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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Manchester United vs. Arsenal

Old Trafford



On Sky

Preview: United v. Arsenal

This weekend the best four teams in the league play each other, so obviously a lot is on the line for each team. With the honours even at White Hart Lane today, either Arsenal or Manchester United has a great chance to stamp their authority on the league table. A bit of spark has been rejuvenated to this historically illustrious fixture with some prematch trash talk coming from the United camp. While Wenger characteristically played it off nonchalantly, you know the Arsenal players will remember come kickoff. The certain Manchester United player in question has been on the receiving end of three yellow card challenges in recent matches. The bad blood is there for all to see.

Vital Quotes:

Speaking of players not taking the prematch talk lightly, here is Bacary Sagna on the issue:

"I would never allow myself to criticize another team."

"It shows a lack of respect. He loves to wind people up and raise the temperature.

"That is his way of doing things, but it does not affect me in any way."

Man in form, Samir Nasri, believes Arsenal are better on the road this season.

"The difference when we play away is that we defend much better"

"Our discipline and shape is more efficient when we play away and I am quite confident because we can play our game and we know we can score at any moment."

"We have to reproduce the kind of form we show away from home to be more efficient at home as well."

Manchester United Team News:

Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes have recovered from ankle injuries to take part in tomorrow's proceedings. Wes Brown and Jonny Evans have recuperated from midweek illnesses. Hargeaves, Owens, and Valencia are out for Sir Alex.

Player to watch: Darren Fletcher

Last season, Fletcher believed that he was unfairly targeted by referees because Arsene said he was a dirty player. The truth is however that Wenger never even mentioned Fletcher's name during the interview in question. Nevertheless, Fletcher has once again been crying to the press about mean, old Arsene Wenger. The Scotsman has been key in stifling Arsenal's creative spark in the past, and he will be looking to get another few kicks in tomorrow evening.

Arsenal Team News:

The big news is that our captain Cesc Fabregas will be a game time decision. Wenger will not take another gamble on the Spaniard, so I'd say it's about a 40% chance Cesc will take part in tomorrow night's action. Other than that, Kieran Gibbs now faces another three weeks on the sidelines. Vermaelen and Diaby are still out, while Gael Clichy has a virus but should still play.

I can only hope that Wenger doesn't play the 4-4-2 he experimented with in midweek. Simply put, the formation didn't work at all. Perhaps in the future Robin van Persie and Marouane Chamakh will develop a dangerous partnership, but for now it should be up to Chamakh to lead the line.

Predicted Starting XI: Fabianski, Clichy, Squillaci, Koscielny, Sagna, Song, Wilshere, Denilson, Arshavin, Nasri, Chamakh

Player to watch: Samir Nasri

Who else? Samir Nasri is the in-form man of the Barclay's Premier League. Despite what Sky would like to have you believe, nobody has consistently played better than the former Marseille midfielder. If Fabregas doesn't play, then Arsenal will need Nasri more than ever this season.

Match Facts & Stats

Arsenal have picked up 17 points on the road this season, the best away record in the Premier League

Arsenal's record in their last 10 games in all competitions against Man Utd and Chelsea is: P10 W0 D1 L9 F5 A22

Last season at Old Trafford versus Arsenal, Darren Fletcher made twice as many fouls (6) as any other player, but was not one of 9 players booked

Man Utd have not scored the first goal in any of the last four games at Old Trafford against Arsenal. The Gunners have done so three times.

Arsenal have only ever scored eight goals in 18 Premier League games at Old Trafford and no more than one in any single game

Credit to the BBC and Orbinho for provided statistics.

Ref Watch:

Howard Webb is the head official for this match. The last time Arsenal lost a league match with Webb as the referee was at Old Trafford in April 2008, with Arsenal winning six of nine matches.

Match Prediction:

I am more nervous for this Arsenal, Manchester United league encounter than I have been for a long time, which says tons about the success of the respective clubs during the past 5 years. A win at Old Trafford could springboard Arsenal onto great things during the busy winter schedule, however a loss could be just as damaging. Overall our midfield and attack are better than theirs, but their defence is better than ours. If Fabregas is fit, I think we'll win 2-1. If not, then another win for Sir Red Nose's troops is most likely on the cards.

