Man Utd 4 (Rooney 15, Fletcher 19, 74, Nani 38) Arsenal 0
For the second time in a few short weeks, Arsenal have been humiliated and dumped out of a domestic competition. There were many (myself included) who thought that the 5-1 defeat at White Hart Lane would prove to be the low point of the season, but at least that day the team seemed to care. At least that day it was largely fringe players having a shocker. At least that day we didn’t have players only showing passion in petulance.
Yesterday was an absolute disaster, from start to finish. The first ten minutes were dull, as both sides started cautiously, but then United seemed to realise that they were quicker to every ball, and stepped up a gear. Rooney headed in the first when Hoyte should’ve done far better, and then Gallas and Cesc were particularly culpable in Fletcher adding number two. At that point, it was already game over.
With Cesc, Hleb, Gallas, Toure on the field, and finishing in the class of Eduardo available, this team is more than capable of coming back from two down, even at Old Trafford. But I defy you to find a Gooner who thought the match wasn’t over after twenty minutes. The reason was simple – there was a complete lack of fight from front to back. Players were ducking out of challenges, not using their body to turn the onrushing defenders and find themselves in the space behind them, and when they did get an inch, they passed to the opposition, without bothering to chase it down afterwards.
Only one man is exempt from that particular criticism, and that’s Jens Lehmann, who was professional, alert and frankly, kept the score from being doubled. But even his copybook is blotted by his abysmal distribution.
On the other end of the scale is a man who not many of us would miss if Wenger decided to get rid of him right now. With Nani scoring the third before half time, the second half was all about pride and fight, but Eboue took the situation and made it ten times worse, when he approached an aerial battle with Evra by lifting his leg and slamming his studs into Evra’s thigh, who was taken out in mid air. Eboue was rightly sent off.
There were so many things to be angry about in that instant. Only a few minutes had passed in the second half, and we were trying to avoid a pasting and show United they couldn’t roll over us. He ruined that. There was the passing thought that an early second half goal might give them the jitters. He killed the tie stone dead. And worst, he picked a time when we have the longest injury list I can remember in years, a time when Clichy, Sagna, Diaby and Rosicky are all absent from our flanks, and earned himself a pointless three match ban. In truth, the tie was gone, but his irresponsible actions reduces Wenger’s options yet further in a busy and vital period of the season.
But you can’t say we weren’t warned. His histrionics have been infuriating since he arrived on the scene, and while there was no diving yesterday, that was probably because he wasn’t even in the game until he forced himself out of it. At Liverpool last season he was a disgrace, he alternates between putting in dangerous tackles and making out that the innocuous tackles of others are far worse than they are. It is a miracle it has taken him into his fourth season here to get his marching orders.
But let’s assess him overall – he can be skilful and clever, but most of the squad can be described that way, and at the end of the day he is now a midfielder who offers absolutely no goal threat. His best asset is his crossing, but even that has been woeful this season. Add to that less than spectacular CV his disgraceful attitude, and I simply cannot believe that he doesn’t make some of his more professional teammates want to throttle him.
Back to the game, and Fletcher’s second goal in the second half gave the final score a more realistic look. It was every bit the hammering that the scoreline suggests, with us not managing to make van der Sar make a save in the entire match.
It is hard to take positives, even though the FA Cup was clearly down the list of priorities. A defeat was almost expected with the squad so patched together, but no-one expected this. Alan Hansen was, for once, right at half time – it really did look like there was only team who cared about the result.
Injuries or no injuries, low priority or not, that simply isn’t acceptable. Mistakes are forgivable. A lack of effort isn’t.
At Spurs, we were humiliated, but bounced back with a sequence of wins that has seen the team achieve a five point lead at the top of the league. The best, and only answer to this performance is to bounce back again.
Give it your all against Milan, boys. And Wenger, please don’t play that idiot on the right flank.