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Manchester United 1 Arsenal 0

Thanks to the feckless dregs at Sky Sports, it was another obscure kick off for yet another away match. I'm not really sure where the appeal lay in a broader marketing sense for Sky by putting this on a Monday night, but I'm sure one of the stuffed suits- probably some Home Counties bod named Jeremy- had their reasons. Still, it was a good excuse to bag a couple of days off work, so thanks to the dark overlords at sky towers. I salute you dark overlords and offer up my alcohol blighted blood as a sacrifice. Chin, chin. Rumours abound as we made the journey North that Wojciech Szczesny would be handed his debut in light of a leg injury to Fabianski, meanwhile we awaited news as to whether our captain would be fit to take part.
Following an untroubled journey up the M1, we were ready to sample Old Trafford for the first time in 16 months. With the venue's propensity for holding games other than Manchester United v Arsenal, I don't ever recall such a pregnant pause between trips there. As we supped overpriced, watery Worthingtons in the concourse, the rumours were confirmed that Szczesny started in goal, whilst Cesc and van Persie started on the bench. The game began and it was United who were swifter out of the blocks, establishing a high octane pressing game from the start, allowing us no time to build any rhythm in our passing from the back. However, though United penned Arsenal in somewhat, they didn't create much. Rooney was allowed to take down van der Sar's long clearance, twist and test Szczesny's nerve with a long range shot. Koscielny and Squillaci didn't allow Rooney anything approaching that amount of good grace for the rest of the game, marshalling him fairly comfortably. The home side might well have broken the deadlock when Flecther's cross was met with a poor headed clearance from Squillaci, falling invitingly for Nani, who for once didn't greet the arrival of the ball with a triple pike and a look of teary eyed toddler anguish on his face, instead fizzing a low volley just wide with Szczesny well beaten.
The game drifted rather soporifically, with the likes of Arshavin, Nasri and Rooney struggling to influence the game. The midfield was something of a spaghetti junction, the ball breaking loose due to poor passing or poor control. The triumvirate of Wilshere, Song and Rosicky never got a handle on the game. Rosicky looked caught between his defensive conscience and his supposed adoption of the Cesc role and ended up neither attacking or defending with any great purpose. Wilshere struggled both with his footwear and with Fletcher and Anderson snapping at his heels and denying him space. It was a war of attrition until the 41st minute, Nani danced down the right with Clichy in attendance, Nani's cross took a wicked deflection off of Clichy's heel, looping over the heads of Squillaci and Koscielny. Park Ji Sung readjusted his body and craned his neck, agonisingly heading the ball in off the post. It was a cruel blow, neither side deserved a goal. United began to turn the screw as half time loomed, Webb complied with the constant haranguing from United players as he very harshly booked Chamakh. Nani's deplorable amateur dramatics hoodwinking the gullible Webb into the caution. Evra had harangued Webb three minutes earlier after Chamakh breathed on him, whilst Darren Fletcher stopped just short of physically assaulting Webb without reprisal. A far harsher indictment of the referee's lack of gall, came not from the visiting fans that serenaded him with 'Fergie's rent boy', but rather the home fans that gleefully chanted, 'We're Man United and we do what we want.' Having the piss taken out of you by the very masters you're pleasing is about as stark an indictment on one's character as it is possible to receive.
But at half time you felt this was a big test for Arsenal, shut out by United's defence quite comprehensively, they would need to find a way through and maintain a semblance of solidarity at the back too. Rosicky dragged a shot just wide as the Gunners promised to begin the half in good spirits. Meanwhile, Szczesny was called into action when Rooney's pass ricocheted to Anderson in the area, but the big Pole was out swiftly at Anderson's feet to smother. A great piece of anticipation.
Arsenal soon carved out their only gilt edged chance of the game. Nasri jinked into some space on the edge of the area, his low shot was clawed out by van der Sar and Chamakh was swift to the follow up, but the ball was just behind him and as he dug it goalwards, Nemanja Vidic came back with an excellent block. Chamakh might possibly have feinted inside and opened up the angle, but the ball was behind him and not really in his control. Wenger sent for reinforcements with van Persie and Fabregas replacing Wilshere and Rosicky. van Persie was erroneously placed into a central midfield position that I hope never to see him in again. Our best finisher should be in the penalty area, not scouring the centre circle. That said, he rather fluffed his lines in the box when Sagna's delivery for once evaded the water tight duo of Vidic and Ferdinand and found van Persie, but the arrival of the ball came as a surprise and he couldn't quite swing his leg and yield the contact that would have drawn a certain goal.
But with Arsenal pressing to little avail, United had the chance to bury the game in the 72nd minute. Nani took on Clichy and Clichy fell to the floor, the linesman furiously flagged for a penalty. I have seen no highlights and genuinely could not have been worse positioned to see it, the infringement took place in the South West corner of the ground and we were in the North East corner, so I cannot make any claims about the award one way or the other. What I can say, is that Rooney's resulting run up and spot kick were even worse than Rosicky's effort at Sunderland. The ball sailed a good three yards over the bar and high into the Stretford End. The Gunners were still in it, but United's defence was still on top, with two banks of four in front of Arsenal's slow, deliberate passing. United looked for long balls on the break and nearly brought reward when Rooney went scampering away onto van der Sar's long kick, he clipped the ball seemingly over Szczesny from the edge of the area, but Szczesny revealed go, go Gadget arms to tip the ball away from danger. Arsenal could only muster one last attempt in injury time, Chamakh headed Nasri's cross down to Walcott, who had time and space for the volley but inexplicably leaned back under no pressure and skied his volley. An appalling piece of technique from a top flight player.