Next Fixtures:

18/12 (Sat) - Stoke City (h) - Premier League

27/12 (Mon) - Chelsea (h) - Premier League

29/12 (Wed) - Wigan (a) - Premier League

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The Journalist

Writer: Brice Coffer Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday December 12 2010

Time: 5:59PM

Your Comments

Please Wenger, no 4-4-2....
***** Man United Hate them.
ur ref watch is slightly incorrect. in april 2008, we lost at OT 2-1..
I don't think we will win but a draw would be good especially as Chelsae drew.
Good preview Brice. A 4-2-3-1 formation may be likely. Would play Rosicky ahead of Denilson in the line up. Hope Cesc is not risked at all. Up the Arsenal!
Perhaps I worded the Ref Watch badly Luckys, but I meant we've won six out of the last nine with Webb as the official since our 2-1 defeat at Old Traffod in '08.
We go there with confidence and danger from many areas. I'm sure Fergie will be shaping his tactics to stifle us, whereas Arsene will just want to focus on the quality of our performance rather than specific tactics. Hope we start with Djourou rather than Koscielny. You get the feeling the players are really up for this one and sense this is their opportunity. I'd settle for a point. Last word goes to LD and other Gooners having to go to Manchester on a Monday night for an 8pm kick off. What time will they get home!
I hate Howard Webb..........
Nice appetizer, before the game. I will play Djourou ahead of Kos, for this game just because he understands the 'occasion' better. The way you set up the midfield in the predicted starting line up, it would seem you intend for Wilshere to play the Cesc role, rather than Nasri, in a 4-3-3 formation. Will that be likely? I feel either of Denilson or Jack will make way for Rosicky, so Nasri can occupy Evra till Theo comes in for TR7 to take advantage of some weary legs. Our midfield is better but, perhaps, we have equal potency in attack. It will come down to the way the team plays for one another; that'll be the key.
Djourou had a knock midweek and was not in uniform. So I don't know if he'll start. I'd like him to, but Arsene will probably not want to take any chances. In that formation, I think Song and Wilshere will do most of the attacking from the midfield. Rosicky hasn't started a big match yet this season, and he probably won't tomorrow either, in my opinion.
Djourou is said to be ready for the game. Unless Cesc is playing, Rosicky just has to start, for his experience; same reason SAF will play Scholes. We will need two disciplined DMs for this one with one always sitting back for the other, during an Arsenal attack. It will be a bruising encounter for the lads a I expect a physical game from the home side.
GK, second to last sentence was in response to your suggestion that Song and Jack will attack from midfield. Anyway, Arsene has the last say.
I don't often get funny feelings, but I'm just sensing we can win this one. Evra's comments sound like they're not taking us as seriously as they should be, and we're a lot tougher than we were last year ..... maybe some of our boys should give their boys a good Nevilleing.!
Really think this game could make or break us.I just hope we can push some peoples words down their throats. Go you Gunners. .
Szczesny apparently starts in goal today?
Not many things give me more pleasure then beating ******** Man Utd i hate them! Smug ********s.
all our victories at OT in the PL era have been 1-0, but i dun think side can keep a clean sheet, so we will need to score more than one goal at OT, something which we have never managed to do in the PL era :(
From a Villa fan. Stick atleast 5goals past them please.
Nerves are starting now! Don't have a good feeling about this one. United tend to be able to deliver on the big occasions, whereas we haven't been able to recently. I fear our left side with Nani against Clichy. It's definitely the biggest test of the season so far for both sides. Need our leader Cesc!
G_V, I understand how you feel. But look at Man U side this season, then tell me how we can't hurt them as much as (or more than) they can hurt us.
Oh please do hammer them.
Szcesney to make his league debut??
It would be poetic justice that we should bring United’s unbeaten season to an end but I can only see Nani ripping into Clichy to score their first and Rooney getting their second in the last ten minutes. I think we’ll get it to 1-1 or maybe even take the lead, but the Mancs to win 2-1. Prove me wrong Arsenal!
Sir Henry
Big Fat Sam just got sacked!!
2-1 to The Arsenal Nasri and Chamakh with our goals
hes got a big fat head hes got a big fat head (and no job)
Incredible news about big Sam :-)
Tony Rocky Horror
Massive game for Wojciech. A game that can make a star or leave a scar. All the best to him. United have as usual crowded their midfield with 5 players against us. It will be a battle between their workrate and our creativity and movement.
Make me a proud mancunian Gooner! please please please
How is Fletcher allowed to push the ref like that?
***** **** ********* ***** *****
and nani rolls around til Coward pulls out the yellow...
Is it me or are we playing crap? United have got their tactics right, pushing us high up the pitch. Arsahavin has been awful. As normal, United play with penetration, whilst we just doing our tippy-tappy passing.
We don't look that great in these big games without Cesc.
Arshavin is feckin doing my nut in
