Jan 312010

Arsenal 1 (Vermaelen 80) Man Utd 3 (Almunia og 33, Rooney 37, Park 52)

It was billed as a game we did not have to win, but could not lose. After being comprehensively and deservedly blown away by United, the title is not inconceivable, but now highly unlikely. It would take a dramatic improvement against Chelsea next weekend to get the result we need to stay in contention.

We had our moments – Arshavin was a man on a mission early on, fashioning two chances for himself that he put wide, and then miskicking a third opportunity, probably the best of the lot. Song also came close on a couple of occasions. But as threatening as we looked at one end, we were shaky at the other, only desperate interventions from Gallas preventing the visitors taking the lead.

Nani was causing Clichy no end of trouble, so it was little surprise that when the breakthrough came, it was from the winger. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and credit a great piece of skill, and Nani certainly produced some with a mesmerising turn, but once he’d skipped into the box, there was no meaningful challenge, and he was able to chip a cross towards Park at the back post. Almunia desperately tried to reach it, but only succeeded in diverting it into his own net.

Minutes later, it was 2-0, and I hope Wenger makes the players study the video in detail. Rooney, on the edge of his own area, gave the ball to Nani, and then sprinted towards our goal, overtaking several of our players on the way. When Nani returned the pass at the other end of the pitch, he gleefully thumped it home.

How was Rooney not picked up? Most culpable was Denilson, who ambled back, completely unaware of the striker running past him. Rooney showed desire, Denilson did not, and that was the difference.

I have no issue with Denilson not being a star player. He looks a little lost in our midfield, not as good offensively as Cesc (or arguably, Rosicky, Diaby or Ramsey), he also doesn’t bring the defensive stability of Song. In short, he is a reserve. But that isn’t his fault – I’m sure he is trying to be the best player he can be. What is unforgivable is the total lack of drive on the pitch at crucial moments, and it isn’t the first time. The only meaningful thing I can remember him doing in the entire match was nearly scoring an own goal in the opening minutes.

When the third goal arrived, it was a real dagger to the heart. Not only did it kill the game, but it was so embarrassingly simple that it made our title aspirations seem laughable. A simple ball over the top found Park bearing down on goal, with Rooney and Nani making runs to the right of him. Clichy was our only defender, but covered the passing options instead of challenging the player with the ball, and Park took advantage with a simple finish. Again, a United player had run unchallenged through our defence.

Clichy’s defending in that instance was schoolboy – you have to make the ball carrier make a decision. And his performance overall was dreadful. A couple of years ago he was at the top of his game, and it is really difficult to work out why he appears to have gone so far backwards. Sure, he doesn’t get a lot of help from those in front of him, notably Arshavin, but some of his mistakes are so basic that you find yourself wishing that Gibbs was fit and available. Not only would there be serious competition for the left back position, but you feel that the young Englishman is probably the better long term option.

United could have had more, but to the credit of our players, and notably Cesc, who drove them forward, they never gave up. Vermaelen pulled one back late on, but we were unable to capitalise on a succession of late corners, and a golden chance for Gallas. In truth, the damage had already been done.

At the end of the day, we were painfully naive. When chances came, we missed them, and then over committed, failed to watch runners, and got caught time and time again by an excellent counter attacking team.

I’ve already covered Denilson and Clichy, but they weren’t alone – Rosicky didn’t have the spark we usually see from him, although to his credit he did track back all day. Almunia can’t be faulted for the goals, even the own goal, but he had his now customary wobbles in the second half that could have led to the scoreline resembling a rout.

There were, however, positive performances, notably from the centre backs – Gallas and Vermaelen had excellent games, which seems a bizarre thing to say after a 3-1 defeat, and makes you wonder what would have been if the Belgian hadn’t been fit enough to start. Cesc tried everything, and never let the team drop their heads while Song was good on his return despite being handicapped by a harsh yellow in the opening ten minutes.