In the end, it was a game with little to stir the soul, the defences were very much on top. United got themselves a goal through slightly fortuitous circumstances, but they took their big chance. Chamakh couldn't take ours. The difference between the teams was that ultimately, we defended very well, United defended superbly. The reason United are able to keep us at arm's length at the moment is not sue to any tactical deficiency, or lack of winning mentality or any other prescribed nonsense. They are just a slightly better team than we are. We couldn't trouble Ferdinand and Vidic. Most teams don't trouble those two when they play together. It's not as if United carved us open at will, but they got themselves a goal to sit back on and they did it expertly. The game rather sums up our position, we're the third best team in England, probably the 5-6th best in Europe. Whilst we all want to be numero uno, it's no reason to get in a hot bath and open our wrists. The game and the result were blows to our title challenge but not mortal wounds. There's plenty to suggest we'll have our say in the race. I don't expect us to win it and never really did, just that we'd be there or there abouts. For us to win it we'll likely have to flat track bully our way to it, but the way results have gone this season, it's more viable this year than it ever has been. We're down, but we're not out.LD.
53.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 18.SQUILLACI, 6.KOSCIELNY, 22.CLICHY, 17.SONG, 19.WILSHERE (4.Fabregas '62), 7.ROSICKY(c) (10.v.Persie '62), 8.NASRI, 23.ARSHAVIN (14.Walcott '76), 29.CHAMAKH. Unused: 15.Denilson, 20.Djourou, 21.Fabianski, 52.Bendtner.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday December 14 2010

Time: 4:33PM

Your Comments

Well said LD, although the formatting seems to have gone a bit haywire. After getting back at 3am this morning, I have spent most of the day in a fug and have just watched the highlights. Clichy could do absolutely nothing for the penalty- Nani just kicked the ball at the arm that Clichy was trying to use to stand up. Ridiculous piece of refereeing..... As for the game, you're right, we just didn't create enough to merit a win. My main bugbear from last night was that (a very average) Rosicky was played in Cesc's position when we have Nasri who is a) in the best form of his career and b) desperate to play there. Poor management, plain and simple.
They are just better than us. That must be it. We might as well give up and go home then. LD, as I've said before I don't agree with you about our defending. By defending I mean more than the back four. And even there I thought Clichy was too easily outmuscled. I think the right changes could bring the title our way but have no confidence they'll happen soon. But honestly...don't you have a problem with fact that we created just one chance in the entire game? Do you have any opinions on why that was? Was United's defence so utterly impregnable?
Wyn Mills
Well they are aren't they? They keep beating us and keep finishing above us. Why does everyone think we have a divine right to win every thing and every game? It really is as simple as that, that performance last night would have beaten pretty much every other side in the Premiership with the exception of Chelsea. That's the way it is, United have a superb defence and they showed it last night. Have you seen United's results at Old Trafford this year? Do you know how many goals they've conceded there? What would you have me do about it? Suicide? Chain myself to the Clock End bridge until we win the league again? Dirty protest in the Diamond Club? Nani completed one cross in the game, it was deflected. It's very vodue to have a dig at Clichy at the moment but he didn't do an awful lot wrong. Wilshere was over run and out of his depth in the middle, but he's a golden child so no one says it.
Little Dutch
It was the linesman that called the penalty. I don't know how he could have seen it as anything other than ball to hand though. ManU are by some distance the top scorers at home so far this season. When you think of the relatively few chances they had then our defensive performance as a team couldn't have been poor. Their defensive record at home is also pretty sharp. It's always disappointing to lose but LD is right to say we haven't yet been dealt any fatal wounds.
We don't do fatal wounds, we do death by a thousand cuts. Re the "divine right" - there is a lot of that, granted, not helped by the club's warped messages to us, but the frustration can be a lot of the time based on this is possibly the worst Utd side i've seen for a long time, and possibly the worst Arsenal side i've seen since end of Graham's reign.
United might not have the billboard superstars they used to, but as a team they're as strong as they ever were. You don't go top of the league unbeaten without playing too well without being a great side. We all know they hit form around February. They just know how it's done. I think we have a better team now than we did from around 2005-07, but hey ho, it's all subjective.
Little Dutch
the fact of the matter is that this was a poor match by the top 2 teams in the premiership.arsenal only play fancy football against the weaker teams and man utd are justing scraping by by the ass of their pants.the price of tickets for a match and they have to sit and watch this dross.its about time ferguson and wenger and a lot of other managers realise that their teams are supposed to entertain the fans,not kick lumps out of each other and scrape 1 nil wins
johnney handsome
Yes, Arsenal and Unted are often accused of being hacking hoofball merchants........