***** goal, ***** half.
Poor showing this half, but there is still the 2nd half. I think change of keepers had something to do with it as we seem to be more intent on preventing them coming into our vital area. Something isn't flowing with our passing game and that is what we've got to get right; I also expect Nasri to do more to pin Evra back, just as Nani has kept Clichy in his own half.
Are we making them look better than they are? I hope the boss is giving the team the same half-time yelling as he did at Anfield after we played 5h!te in the first half.
You are looking very poor lads. If fit, I cannot understand why Wenger does not have Van Persie, Eboue and even that smarmy git Walcott on the pitch to give that dodgy Utd defence something to think about. Rosicky and Chamakh are ineffective and Nasri seems to be hiding. You need to improve and quickly.
Compare our attitude tonight with Spurs yesterday. There is a world of difference in the attitude of the Arsenal players out there tonight. No-one is going to tell me different. We may have the talent and skill but at the moment I see precious little application. Perhaps Evra was right after all. When it comes down to it we are a finishing school now and not much else.
Wyn Mills
Ferguson has played played his tactics as we thought he would. Get in our faces, exaggerate fouls and get our lot booked. It happens every single time. Every time we play Utd its the same story. He's packed his midfield and banked on us trying to play our way through the ranked masses. We need the artistry of Fabregas to dink the odd one over midfield and open then up.
Wyn Mills
The 2nd will be more open and that is where I worry about our CBs. We'll soon have to ring the changes; Cesc for Arshavin, Rosicky to the right and Nasri to the left. About the 70th, Theo in for TR7 and Rvp for Chamakh or Jack, depending on the scores.
We have played an utter **** half of football. We havent been able to string 3 passes together or kept the ball for more than a second at a time. There is no one supporting Chamakh either as Nasri has dropped too deep. United have played highly ordinary football too but have the goal thanks to an improvised finish which was very hard to prevent. It is going to be a huge ask to get back from here.
Sky were showing statistics pointing out that a high proportion of Utd's goals come from headers. We need to close down more effectively and stop the supply. Its not rocket science.
Wyn Mills
The players have gone out there and played as if they don't believe in our way of playing (again). We are so feckin passive against Chelsea and United.
They scored a lucky goal thats all. Its fairly even at the moment. Nobody really taking the game by the scruff of the neck. Hopefully we'll start clicking in the 2nd half. And looking forward to some changes. Possibly RvP or Fab
There was just something roadrunner cartoon about the way we concede goals in these big games; the way the ball deflected off Clichy's leg and the way the ball flew over Sczseszny's head and the way the ball came off the post. But with that said United were by far the better side and deserve their lead. We got options on the bench, Clichy is too exposed as he usually is and is not having the best of games. I thought Rosicky interchanging with Arshavin would happen more often to give Clichy more cover and allow Arshavin to play central.
Surprising stat: "53 - There were a total of 53 misplaced passes in the final third of the pitch in the first half: 20 by Arsenal, 33 by Man Utd. Sloppy." Big game nerves? I just thought we're more guilty of this, a bit of a surprise.
Time for Cesc i think,we cant let them get the 2nd it will be game over.Need that extra spark in the final third
Its a mind set against Chelsea and Utd for this team....Not many of our players have experienced victory's over these two teams in recent years....The Bergkamps, Henrys and viera's didn't get out psyched and regularly got the better of a much better Utd team....saying that, we were much better too! there beaten in the mind even before a ball is kicked. A bit like the spuds over the last 2 decades with us. On paper we are more then capable of beating this team. Ferguson does have one over wenger on tactics, he does it every time. The plus point is he knows he cant beat us playing how they play 99% of the time. What does annoy is that wenger doesn't seem to have a plan of how to combat fergusons tactics. To be honest I expected we would lose 3 points tonight so not really surprised. Just better get them back when the time comes.
The changes make sense, but er, 4-4-2?
What's Ferdinand's boot doing in Sagna' stomach? What's Clichy supposed to do when he's down on his arm?
Hahahhahahahha what a run, what a pen hahaha sorry we're chasing the game but I find that funny..
LOL Chamakhs was worse in the first half
Karma <3
What's happening? Am out...
Szczesny's really good considering the occasion and opposition. Despite not playing well, I think we're a bit unlucky..
julie, its the most appalling game of football from either side with one partly lucky goal from Park, a missed penalty from Rooney which was never a penalty and complete crap football from us in the final third. Only bright point in the game for us is Wojciech.
man howard webb is so biase to manure that guy should just wear a utd jersey
Unlucky with their goal(deflected shot ) but we didnt create anything. Its no surprise we got zero points when we have this deep rooted problem of not turning up for the big 4 games