And while some will get on his back for his misses, I thought Arshavin was superb. Jamie Redknapp said after the game that he was anonymous, which just goes to prove what a brainless idiot Redknapp is. He belied his diminutive size to give Wes Brown a torrid day, and put a couple of efforts just wide with Van der Sar beaten. He gave it his all, and cannot be faulted.

So where does that leave us? Some will say a win at Stamford Bridge could reignite our charge, while others go the opposite way and say we’re in danger of dropping out of the top four. The former is a possibility, but can only happen with the bravest of defensive performances, while the latter is laughable.

I suspect, when all is said and done, that we’ll be third. United and Chelsea seem to have a special something that we currently lack, but we are head and shoulders above the rest of the league. It is not impossible to recover from this, as we did following the Chelsea defeat, but we will be relying on a lot of dropped points from two experienced squads, and I’m not sure they will continue to be as generous as they have up to now. Looking the other way, I don’t say any of the teams below us challenging us for third.

It is tough not to be downhearted after a display like that, but there is still much to play for this season. Give up the thought that Wenger might splash the cash tomorrow – he won’t – and focus instead on a critical February. Our run of tough fixtures continues, and the Champions League resumes. We cannot afford to let this defeat derail what has been an impressive season.

And remember that this has been, and continues to be, an impressive season. We came into it being predicted to drop out of the top four, and even optimistic fans struggled to believe we could challenge for the title. I thought Chelsea would run away with it. But despite a plethora of injuries (imagine the effect of losing Drogba and Rooney for the season), we’re still up there. It defies logic, it defies the pundits, and it vindicates Wenger. Don’t forget that.

Tomorrow is transfer deadline day. I won’t be watching.

  45 Responses to “Arsenal 1-3 United: Effort and endeavour there, but sadly also naivety”

  1. Agree with most of this, and a good read. Avoids a lot of the hysterical over-reaction that usually follows a defeat.

  2. nice to see something a tad more positive. not spending duing transfer windows is ridiculous. we clearly need to, the team we played in the fa cup shows that. if cant compete on 3 fronts ( it should be four) it shows we need to. wenger clearly feels we have enough in midfield but i only think cesc and song deserve a guaranteed start

  3. watching what, that scabby cunt wont buy

  4. Congratulations on writing an excellent article – a million miles ahead of some of the trash that’s popped up on the newsnow page.
    A very intelligent and enjoyable read, thank you.

  5. I guess every one was angry after the same and it is because we all care and want the club to win every game.

    I do agree we are over achieving in terms of what was expected by pundits but we should be challenging for the title and this team is not ready yet, we will need three more players and if that is done we will be fine, however I do not agree with injuries being an excuse. yes it has limited our chances but we seem to have injuries every season and we have failed to prepare for it. Having said AW saying he needs a striker who is not cup tied for CL it self shows he thinks this team has a greater chance of winning the CL than the PL..It is normal to be angry after a result like that but come wednesday we will pull together and get ready for Chelski

  6. What we seem to lack is ambition and the body language on display today suggests that the team have reached the same conclusion.

  7. effort and endeavour was present at some points but distinctly lacking in key areas of the game.

    Man utd players were never scared to stretch for the ball whereas ours seemed to constantly treat it like a game of non contact 5 a side.

    Whether it was fear of being booked by an inept ref or an inability to play in the cold i dont know but losing 3 goals again to a rival is too hard to take

  8. Good to see a better analysed article. Miles ahead of those whiners who see a single loss as a hell dropping lose. It’s a loss after a long unbeaten run, any team does that. We can still challenge the title!

  9. good comments. Can’t blame denilson but he really shouldn’t be starting these games. Clichy-wtf has happened to you? Arshavin was more in the game, seemed to make more effort than usual but he almost tried too much ie trying to score rather than pass on those opening occasions.

    Letting in the first goal was a big blow because we pressed and panicked and they hit us on the counter to which we are susceptible.