Little Dutch
United are better than us, we don't have a divine right to win titles but what are we doing to close the gap?
Agree with LD we have to accept that MU and Chelsea are just better than us. The effort and commitment was every bit as good as MU's but they know how to nullify our passing game. One criticism - why does Arsene always try to pull a major tactical change for MU or Chelsea games i.e why were Rosicky and Nasri swapped when they have played the reverse roles for pretty much every game this season?
In fairness, that was how we lined up against Fulham, Nasri right, Rosicky central. I think too many runners and not enough riders. Nasri, Arshavin and Rosicky can all carry the ball and deliver a pass, but we needed someone to pull Vidic and Rio about a bit. Cesc and van Persie make runs in behind defences. So why we put RvP in midfield when he came on I'll never know. It was a complete waste.
Little Dutch
I agree with the report on the whole, it's not easy breaking down the MU team when they are set up to defend like that. Our best chance of scoring would have been through crossing or long range efforts. Clichy and Sagna's crossing were poor and we seemed reluctant to shoot from long range as usual. I thought Wilshere was one of our better players however and Szczesny did well apart from his distribution.
I have to wonder what happened to our MF this game? Song 1/3 tackles successful, Wilshire 2/2, Rocky 1/2... all told 4 of 7, yes only 7 tackles even attempted... Park alone had more both attempted and succesful than our entire midfield (5/8). We seemed way too passive, not even attempting to go for many 50-50 balls
Every year we play Man U, they disrupt our passing in midfield, and we keep flogging a dead horse as usual. Fergie has worked out the tactical approach to beat us, so why do we stick to the same approach every single time? Did a single Arsenal attacker ever get behind the ManU defense even once in this game? We seem to think the game is won by passing sideways in midfield. I remember the days when we were a devastating counter-attacking team with a real cutting-edge up front; that seems like a long time ago.
TBH 1-0 at Man Utd against 12 men doesnt look bad on paper. We get bent over every time we play there it seems and i know you do too. I thought you were poor though almost as bad as Arsene's post match excuse :)
We've all heard alot of Arsene's post match excuses over the past few years, some much more valid than others, but last night's 'pitch' excuse was proably the worst of them all.
on the other hand, we've already been to anfield OT and SB this season
Excellent summary in your last para LD. Exactly where I feel this team is. It was not a bad performance overall, our defence stood up quite well. What let us down was our usual passing game, no creativity from Nasri & Roscicky, and too many misplaced passes to get into any sort of rhythm. ManU were the better team on the day, but not by much.
Wenger, at no point, but the defeat down to the pitch. He said the pitch was bad, which it was, but he didn't say it's why we lost. He said United suffered because of the pitch too. Interesting how nobody mentions the three or four times Wenger credited United's defence and instead focussed on that. On the tackling front in midfield, that is pretty bad and reinforces my impression that Wilshere and Rosicky were over run in particular. I somehow doubt the stat quoted for Song, I am certain I can remember more tackles from him, in my head, just thinking about it I am certain I can. However, if people are being fair (which they won't be), they'll mention that Arshavin put more tackles in than any of our other midfielders.
Little Dutch
"The technical quality of the game was very average ON BOTH SIDES because the pitch was so poor in my opinion and the game suffered a lot from it. It was bouncy and slippery," said the Arsenal manager. "The technical quality suffered from a very bad pitch and BOTH SIDES made technical mistakes." Jesus.......
Little Dutch
In my view, United got lucky with the goal but that happens. They packed the defence with no space between midfield and defence and there was no way a cross would evade Rio or Vidic. There was no point crossing the ball and we were not sharp enough to create clear cut chances. I think had it been been barca, they would have increased the tempo of their passes and the number of runs to pull the ManU players out of position. We need to learn how to play against tight lines, and we just don't. Where are Rosicky's shooting boots? I think unfortunately, we don't seem to tailor our game plan to the quality opposition and we always pay for that against the top teams. Last year we tried an open game against barca and got trashed. Sometimes, Arsene just has to accept the other team is superior and devise a plan to beat them, like mourinho does time and again. He may have lost 5-0 to Barca but if they meet in the CL final, i wouldn't bet against Real.
Don't expect anyone to consider what Wenger says in context LD - let alone read or recall whole sentences. Many commenting on football will only ever have the sound bite in mind: "Wenger says OT pitch was poor" = "Wenger blames defeat on pitch". Truth is always having to play catch up and usually doesn't make it.
Listen, the point is, as Krismon so elegantly states above, we rarely vary our tactics against our main rivals. Basically Wenger approaches both the Utd and Chelsea matches saying 'we're going to play our way and ignore the way the opposition is set up.' For me that is a tactical weakness. You have all admitted as much in criticizing the placement of RVP. Tell me, why even bother playing Chamakh if we are not putting balls onto his head? Utd's tactic against us are the same year after year. Flood the midfield with hard working grafters like Fletcher, Park, Anderson..etc,etc. The basic idea, I'm sure everyone knows by now, is to disrupt our lovely tippy-tappy passing game in midfield. And yet Wenger had STILL not devised a counter tactic to this. I'm not the Arsenal manager so I wouldn't presume to tell him how to run the team, but I would EXPECT him to have an answer to this after years of coming second, third and also fourth best, with all the resources he has at his disposal. We had one beautifully weighted cross by Arshavin I think in the first half that Chamakh almost connected with. Thereafter....nothing, until Walcott put in a decent cross near the end. What the hell is going on? Do we totally eschew route one football now? I know its good to play nice tippy tappy football, but what about the result? The pitch is poor, so bloody well adapt to the conditions rather than moan about it. We're not going to play on bowling greens every week.