Same old Arsenal. Fergie gets his tactics spot on. Arsene has none other than "play the game we love". I'm SO tired and bored of this groundhog day.
Argh what did we expect? We didn't expect Webb to change and be fair about things. We didn't expect Utd players to stop rolling around. We didn't expect Rooney or Park or Nani to stop playing well against us. We didn't expect the defence to be suddenly formidable. But we did expect to attack a bit better than this dilly-dallying we saw today. Their goal was half improvisation, half luck. But we didn't deserve to top the table in the first place. I'm really afraid the team's starting to believe that too (even if it's true).
What was the point of RvP being on when he is playing in centre midfield. And Fab looked way off pace. Not the best of performances from us. Not the best of performances from them. Anyway I think we can suck up this loss and look forward to the upcoming games.
Absolutely abysmal game. Terrible performance by Arsenal, the switch to 4-4-2 seemed to have the opposite effect to that which Wenger intended, we were toothless in attack. It was just so frustrating getting up to the edge of the box and not doing anything and I knew Wenger felt it too. It's a shame that we just can't seem to perform our best (or even anywhere near our best) in these games.
Gun 'Em Down
I didn't see Arsenal playing tonight. Where was Nasri through the middle and all over the park, running at the over-rated Utd CB's? Very disappointing performance boys.I think you are better than that but your manager showed no ba**s.Poor game all round with not much football at all.
Well summarised Lou. Credit to our central defence today - Koscielny was largely faultless today and made many key interceptions and good passes. Squillaci was fairly solid as well. Sagna and Clichy let us down today especially Clichy though he was desperately unlucky to concede a penalty. I dont know what brief was given to Nasri today because he just didn't play in an advanced position today which makes him such a danger in the final third. Arshavin was off colour as was Rosicky. We didn't play our game at all today and cant complain overall.
At least LD won't have much problem with his match report. Just use the Chelsea one from earlier in the season and change the names.
At least you made the Chilean miners in attendance feel at home. They've been used to seeing blokes do feck all for long periods.
The way United are getting the rub of the green, scraping 1-0 wins and draws but NOT losing reminds me of a certain 2004 season. We did play great football but we drew an awful lot of games that season as well as having a lot of luck. The more the season goes on without them losing they will be harder to beat....dare I say it, that a repeat of 2004 could be on the cards? It grates me but you have to admire the "we will not be beaten" mentality Ferguson has installed in his team this season. I know one game doesn't define a season but I fancy United for the title. Not from there a couple of games they haven't been outstanding in this strange season, but some teams just get that luck in a season where everything goes for them. They are certainly getting that, and with Chelsea's capitulation and our lack of mental belief (but not lack of talent) I see them going all the way this year. I just hope we can give them a good old fight until the end and maybe surprise a few people ....including me! It was up for grabs tonight, a decent performance from us would have brought home 3 points. It says a lot about united when both teams are crap but they take home the points....that's what we lack. We need to get that never say die mentality. Bring on the next game.....
God I hope Chelsea tear these smug *****ers a new one next weekend.
Myeh. Not the be-all-and-end-all thriller Sky was bigging up, but then, big games rarely are. United just seem to be riding on the crest of their unbeaten streak. The danger for you Arsenal fans who quite rightly take pride in 2004 is that, as it was then, the longer this unbeaten run of theirs goes on, the harder they will fight to maintain it. In the end, as it always seems to be, their mental strength, and their experience, won out yet again. I just wish Wenger wouldn't make such a damned fool of himself by repeating his 'this time we will show the world our new found maturity/desire/hunger/mental strength' line ad nauseam, it just makes it easier for the detractors to pulverize you when you inevitably lose at Old trafford.
And how on earth can Arsene go to Man Utd and not cater for the fact that Arshavin will offer no protection to Clichy against Nani. Early in the second half Man U have a 2 v 1 against Clichy. Arsene just doesn't do tactics it seems. God help us if we draw Barcelona on Friday.
I have to say that was funny, Lordjohnny.
I agree gunnerman76. United are like teflon and lady luck seems to have settled in the footballers enclave in Cheshire this season. Chelsea and Citeh thereotically have the team to crack United open. If they beat Chelsea and then Citeh they have a good chance of emulating our feat...gasp.
Very disappointed with the game and agree with you, Gunnerman about the mental block/mindset problem.
Bottled it again...Shame because i was backing you lot to win the league this year, always nice for someone new to win plus i would love a team to win who play and go about their buisness the right way instead of buying titles. Yet there is still time but you got to beat the big teams.