  10. yet again more shit coming from another deluded person

  11. It has been clear for everyone except wenger that we need a striker even before Van persie was injured Abe was never replaced.
    It is quite clear we need a big strong midfielder Falmani never replaced.
    I could go on players lke Denilson are just not good enough are goalkeeper has been a liabilty for a long time
    my question is this knowing the problems why was a striker not signed on the 1st of Janauary?
    Why is Denilson and Almunia still playing ?
    Arshavin is a great player who carries and injury yet he is played out of position Bendtner is unfit the same can apply to ed my fear now is free full if we win nothing which we wont again Wenger has got to go a managrer is only as good as his last success

  12. I agree with most of your comments regarding Denilson, Clichy and Almunia but do believe that the latter’s positioning made him far from blameless for the opening goal. To say how much of a liability he has become is stating the obvious. Gallas and Vermaelen were among the better performers as you say but their cavalier charges upfield in open play contributed to our constant vulnerability to United’s counter attacking game. Given recent displays, I’m surprised no one has mentioned the fact that a defeat like this was on the cards. We had the rub of the green to get out of jail against a superior Everton side and late goals helped gloss over two average performances against Bolton. Throw in a couple of unconvincing FA Cup outings and it hardly augured well for the run of challenging fixtures we’re currently engaged in. I can’t therefore understand your complacency about our top four place. Yes, a win at Chelsea might revitalise things but a crushing defeat could see Man City breathing right down our necks while giving others in the chasing group genuine hope of clawing our advantage back. Dropping from being title contenders into a Europa League place would surely be seen as disastrous, whatever the pre-season expectations might have been.

  13. Kobst!

    Why can´t we blame Denilson?

    Two Sundays in a row now that he just didn´t care tracking back!

    Nooooo, don´t blame him. Give him another chance next Sunday and why not against Porto……he hasn´t done anything wrong.

  14. Wenger should have learnt from the defeat at stoke.Denilson,clinchy and almunia useless.if yo player throws a ball to a keeper, whats the point for the keeper kicking the ball away when he can actually catch it.SELFISH LITTLE RUSSIAN.It defies logic.

    The following fixtures will be as follows:defeat at chelsea, defeat at home by liverpool, defeat away by fc porto, defeat away at aston villa, draw at home with burnely,defeat away at birmingham,draw at home with sunderland.Forget it WENGER.YU ARE A WENGER.

  15. What is true is that we have are a team with a couple of players who have tasted success and man u are full of successful players. To get to that level we need quality experienced players. 3 probably. Not sure if Wenger would agree though.

  16. Thanks for your comments folks.

    Dilshan, Wenger actually said he would happily buy a striker who was cup tied this month, but sadly that hasn’t happened. I think we need it, but who is available? People keep talking about Chamakh, but Bordeaux won’t let him go, and he’s free in the summer.

    I’m no fan of Almunia but I’m not sure he was at fault for their first goal today – Nani’s cross was beautifully dinked and he had to reach it. That said, I think the defence have lost all confidence in him. The only reason I can think for him playing is that the rest are similarly rickety.

    Graham, I’m not complacent about a top four spot, but our goalscoring alone should see us there comfortably. No matter how poorly we are playing, we can score from anywhere, and most sides just can’t cope with that. Teams that challenge for the top four usually side by drawing silly games at teams near the bottom. We haven’t been doing that because they can’t keep us out. That’s the difference.

  17. And cheers for the messages of positivity. I also can’t stand the wave of doom and gloom that follows every defeat, and most of the draws. The world usually caves in at that point.

  18. Good article – constructive, when easy to be destructive.

  19. This is not the first time the gunners have been completely outplayed. I blame AW. I think his obssession with attack is costing Arsenal as he has not been shoring up the defence.The high defence line is to be blamed.
    Mu stayed in their own half and when the gunner attack breaks down,as it is inevitable with hordes of defenders, the red sweep forward with acres of space and is it any wonder they score.
    The gunners are trying to thread their way thru massed mines of defenders and while they can shoot,they have a more difficult task.
    Over to you,AW.

  20. Effort and endeavor there, yes with manu. Really, just a terrible match because it revealed that we are not good enough to beat manu, really bad because we don’t learn our lessons and our manager wont’ see it. Cesc is going to have to be paid twice what he currently makes just to stay with us. I couldn’t help laughing at all our pathetic crosses, who were we crossing to?