Wyn Mills
Too many people here content with 3rd and 4th place. We have no divine right to win, but at the same time nothing is written in stone. Utd have a good defence, but we should have an even better attack.
Wyn Mills
Wilshire was hung out to dry by Song, who wants to be Dennis Bergkamp these days rather than the holding midfielder he is. Jack is 18 years old in his first full season so, like many other gooners, I'm willing to cut him some slack. Personally I find Song clumsy, slow and unimaginative. Can't tackle. Can't head. But hey ho, its all subjective.
Wyn Mills
We put dozens of crosses in, fact is Ferdinand and Vidic swept them all up. Because they're good defenders and their positioning was good. It strikes me a lot of people are content to vent with regards the problem, but can't suggest an answer. Going direct wouldn't have done much as United usually had 8 players on the edge of their area. Fact is, whatever we do tactically, United are a great team and it's not as easy as "go route one and we'll win" because United have excellent players too. Whether or not fans are "content" with 3rd or 4th is irrelevant, what does that even mean? What am I going to do about it? I would hope the players aren't content with it, but I guess I just don't kill myself worrying whether we finish 3rd or 4th. This win at all costs, I, me, mine, entitlement culture amongst fans is really beginning to grate. Even at away games I hear the stupidest, most ill informed drivel. People used to have fun watching football, you used to hear witty, comedic jibes even during the worst games. I guess now football truly has been absorbed by the entertainment industry and the supporters have followed it. Supporters of the top 4 clubs in the land seem, ironically, to be the most miserablist, discontented lot of football fans.
Little Dutch
What a specious argument that is! Who is content with 3rd or 4th place? If you really think that lobbing long balls onto the head of Chamakh is going to yield any positive results against Vidic and Ferdinand then you aren't really in the best position to criticise Wengers tactical shortcomings. Against the team with the best home record and home goals for record plus one of the tightest home defences tactically we had as many chances on target as they did while at the same time restricting them to no more than us. Nothing that took place on Monday says we got our tactics wrong despite the result. We were very close to them but it was a failure in execution of our tactics rather than the tactics themselves that led to a narrow defeat against a good team.
Was the Utd goal lucky? Really? Seemed to me Park got himself in the right position at the right time. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Bad luck is when a ball is heading away from your goal and it rebounds off your own player into the net. You make your own luck in other words. When are people going to admit we just need to up our game, rather than trying to find other excuses for why we lost? What will it be against Chelsea? The dressing room was too warm?
Wyn Mills
Park's finish was excellent - but he was lucky that the deflected cross found it's way to him. Nobody has argued anything other than we fell short, narrowly in my view, away to a good team. When are people going to stop inventing arguments that nobody has made in order to disagree with it?
LD, I'm not expecting you to do anything about it. Slashing your wrists certainly won't help! ;0) You accuse fans of having an entitlement culture, but what about the players? We are being asked to fork out more and more to satisfy dizzying levels of pay and I think its only right some fans expect some kind of playback. I'm not so young a fan that I don't remember the old days, watching the 1971 cup final and falling in love with this team. I've been through the dark days. I know how good we have it now. But it does not stop me wanting more for this mob. And you should too.
Wyn Mills
Amos, I wasn't proposing long balls to Chamakh. Better quality crosses into the box from wide play more like. LD reckons we put dozens of crosses in. He must have been watching a different match to me. Or perhaps his idea of a good cross differs slightly from mine.
Wyn Mills
LD, I saw some attempted crosses that didn't clear first defender, and some bad crosses. Certainly not dozens. With such an awful pitch did Wenger really expect his one-touch passing game to prevail? Were we really going to thread it through the entire United defence? The OT pitch is crap. Why do you think United score so many goals at home from headers and goal mouth scrambles?
Wyn Mills
HY, we have a vastly superior head to head record against United compared to Spurs's record. In the last 31 meetings between us the ratio of wins is 17:14 in their favour. Its our results over the last 3 years that is dissapointing and not the overall record.
I don't like referring to newspaper articles generally but I agree with Kevin McCarra's piece yesterday when he opines that part of this defeat was in fact self-inflicted.
Wyn Mills
LD I cant agree more about your views on the current mindsets of fans of the top 4 teams. Some of them one could actually imagine going on a wrist slashing frenzy after a dissapointing loss. It seems a social problem at some level as well. Their club support seems to be the majority of their identity and the reflected glory from their club's seems essential to their self esteem. Indeed a sad scenario.