Was thinking the same thing DubaiSpur. Its time AW stopped bigging up this team before big games. They have let him down numerous times and he takes the flak for their ineptitude in crunch games. Arshavin's position in front of Clichy and Clichy's very place in the first team is going to be up for review if the same mistakes are made.
Respeck...Naijagunner. Nice to see a gooner with a sense of humour.
GV on the forum I called b4 the game that he should move Rosicky to the left to offer us more protection. Ferguson adapts to us, we adapt to no one. It's quite criminal really that we can go out and give the same performance against the same 2 teams year after year and the manager does nothing tactically to try and change the result.
G_V, difficult to make excuses for him but maybe Wenger expected Arshavin to do more to pin Rafael back and cause some dangerous moments. The team just didn't show up tonight and maybe Theo should have come in a bit earlier.
Iceman, performance this time, was worst ever! We didn't even show up. In the last 4 years, we could blame ill luck, the ref, Rooney diving to win a pen, etc. and get some support because we usually gave United a game, every time, even dominating the possession stats in the process. This was different; or, was it Wenger's way of adapting to their gung-ho, counter attacking play? Who knows?
Considering Arshavin's blind refusal to offer any cover, Howard Webb's inept refereeing ability and the general quality of Nani, I have to say Clichy did very well today. As did Koscielny, which is important following a couple of stinkers of late. Squillaci however is a bit too slow for my liking, especially against strikers or Rooney's quality - he found space too often and seemed to be able to skip past Squillaci too easily. He's got his qualities of course and I do think you need a partnership of one 'tough' and one 'elegant' but I can see him struggling against Torres, Tevez and anyone else with pace. Going forward, we were pretty dire. Rosicky and Arshavin offered sweet FA. They simply cannot start against Chelsea - one passenger in big games is pretty criminal but two (plus Nasri who although showed flashes was pretty quiet) is ridiculous. It speaks volumes that Theo was our best attacking outlet. Give him a start Saturday and build some confidence for the big one next week. Song and Wilshere were actually very good in the tackle but gave the ball away far, far too often. I don't think it was our worst performance by any means but disappointing nonetheless. Although, this time, I'm confident we can recover. Finally, Webb is a ******** joke. How is this guy our best referee? Fletcher gets away with murder in these games - a proper ref would punish him for screaming in his face and then pushing him but Webb just accepted it. Ferdinand's karate kick on Sagna merited a yellow but we didn't even get a foul. I'm not citing Webb as the sole reason we lost but he sure made it that little bit more difficult.
Oh please enough with the ref hates us crap. We got hammered and 1-0 greatly flattered us. Anyone suggesting Walcott should've got more pitch time is obviously on way better friggin drugs than me, he truly is an appallingly lightweight spineless little nice boy and I'm sick of the bloody sight of him. He is not a winger and is even worse than sticking eboue there, if we are not going to use him centrally then let's please just wasting everyones bloody time. Red nose has our number yet we did nothing off the script to throw the old sot, not one thing. It's still 12 days to the proto hippys' supposed birthday but heres an early gift beatifully wrapped from North London.
Whoa, chill niko. Long way to go in this marathon yet, mate. We've certainly performed worse in the last couple of months (nothing to cheer about I appreciate, I'm just trying to put an ever-so-small positive spin on tonight's action - desperate, eh?). I really don't think Walcott was any worse than Nasri, Arshavin or Rosicky despite being on the pitch 10 minutes. Or either of the other subs that came on for that matter. I fail to see why you're giving him so much grief when Arshavin consistently puts in minimal effort and attempts those stupid little flicks that never come off. It's not all doom and gloom - we're above Chelsea, who were red hot faves only 5 or 6 weeks ago, into the last 16 of the CL and within touching distance of the CC (it's still a trophy!). I completely recognise it's not an ideal situation but we're still in a strong position. A win over Chelsea on the 27th and this is pretty much forgotten :-)
nikolaijns: I hear your frustration I really do, but walcott IS still a 21 year old learning his trade, and to be fair to the lad he has come off the bench on more then one occasion in BIG games and pretty much turned them around for us....Liverpool CL game, Barca, and not forgetting last week! Just to mention a few. I understand fans have certain players they prefer and certain ones they don't so I'm not patronising you in anyway....just don't be to harsh on the lad. Arshavin seems to be escaping a lot of flack this season. He has been dire all season and he IS someone at the peek of his talents....the fella needs to seriously pull up his socks in my opinion.
Funny, our defence was pretty damn good today. Attacking wise we did ***** all.
