mesut Ozil was a forced start, with rumors he was not 100% and was probably slightly affected by the bug.
Additionally, United’s insistence or rather persistence to use wingers and full backs meant, Aaron Ramsey was grafted wide and Mesut Ozil to the left, leaving large holes in the centre to fill. Arsenal struggled initially with two top midfielders in form being played out of position.
What United managed to do in great effect was nullify any threat posed by Arsenal’s best players on the pitch, namely Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla. Chris Smalling stuck to his task brilliantly, offering little space and was ably assisted by either of Phil Jones/Michael Carrick.
This meant, instead of directing play inwards through the centre, which they usually do and prefer, Arsenal were forced to make a flurry of crosses, Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs the main protagonists in this case. As it goes, Arsenal aren’t the kind of side that dwell on crosses.
Of course there’s Giroud to come at the end of it, but Vidic and Evans, and in the second half, Jones and Evans managed to avert most of the danger, despite a fantastic crossing exhibition from Sagna.
Arsenal were looking flat, with Mathieu Flamini not able to stamp his usual full influence on the game. Mikel Arteta too was forced to do much of the running, with Wayne Rooney looking menacing throughout the game.
Rooney was instrumental for ManU on the night, with some brilliant hold up play, as he effectively managed to frustrate Arsenal’s defensive players with his persistent running all night. Arsenal have always struggled to deal with the England man well, and that trend seemed to continue on the night as well.
Arsenal’s introduction of Jack Wilshere and Serge Gnabry helped infuse a bit of directness and penetration. Wilshere took on defenders, forcing them into fouls, and thus providing that extra bit of creativity in midfield. However, there were a lack of any clear cut chances, and the few half chances that were there, weren’t converted.
Ozil managed to find the side netting, while Giroud continuously cut a subdued figure. Ramsey was uncharacteristically erratic on the night, spraying unneeded passes, and doing all those back heels, which just ended up in handing the opposition the possession.
What Wilshere did well was to pull in defenders towards him. However, he still lacks the nous of when to release the ball. The perfect moment. There were a couple of moments where you would think he could have played in a player, but it eventually petered out, with Jones managing to take down his compatriot a few times.
Serge Gnabry showed how much Arsenal were missing a player like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench. With his repertoire of tricks and bags of energy and pace, Chamberlain would have been the ideal substitute at Old Trafford, against a tiring Evra.
Gnabry failed to produce the right balls, despite being lively in his short stint. Another aspect that Arsenal looked devoid was having a proper substitute striker on the bench. Niklas Bendtner looked woefully out of touch and place, and despite the decent performance against West Brom in the League Cup, it is time he is shipped out, and we sign someone lively, quick with a penchant for goal scoring. Heard Alexandre Pato and El-Sharaawy were on the market.
On the positive side, I thought Thomas Vermaelen made a small case for himself with a commanding performance, allowing the cunt little space, and winning almost all headers he contested for. It was an error free performance, well almost.
I haven’t talked about the goal so far, as I wanted to leave it for the last. It was really disgusting to watch the traitor celebrate like he did. Yes, we berated him for moving to Old Trafford, called him what not, but there seemed to be a complete lack of disrespect from a man who as a boy had a dream of playing for Arsenal. Ok, let’s not get into that boys’ stuff et al.
The goal in itself was the downside of zonal marking. Against top sides and top forwards, the zonal marking becomes a cropper, as better quality players take their chances better. I do not want to go over the top about the zonal system, like the commentators and pundits do, cos they bullshit a lot.
Zonal marking has been working for Arsenal quite some time now, and that is the first set piece goal we conceded in a long time. That said, it is not explanation enough for that momentary lapse of concentration. There wasn’t a player contesting for the ball, and it just zoomed in into the net. That was it, the difference between the sides.
It is time now to work on these mistakes, and work harder for a testing schedule coming up. High flying Southampton visit the Emirates this Saturday. We can seal progress in the Champions League, days later with a win over Marseille at home. In December it is Everton at home, Napoli away, Manchester City away, Chelsea home, West Ham away and Newcastle away all in the space of 21 days.
Jai Arsenal 🙂