If club support wasn't a major part of our lives most of us wouldn't be spending half our time on here writing articles and talking about the team. Please don't preach to the rest of us. This is a discussion board. Or at least I thought it was.
Wyn Mills
Johnny Nic over at F365 has just written a book and I read it this weekend. In one chapter, he basically says he really enjoys supporting Middlesbrough, because he feels he can have fun at games and, due to their mediocrity, victories are treated with cheer and defeats with humour and perspective. He wrote something very telling about how supporters of smaller sides laugh at "Big 4" fans for the hysteria in their behaviour. It is a culture of entitlement and a social malaise. One only must look at the students currently rioting in London due to a lack of handouts to see the entitlement culture is alive and well. As for being more direct, well if the crosses were rubbish, I doubt circumspect long balls would have been much better. Chamakh is good in the air but doesn't have enough to beat five or six United players on his own. I have a mild irritation with putting RvP in midfield when he is 10x more effective up front, working space and pulling centre halves about. As for wanting more, of course I want more. I wanted more when we won the league unbeaten. I'll want more until Arsenal win every single game in every competition 10-0. Even then I'll want us to win every game 11-0. The point is, I can't affect it, it's not politics, so I'm not going to kill myself over it.
Little Dutch
Was not talking about you Wyn but you seem to be spoiling for a argument today. In any case nobody is asking you to not discuss things. Some people here see the game and club differently to you if you can deal with that.
I'm not killing myself over it. Its football and I enjoy it. Doesn't stop me from having an opinion and wanting to analyse why we lost. And that in turn doesn't make me some socially maladjusted entitlement junkie. I'm happy for Johnny Nic. Perhaps he might think differently if he had to fork out over a grand per season though.
Wyn Mills
LD, I admire the fact that despite investing a significant amount of your emotional energy, time and money by supporting the club home and away all year, season after season you still haven't lost your ability to enjoy the game and see it in the right perspective.
DF, fair enough. I have no problem disagreeing with others. It happens. We all have our own opinions. Some have questions but no answers. Others have answers but no questions. We're all fans.
Wyn Mills
A high cross is only a long ball from a wide position. It's often pretty speculative and food and drink for players like Vidic and Ferdinand. The most devastating crosses can be deflected ones. McCarra's piece is pretty typical of sports journalism that relies on reacting to and analysing results rather than performances. In the end results are what it's all about but then there is no need for such pretentious assumptions of psychological defects.
Amos, you have just stated that deflected crosses can be the most devastating and earlier implied that Park's goal was lucky because of the deflection. So they are both devastating and lucky. Well, I used to think most of Lampard's goals were lucky, but now I realise he was playing the percentages. And they all count. Crosses can indeed be devastating because there is an increased element of chance involved, especially if the cross is fast and flat.
Wyn Mills
I apologise if my opinions irritate. I saw Monday's game as a pivotal one in our season. I thought the players and coaching staff would pull out all the stops to take advantage. In my view they didn't. I was hoping to see critical self-analysis, not someone blaming the pitch or berating the officials. At least Nasri has the balls to come out and say it. Too much focus on style, not enough on substance. Doesn't mean I'm going off to top myself. I will be screaming the team on at Stoke. But don't ask me to be happy when we lose.
Wyn Mills
Luck is random. Deflections can be lucky or not. But if you're really claiming that our game would benefit from playing the percentages then maybe you should be championing Allardyce's appointment in place of Wenger - or some other advocate of the 'position of maximum opportunity' style of play. Monday's game would have been a very good game to win but it wasn't really pivotal - and once more, nobody has blamed the pitch for the result.
I'm all for analysis and looking at the reasons why we've lost a game. I usually try to do it in detail. But I genuinely don't think there's a lot more to it than United are a slightly better team and edged a very tight contest. There was no real fault for the goal and the pen (which I have now seen) should not have been given. Therefore, I can't really analyse or apportion blame in depth for either of United's genuine chances. Neither team gave much away. United took advantage of a piece of fortune in our area, we were unable to do the same. I don't think it goes an awful lot deeper than that on this occasion.
Little Dutch
Arsenal have become predictable and too easy to manage for the better teams. It's really very simple: let them have the ball, and then hit them on the break. They've got a soft center, exploit it. I don't think it's unreasonable after five years for Arsenal fans to politely ask why that problem, so blatently obvious to all and sundry, hasn't been addressed. I don't think it's got anything to do with a 'culture of entitlement' at all. A culture of entitlement? Have you been reading The Daily Mail again LD? The difference between the big clubs and the small clubs is the big clubs demand results, and that is how it should be, should it not? Maybe you're advocating a small club mentality at Arsenal? Well, your main target this year is The Carling Cup...
Tony Rocky Horror
TRH, what you say and think is of no interest to me. Don't address me again.
Little Dutch
Childish prosaic nonsense again TRH. Our record over a long period of time shows that the 'better teams' you refer to are only Chelsea and ManU who have also been better than any other PL team in the last 5 years - we've consistently been the best of the rest since Abramovich started spending big money. Of course we demand results but as of the present we are the only big club still in all 4 competitions - as we're entitled to be.