I'm honestly suprised that there hasn't been a dressing room mutiny at Arsenal over the past few years. I mean at what point do the players turn around and say " Excuse me boss, but can we vary our tactics a little bit, this ain't working"! It reminds me of General Melchard's answer to Blackadder: " Sir, would this plan involve climbing up and over our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy? Its the same tactic we used last time - and the seventeen times before that" Melchard's: Exactly, AND THAT IS WHAT IS SO BRILLIANT ABOUT IT, DOING THE SAME THING WE'VE DONE SEVENTEEN TIMES BEFORE IS PRECISELY THE LAST THING THEY'LL EXPECT US TO DO THIS TIME" !
Tony Rocky Horror
I agree super_gooner. We are still in a fantastic position and one that I would of snapped your hand off for in pre season. Its obviously very frustrating losing to a rival though. I'm sure a win over a Chelsea team (which is there for the taking) would put tonight's game to rest. That is football after all.
Seems to be the case in the big away games this year, gk. I remember Koscielny having a stormer of a debut at Anfield, the centre-halves containing Drogba pretty well (based on previous encounters at least) and of course a clean sheet at Eastlands. But with the exception of City (where they did have 10 men, let's not forget), as you say, attacking wise we were pretty awful. Surely it can't be hard to combine the two? And maybe start performing at home? Beggars belief that the season looks so promising still when this is one of the *****test starts we've had under Wenger.
GK the defence are not too bad it's the feckin dopes protecting them that let us down 9 times out of 10.
I think you are incredibly lucky to be in the position you are in given the number of games you've already lost.
Tony Rocky Horror
Ferguson certainly has our number. He knows exactly what to do to nullify our pretty football. The Utd players worked very hard tonight to close us down and when we built up any head of steam they broke up play with niggly fouls and free kick claims. Their gameplan worked a treat. Wenger needs to stop with the excuses and just admit he's been out'manu'evered once again. We may be more the more talented team but talent alone does not win trophies.
Wyn Mills
Gunnerkid- I thought our defence was only half good, insomuch as I believe defence starts back in midfield. I think our aerial strength in midfield is extremely poor, and our reluctance to press and harry when it matters ultimately separates us from winning teams like Chelsea and Utd. On the plus side I thought Chesney had an impressive game. Nothing he could have done about the goal.
Wyn Mills
Sorry SG didn't mean to sound like that was a go at your post but despite a soft pen (not even given by webb) we should have no complaint at the officiating and I don't want any gooner to use that as an excuse for us being mullered tonight. Does anyone here hand on heart seriously see us progressing further than the 1/4s of the CL when we all know that this lot of bottlers are what'll rock up? and it'll take drawing Schalke for us to have any realistic chance of progression to even reach that as the other 3 draws will batter us. I agree Walcott wasn't much worse than any of our other attacking options tonight just that he was the last to enter the fray so stuck in the mind, I know his age and tbh I'm sick to friggin death of the whole kid thing too it's an excuse we've allowed to absolve repetitive failure for so long now. Chelsea will beat us absolutely no shadow of a doubt I'm afraid. Both utd and the chavs have had their blip - ours is an ongoing one that comes round every few weeks.
Doubtless Walcott will be popping up in the papers tommorrow saying how we will bounce back and win everything. Wenger will continue to bemoan bad luck and dodgy pitches. Cesc will be purring over the latest Barca master class. Deep down I had a feeling we would lose tonight but the inevitability of it doesn't make it any easier to stomach. We are simply not there. Plus ça change...
Wyn Mills
I remember the first few games of last season...I think it was last season? When wenger first started to use the 4-3-3 to great effect. Our pressing off the ball was reminiscent of Barca when they don't have the ball. We were winning the ball back with ease not giving anyone time on the ball and steamrollering teams.....WHAT HAPPENED?? I always thought the MAIN benefit of a 4-3-3 was that when you lost the ball you could put 5 men in midfield and win it back as quickly as you lost it...then turn defence into attack with 3 forwards almost seamlessly. we don't seem to be doing this.
Is it tiredness? That's the only explanation I can think of. Watching Wenger getting frustrated on the touchline for the umpteenth time this season I can't imagine he's not telling his team to press.
Wyn Mills
Make no mistakes about it folks, Webb once again favoured utd. Its so obvious its crazy. Like my dad use to say, you need a miracle to win at OT.....the refs wont allow it unless you cut them open and score a few. You could have done much better but didnt.....ohh how I wish we smash these cheats at the Bridge next weekend.