  21. Back to the future.

  22. What exactly is the point of spending any money now,we are clearly not good enough to win anything,let us wait for the summer,potentially we could earn up to 100 mil in transfers during the summer then we would have about 150 mil to spend and overhaul the squad completely.Yes,Cesc and Van Persie will be going along with some who should be kicked out.

  23. The real worrying thing is that over the last few seasons, the team has failed to produce on the occasions when it really matters be it Champions League, FA Cup or crucial league fixtures like today. Even when we have performed well in big games (such as Man United away earlier this campaign) we have seemed to lack the mental resolve to see the job through. Now as much as I hate admitting it, you can never level such an accusation against a side that Ferguson puts out. While we continue to be so brittle in this respect, it’s hard to see the team fully realising its potential and going on to secure the trophies that everyone craves.

  24. Wenger is vindicated?? How does another gutless display and thrashing against Man U and the failure to buy again vindicate Wenger? Are you retarded or something? It’s going to be another trophyless/medalless season with and we are going to struggle to finish 4th as the pundits predicted.

  25. We have flaws, but I’m not sure I agree with the notion that we attack too much overall. I would much rather we turned draws into wins, while risking defeat, than draw too much – you end up better off overall.

    The trouble is we need to be flexible to play a bit more cautiously in these games – United especially are set up to counter attack and we played into their hands today.

  26. Womble, the season of overachievement is the vindication, not today’s performance.

    Today’s performance shows there is still some way to go. I think we all know that.

    And no, we aren’t going to struggle to stay in the top four. Who is going to overtake us? City? Liverpool? Spurs?

  27. Most Gooners are frustrated, not so much that the team lost a game, but at the manner of the defeat, a recurring theme in the most crucial encounters for three years running. Whilst the most level-headed amongst us will see this as just one lost after a run of ten undefeated, it doesn’t obscure the fact that against the likes of Chelsea, ManU and City we are found seriously wanting. After last year’s performances, the manager had given assurances that maturity was imminent and the team was ready to make the next leap. In fact, he categorically stated that the reason for his reluctance in the transfer market was due to his unwavering belief in these players. After today’s performance you will have to forgive Gooner nation for been less than convinced. Perhaps in a couple of years when the Mancs are drowning in debt and Abramovich has bored of writing off Chelsea’s debt, we will look back with glee. Until then, we will have to learn to take our lumps on the road to glory.

  28. ..”forgive Gooner nation for being less than convinced”.

  29. Naivety? Try the Arsenal support for believing the constant horsesh%# that we can win anything! In a back alley brawl this arsenal squad would have ended up in the morgue.

  30. Out of all these comments iv read on here Sheila has hit the nail BANG on the head. Rooneys goal today is the exact same goal Arsenal conceded in the cl semi finals. They DO NOT LEARN!!

  31. Yet again arsenal manager bullshit us again. even the blind see the arsenal need a striker, need a attacking midfielder who can strike a ball outside the 18 yard box with deadly accuracy. we lack such a player. we can not have only two center backs playing all the games. both arsenal center backs look tired. they would run back to cover their position. they are not tall enough to be effective against manu. arsenal with never win anything until the manager changes his view. arsenal manager has arsenal by the balls.

  32. Thank god there’s at least one blogger out there who was watching the same game as me. Reading some of the sh*te that’s hit the net from “Gooners” the past few hours you’d think the entire game had been played in our half with the Manure defence able to take a 90-minute nap. We had plenty of chances, and United played VERY well (because they had to). With our shooting boots on we could have bagged 2 or 3 more goals ourselves, regardless of whether they came from strikers or midfielders, but today was not our day. Thanks for the more measured insight. It’s on days like this we can tell the blogs written by plastics from the ones written by real supporters.

  33. The devastation of this defeat goes far deeper then being “only” clinically demolished at home by your fiercest rival and most likely folding in the title race; Rather what stared right out of the painful/subdued/grieved post-match face of Wenger was the half-recognition that even if the project is magnificent and bold the personal and execution is definitely not progressing and is flawed in gaping ways.