Tell us how to beat United TRH, spill the beans, tell us what method you used the last time you won there when Gary Lineker scored the winner......
Lol Iceman!
Poor old Wyn. For the record I agree with you. Our inability to come up with an alternative approach when we plod around in front of the opposition’s penalty area is a pattern that we see regularly. Our failed performances often see us with the majority of the possession kept out by a resolute defence without many attempts on target. This is followed by a sucker punch of a goal conceded because we are entrenched in the oppositions half. It is repetitive to the extent that it is predictable. Old Trafford is merely an example of the latest manifestation of the problem and should not be looked at in isolation. With all due respect to ‘borough they are not contenders at the pinnacle of European football and manage their expectations accordingly. Arsenal Football Club on the other hand, as one of the top five or six teams in Europe, have a fan base that also set their expectations accordingly and as such I think we’re entitled to ask the question why Arsene seems unable to solve our little problem. Like politics, footbalI plays a big part in people’s lives, albeit on at different levels, but I would hate to think that people approach politics with the same passive acceptance as I have read here. We all want to see improvement don’t we?
Sir Henry
The spine of our team is weak, physically I mean. We lack the steel. Manu have been playing physically against us, and doing it very well indeed. We need to bring in players that can add a bit of steel to our team both in defense and attack and then we might overpower them and Chelsea.
I can understand the fans frustration. It seems to always be the same the story, the scoreline was a little kinder this time but could easily have been the usual heavy or emphatic defeat. But I don't understand why the same fans who were predicting at the start of the season that we would fall out of the top four are complaining about us not staying at the top of the league.
17 fouls suggests we were hardly steamrolled in the spine! Re: the football/ politics comparison. That's the point I made, people should strive to change things and make their voices heard. With football, the same tools aren't available. There's only one form of affirmative action and that's to keep the wallet closed. In politics, you can and should try to change things. Realistically, a demonstration outside the Diamond Club because we're not quite as good as United won't cut much ice.
Little Dutch
It would be logical that every fan of AFC wants to see improvement because winning every game your club plays is the dream. Is dissapointment and a quiet realisation that the team is just a bit short of big trophy winning quality passive acceptance? Is the better option to vent one's bile for days together on the team, club and manager's shortcomings? Considering that both options lead to the same outcome the former option is better as one's mental health is not ruined.
I'm coming back at this late LD, but why does Arsene even need to say the pitch was bad? I knew he didn't specifically blame the pitch, but he still shouldn't have mentioned it, despite it's obvious flaws. Sure, he was probably asked about the players slipping on the surface, but, after a losing another game against the top two, he should have just talked about his team and nothing else. Don't answer that question because the reporter doesn't care. We've criticised some of our players about press management throughout the years, and perhaps Wenger needs some training in the subject too.
I don't think he was asked about players slipping. He just offered that as an explanation as to why the technical level of the match was low, and by extension why perhaps we lost. He was making an excuse and many have seen through it. Wenger isn't stupid, but it irritates me that sometimes he thinks we fans are. We lost because we could not pass our way through Utd's defence. One either takes the view that Utd's defence is impregnable and we should berate our luck, or you ask questions about our ability to break down stubborn defences by playing differently. Are we going to shrug our shoulders every time we come up against a stubborn defence?
Wyn Mills
Why shouldn't he mention it? It's true isn't it? He said the technical quality of the game suffered on both sides due to a poor pitch. Both sides have superb technical players but both sides gave the ball away a hell of a lot. I think it was a reasonable point to make. The man should be able to make salient points and if people want to wantonly misunderstand them, well, ********* to them, they're either too thick to see the point or they simply don't want to. If people want to actually read what AW said he effusively praised United's defence. He didn't bitch about the ref or the incorrect penalty. The manager shouldn't have to play to the gallery of dribbling idiots, in any case, there's no point. Either people aren't smart enough to see it or they don't want to. Either way there's no legislating and nor should he, or anyone, pander to vacuous tabloid rubbish.
Little Dutch
Lighten up LD. No need to get personal. These days Wenger never fails to compliment his opponents. He has learned that it helps to deflect accusations of being a sore loser. I have no problems with Wenger being a sore loser. In fact I'm happy that he is. But come on, is this the first time his team have had to cope with a bad pitch? Do Utd make a big deal of it, given that they are so superb technically? No, they devise a strategy to overcome teams like ours on it. If this had been a result in isolation I'd have more sympathy with him. But Utd have beaten us on our own bowling green pitch using exactly the same tactical approach. One has to start asking questions.
Wyn Mills
Just like Drogba not doing a lot the other year, Wenger rarely does himselve any favours in post game loss interviews.
How bad is the Old trafford pitch? If its bad for technical teams then that should even it up for less lights like Blackburn.......I saw a few players slip but not much else, it was hardly a Wembley type surface, it was probably not even worth a mention.