Iceman, Wenger is to blame for defensive problems more than the players. When Jack went off, Song did indeed sit (well he bloody well had to) and to his credit, defended very, very well for that last half an hour or so. I accept that he can be an asset going forward, but so can Vermaelen. Wenger simply has to make Song the anchor man like he was for most of last season because, although they're not firing on all cylinders, we've got more than enough attacking and creative verve to score goals, without sacrificing our defensive shield. As has been mentioned, Szczesny had about as good a game as we can hope - one terrific block in the second half. I hear you, niko, we're all frustrated. I wasn't using Webb as an excuse, I was just expressing the fact that he's *****in useless as an official and that you're never gonna get anything from him in Manchester. The CL is anyone's guess. The fact that a back 4 of Eboue, Toure, Senderos and Flamini kept 10 clean sheets on the bounce shows how good we can be. We can be ******** awful but we're equally capable of some terrific performances so I'll still believe until we're knocked out. I agree, Chelsea will probably beat us, I'm just trying to be as optimistic as I can - I've had my moans and groans about some of the shambolic home games and don't want to sound like a total pessimist, that's all. As I say, it only takes one win against the big boys and this hoodoo is gone and we can then surely be considered a real threat - the problem being that it's one hell of a challenge, especially with assumably fragmented confidence going into them. Time will tell, but the way I see it: "if you don't believe you can do it then you have no chance at all" - Arsene Wenger
Song, poor again tonight. I know a lot of gooners rate Alex Song, but for my money he is no Patrick Vieira. Not even close. Slow, clumsy, and indecisive. Hardly ever picks up the second ball and cannot head a ball to save his life.
Wyn Mills
Without this being a direct shot, I can't believe Arsenal get talked up as genuine title contenders. You've now lost to Utd, Chelsea, and us, as well as being lucky to get a point at Liverpool. Yet, at home v. Wigan you will demolish them 5-0 and suddenly be talked about as Champion material. You lot constantly say that we over rate Gareth Bale and that he's only had a few good games, yet you lament Nasri world class. Did he touch the ball tonight? I think Arsenal's history being what it is makes them out to be title contenders, when that team is really only capable of finishing in the CL spots. I know I'll receive replies about how you're 2nd and this and that, but winning 0/3 against last season's top 4 pretty much defines the level that Arsenal are capable of, which is like us, the 2nd tier of English football.
I think someone else already mentioned above that we DO lack an aerial threat in the middle of the park....not that we always need it, but we certainly do in games against utd and chelsea. I'm just trying to fathom why in recent years our record against these two is abysmal, when in years gone by we haven't had the same issue. But then we did have viera and gilberto in the middle of the park....I would even say Edu!....I was always baffled to why wenger let him go. A massively underrated player whom in games like this bossed the middle and would make mince meat out of the likes of fletcher....he would just bounce off Edu FFS! I do believe if we had an Edu/viera/gilberto in these fixtures it would make a massive difference. I know song has been a good player for us and has improved his game hugely over the last couple of years, but his aerial abiltity is a big weakness, and we definitely lack that in the middle...certainly against Utd and Chelsea. I would love to see Fabregas in the middle of a 3 with gilberto and Edu/viera either side of him to pick up the pieces.
WHS, if there is any miracle it is that Arsenal are where we are considering the relatively modest outlay in new players over the last 5 years. While Chelsea, Utd, City, Liverpool and Spurs have spend massive sums on proven mature world class talent we have bought some relatively bargain basement stuff. And we still manage to regularly compete with teams costing several times as much. To be fair the press have been larging Nasri up, not the fans. We are a couple of players away from really challenging, if Wenger would open his chequebook. I'm sorry but Spurs are not on our level yet.
Wyn Mills
Whitehartspur .....I hear what your saying, as we haven't won the title since 2004. But a "title contender" cant win the league every year as that would make you a title winner. Even though we haven't won the title since 2004 we have consistently been there or there abouts over the last five years. We were in it until the last 3 or 4 games last season eventually finishing 3rd, 2008 we led most of the season finishing just 4 points off top in the end. And we are currently 2nd two points off the top almost halfway through the season. If that is not contending the title, what the hell is!? Liverpool were title contenders last season but they haven't won the bloody thing for almost 20 years! I would even go as far to say that you lot are title contenders this year all be it 4th or 5th favourites (not me... the bookies!) basically if your there in the mix at the top, your contending for the title. If not then what the hell are we there for. After the first 9 games or so this season we might as well have just given Chelsea the title hey, as no one else was contending. Have more faith in your team and Wipe the chip off your shoulder.....I would say the spuds entered the 1st tier of English football last season.....The hard part is staying there, as we have consistently over the last 14 years. Must be nice to know a gooner rates your team more then you do....but I suppose thats what happens when you have been in the "2nd tier" of English football for decades ;)