  34. Arsene now looks ever more like a pathological gambler on a loosing streak, the more he looses over time (season after season after season) the higher the irrational stake he is putting down ( the stubborn uncompromising insistence). I seriously wonder and what stage Fabregas will loose his trust and belief in the way of the great man and patron. not too very long any reasonable person should think .

  35. The Emirates is Arsenal’s home but it has also become the arena in which Manchester United and Chelsea vie with one another!!!

  36. Worse: The Emirates became the ‘big 2’ Theater of Dreams

  37. Certain supporters are excusing this loss saying we ‘were tactically poor’, thanks for the humour, yeah we lost tactically the moment we took to the pitch. We’re a top four side, anything more is a pipe dream.

  38. Maybe we should rent out our big fancy stadium to the chavs/mancs/whoever. Think about it, we could make more money that way.

  39. ‘Tactical naive/poor’ what does that mean?. We turned to a 4-3-3 this year, a system that was considered naive, till Barca implemented it, modified, to great effect, demolishing Manu,and subduing the Blues.the difference is that we do not have the personal to really execute it well. We are a passing team, but NOT a great passing team ,sorry, fact, Barca controls games first of all by controlling middle third, we simply do not have the ability to do that regularly.Barca perfected the art of pressing, hurrying the opposition in their own half into mistakes and regaining possession right there before a counter develops. We almost never do that. incredibly. Barca also sends often a CD up (pujol OR pique),but when a CD goes up there is always cover of the other one+left back +DM.you rarely see Busquet or Toure desperately forced to score goals.If offensive speedy Keita plays (out Diaby, say) there is always extra cover. Of course you need that brave strong keeper that Wenger ludicrously thinks is redundant. and most of all you need a target man. not for nothing Ibra came instead of Eto’. the feeling was that a pivot, strong and technical at the same time, is the foil for the hobbits to play off and around.Who is ours?. Fabregas tries, forced, to be Xavi and Iniesta in one. he has no partner in midfield.Idealy it should be Ramsey , but he not at that level yet, I wonder why Nasri is not tried there more often. In anycase for all practical purposes with Denilson who has no role or particular qualities we play with 10 men, and weakened Midfield. It is all very flawed application of a system arrogantly and foolishly pursued. It may work against the minnows, sometimes barely, but not against the big guns,who always punish us in the same way. Wenger for all his impressive genius,is a very stubborn man.HE is admired as talent digger, but is he all the way?, not really, and how much can you get on the cheap, for a while we thought he really has no money, but that is evidently not true. There is a willfulness of conviction verging on Hybris. no other words to describe the desperate state he leads this club ‘Footbalistically” even if not financially…

  40. Just a reminder, Denilson also lack of desire and hunger when he was playing against Stoke, he NEVER tried to pace their winger and led to their second goal.

  41. There is quite a contrast of opinions here, isn’t there? As an optimist, I do find it faintly amusing that:

    a) We judge the character of a title winning side by how well they bounce back from a defeat
    b) We insist that our players must not let a defeat hang over them, yet
    c) The minute we lose a match, half the ‘support’ throws in the towel.

  42. The club’s management has thrown in the towel as evidenced by yet another shocking display that can only lead a reasonable person to conclude we’re not good enough, yet the support keeps showing up anyway to watch this tragic facade. The support is more sincere, honest and true, management has failed us.

  43. Peter, how on earth has management thrown in the towel? That is a crazy thing to say. Who exactly in ‘management’ has done this?

  44. Pete, just open your eyes mate, it’s just in front of you.

  45. No it isn’t. I can’t see how you can say management have thrown in the towel. Wenger looked furious after the match, is that throwing in the towel?

    There’s a big difference between a team playing badly, and everyone giving up. What I saw on the pitch was a refusal to stop playing – the last half an hour was our best. I know the game was lost by then, but if the players had given up, we wouldn’t have created anything.

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