I fail to see where I got personal. Again, the Drogba comment was that he doesn't seem to be doing a lot but then he scores just when you think he's not in thew game. He then explicitly compared him to Jimmy Greaves and Henry in that respect. Like I say, the context and full quote is there for those that want to see it. I don't know how it transmitted on TV, but it did look pretty poor at pitch level. It looked a bit like they were playing with a rugby ball such was the bounce. It was certainly commented on in our section anyway. United would be able to devise a strategy because they play on it every week, we don't see it until about 2 hours before kick off. United's strategy seemed to be not to use it and to go for the high balls, which is fair enough. But again, that presupposes we were somehow massively tactically outfoxed which, had we been mullered like we were at the Emirates for the last couple of seasons or the flattering 1-0 defeat at OT in the Champions League, I would agree with, I just don't think we were on this occasion. United's passing wasn't any better than ours.
Little Dutch
Well, its common knowledge that rugby is in fact played at OT so perhaps it shouldn't be such a surprise to us. I just thought the pitch reference was a red herring. It has never been a particular good surface at OT so why does it warrant special mention now? The question Wenger was asked was did he feel his team had done enough to get something from the game. He chose to absolve his players.
Wyn Mills
The technical quality of the game suffered because both teams played very good defence, not because the pitch was bad. United got one lucky break to win the game, and we didn't. But since it's now 11 straight matches without a win against the top 2, including 10 losses, there have to be deeper problems than just bad luck. I don't know how to fix those problems, but I'm also not the manager of Arsenal.
Therein lies the problem I think, because of our record against United in recent times, people refuse to take the game in isolation. The game was a tight one that we lost on small margins. Had we drawn against them in January for instance, nobody would even be asking these inane questions. It oes like this, it was an even game, United got a break and took advantage of it. Simple as that.
Little Dutch
With respect LD, it's hard to take the ManU game in isolation because it was a repeat of almost every other recent game we've had against ManU. Pass a lot without creating much, and fluff the few chances we do get. I think you are one of the few who would consider it an even game; their goal may have been lucky, but they shaded us in every area. If not for some good saves from the keeper and a couple of near-misses from Nani, the score would have been even more humbling for us. I'd say we played like a mid-table team, except that mid-table teams beat the big 2 more often that we do.
Recent Man Utd games have been absolute pastings. The last two games at home, the 1-0 defeat at OT in Europe when it should have been five or six. I don't see how this was similar to any recent United game I can remember. When we lost at OT in the league last year we dominated the game, but couldn't handle the pressure and shot ourselves in the foot. I think people are possibly confusing United with Chelsea in their eagerness to to merge our record against the two teams together. Both teams registered the same amount of shots on target, similar possession, similar pass completion stats. I don't deny United edged it, but they edged it because of how they defended, not how they attacked. But it was an even game in just about every respect I can think of, it felt like it at the time, it felt like it viewing the game back and the numbers suggest it was. I think we played like the team that's the 3rd best in the country, but we were away to the best team in the country.
Little Dutch
Why is it hard to take the game in isolation? That's exactly what we should be doing. It certainly wasn't a repeat of every other recent game against them. This was as evenly matched a game, playing away from home against them, as we've had for a time. They are a good side and have only lost 7 times at home in the PL in the last 5 seasons. It's also incorrect to say that our record against them at OT is worse than anyone elses. 7 different teams recorded away wins there in those 5 seasons. We were one of them. We've won at OT as often as Chelsea, Liverpool or Man City in that time.
If not for Rooney curiously skying his penalty kick and Szczesny tipping away his chip we'd have come away with a 3-0 loss, another pasting regardless of any passing or possession stats. The important stat will always be attempts on goal – and that includes blocked shots as well as shots on target where Utd clearly come out on top. Ferguson has certainly worked out during recent victories against us that our achilles heel is we tend to stick rigidly to our passing game. I'm not advocating a switch to long ball, but we have to be less predictable than that at times. If we lack anything in comparison to the Utds and Chelseas I’d say it’s belief and application. Why am I so cheesed off about the result? Wenger himself said before the game about it’s importance: “It’s more psychological for the rest of the season than a decider mathematically.” Amen to that.
Wyn Mills
You can play the what if game all day long. What if Nani's cross wasn't deflected? What if Vidic hadn't blocked Chamakh's attempt? What if the linesman hadn't incorrectly called the penalty? It's just a possible to envisage a set of circumstances that would have given us a 3-0 win as it would a 3-0 defeat. Of course a win boosts your confidence for the rest of the season. You could see the relief and delight on the ManU faces knowing that they came away with the points in a tight contest in which they could just as easily dropped points.
Easily dropped points? Name one clear cut chance...
Chamakh's wasn't a nailed on chance but it was a chance that Vidic did well to block but you miss the point. The game didn't need for us to have a clear cut chance for ManU to have dropped points. The absence of a deflected cross or a greater degree of deflection on it. ManU didn't really create much else either. What if eh?
Amos, I don't agree mate. The stats show that Utd had more attempts on goal. That is, shots on target and blocked shots. Their 2 other chances (3 if you count Anderson's one-on-one with Szczesny) were very clear cut. What you're implying is that both teams should have cancelled each other out and deprived them of points, which is ok if you take the view that they were playing for a draw. Unfortuntely for us the fact is Utd had more clear cut chances...either through design or error. They scored because Park was in the right place at the right time, despite and even arguably because of the deflection. I think it’s too simplistic to say Utd only edged this because they defended better. They won this match because they also played to a system which negated our strengths and maximised their chances. They restricted space in midfield, closing us down and limiting our attacking options, while at the same time employing a fast counter-attacking game. They have employed the same tactics in previous victories against us.
Wyn Mills
We are very deliberate in the way we attack. We like to pass the ball around...little probing give and goes around the box. Its brilliant when it works, but it can slow play up fatally when it doesn't, because it gives opponents plenty of time to consolidate their defence, especially if they're defending deep
Wyn Mills
It's not hard to notch up a good record for blocked shots - just close your eyes and take a swing at the ball from any position. ManU were playing at home. They have the best home record in the PL this season including number of goals scored. We pretty well matched them in overall play. They didn't win the points because of the quality of their attack it was their defensive strength that told in this particular game. But look I'm not arguing, and neither is anyone else as far as I can see, that ManU's win wasn't warranted. I do find this lack of context in appreciating that while ultimately we fell narrowly short against a very good team the result rather than the performance somehow makes us a weak team ourselves. It's nonsense. We might not yet quite be at the level of consistent quality that ManU and Chelsea have produced over recent seasons but we are really very close to them.
Yes, we are really close. I think that's actually what makes this all so frustrating. We seem to have been close for a long time. Their defence has certainly been weaker against us in the past and we have still lost to them, so I do find it hard to conclude this game should be taken in complete isolation. Likewise, in the context of the season as a whole I think it has more significance than many like to admit. In previous seasons when we've gone on to win the league we've usually secured away wins over our closest rivals.
Wyn Mills
Agreed, Wyn. A prime reason why Arsenal fans get so frustrated is because we are always so close and yet can't seem to take the final step. And everyone thinks they know what we need to take that next step. It's perhaps even more frustrating this season because Chelsea and ManU are the weakest they have been for a long time; this should be the year when we take advantage of that. Next season will be too late I fear; it's hard to see both the heavyweights underperforming two seasons in a row, and the continued rise of City throws another obstacle in our way. We've got to make this our year, but I'm not sure all the players have the metal fortitude to do it.
Unless Chelsea go on a spending spree which is unlikely in the present climate they won't be any stronger next season. I'm not too sure that ManU will be either. City could be and I suspect we will be too. Fact is that we are the only big club still in all 4 competitons this season so far. We aren't leading the table with a double digit points advantage but really what is there to be concerned about?
But really what is there to be concerned about? This isn't about shutting our eyes and hoping for the best Amos, we were top by default, the concern comes from under par performances so far this season. Ignorance truly is bliss, isn't it.
this game was a week ago and the newspapers are still full of it..... you'de have thought they would have had enough by now
Ignorance maybe bliss but smart people don't spend their time wailing that the world is coming to an end either. Every team will only go top by default unless they are winning all their games. The team are competing. We were never favourites to win the title but we're still in with a shout. It would be nice to have everything won by Christmas but it ain't gonna happen. We have a great team capable of challenging in all competitions. It's only a matter of time before we win something so what's to be concerned about?
Even if Chelsea and ManU don't get stronger, I dare say they'll still have what we don't - a big-game mentality. And coaches who know how to win the tactical battle. I love this club but am sick of saying "we are almost there" year after year. The other big clubs outspend us, sure, but fixing our problem areas is not an issue of money.
There's no such thing as a big game mentality - it doesn't exist. There's only confidence which comes from consistency of performance, increasing maturity and a settled team. In other words the longer we continue to compete at the highest level, the longer we can keep our best players together the more confidence and certainty we gain the more the results we want will follow. Most of what we need is there already - the confidence will come.
"I think it’s too simplistic to say Utd only edged this because they defended better. They won this match because they also played to a system which negated our strengths and maximised their chances. They restricted space in midfield, closing us down and limiting our attacking options, while at the same time employing a fast counter-attacking game" So what do you call defending? Four men (maybe 5) standing in front of their 18 yard box warding off crosses and shots? U can only beat the best by first - acknowledging that he, she, it, they are the best, learn their strengths and work around them. Fergie has learnt this and has work around our passing game. That is why Evra has the guts (pardon me) to speak out before the game. We have been beaten, quite right; lets take time to study the opponent and work against their strengths.
Amos "the end is nigh" description you offer is more in line with a way of thinking that some people have their head in the clouds and think that there is nothing to worry about. Really, nothing to worry about? Have you not followed us the last 5 years? Did you see the WBA/Newcastle home games? Most of our Euro aways? Yeah it would be nice to have everything wrapped up by Xmas, eh. good point, that, worth pondering.
I've followed the club for far, far, far longer than 5 years shewore. Comparatively these are among the best of times to be supporting the team. Yeah I saw the WBA/Newcastle games. Disappointing results both of them but something to really agonise over any more than some of the results our peers have suffered? I don't think so. The team are 2 points off the leaders having played one game more but also one home game less. We're going into the new year still in all 4 competitions. We won't win them all - we may not win any - but we're competing for them. We're a great club with a good team that will continue to compete and ultimately will succeed. Nothing at all to be concerned about.

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