Defences were on top tonight, the centre halves were probably the four best players on the pitch. We defended well, but United got a break for their goal and took it well. We got a break with the Chamakh rebound but Vidic got a great block in. United didn't create much either, but the simple fact is they're a slightly better team than we are which is why they were able to repel us. It wasn't an inherent flaw in our team or display so much, United are able to keep us at arm's length because they're a bit better than we are.
Little Dutch
One thing I'm still struggling to understand is how Darren Fletcher can get away with going mental and running 20 yards to shove a referee. Rio's assault on Sagna was laughable enough, but honestly...Fletcher should have been booked at the absolute minimum. Did Utd pick up any bookings?
Wyn Mills
It is the morning after the night before and much easier to analyze the game that was. For me, I can't fault our full backs as they had to stay tuned on for the duration, playing against one of the best wing backs (Evra) and wingers (Nani) in the EPL today. They did okay; only trouble is our wing players (Arshavin and Nasri) should have done a little more to make a game of this. It was as if the occasion was too big for them and they developed cold feet. United set out with a 5 man midfield, all young, feisty characters, (same way they have chosen to play against us all these years) and that appeared to snuff life out of our creativity. Or is it mere coincidence that Park has a good scoring record against us and Anderson always saves his best for us? The lads have to shake this game off and look towards the next as the season is still long. I wouldn't be celebrating like the league is won as some United fans are doing, so early. These thing can swing any time soon.
LD, speaking of that missed Chamakh rebound, I thought right position, wrong player. Nasri or Arshavin would certainly have dummied for Vidic to have a clear sight of goal. MC has to show a lot more balance in the vital areas, for me.
** dummied Vidic*
LD. Not sure I agree with you that we defended well. I thought Clichy was given a torrid time by Nani, with not enough help from Arshavin.
Wyn Mills
Nothing between us really. ManU shaded it on their own ground and though Park did well with the finish he was fortunate with the deflection. We did defend pretty well, Clichy included, and look much more solid but ManU defended just that little bit better. For all their individual quality Nasri, Arshavin & Rosicky aren't the right creative balance. Too similar maybe?
The center backs didn't do badly against an an off colour Rooney but the full backs were poor last night, with no protection from either wide man. The most points we have gained since are last title win is 84, we conceded 31 goals that season and scored 74 whilst losing just 3 games (United, Chelsea and Middlesborough). That season we played 4-4-2 with a specialist holding player, 2 strikers and interchanging wingers, time to ditch the 4-3-3 I think.
LD and Amos are correct in their assessment of a 1 off game but if you consider United and Chelsea beat us in very similar ways in previous games you have to ask what the manager is doing to address the failings against the big 2.
How can it be 1 off if they regularly beat us?
Wyn Mills
There's no real relevance in our record against the big two. Not while they drop points too. That ManU and Chelsea have been stronger than us over recent seasons is true enough but we're a stronger squad than we've been for some time even without our matchwinners fit and on form. Disappointing result but no reason to think we're falling behind the big two despite the result. ManU have a points advantage at the moment but their away record is poor and there'll be a few more points dropped by all the sides.
Iceman, I would say Rooney was 'off colour' because of the good job the CBs did on him, considering how well he has been playing since returning. They kept him relatively quiet.
I think there is more relevance, if say you turn the defeats into wins against Chelsea last year there is a turnaround of 12 points, we finished 11 behind them.
How well he has been playing? 1 penalty against Rangers and hitting the bar against Valencia in a dead rubber? He hasn't scored in open play since last April or something.
You can look at most seasons and pick out 2 or 3 results that if they'd been different might have won us the title. In a sense that just tells us that we aren't really that far away. We weren't, and still aren't, favourites to win the title this season but we are capable of making a decent fist of it.
Rooney was alone up front. Frankly I'd be disappointed if our CBs weren't able to do a 'good job'. The real problem was our defending on the flanks.
Wyn Mills
"We weren't, and still aren't, favourites to win the title this season but we are capable of making a decent fist of it" A sentence that could have been written in any of the past 4 seasons.
"A sentence that could have been written in any of the past 4 seasons." Which just goes to show that we're pretty consistently one of the top teams and just need to be that little bit better in order to triumph. Should be pretty pleased with that position really if not entirely satisfied until we do win one of the big two.
The thing that grates is that Man Utd and Chelsea employ specific tactics to play against us and nullify our game. They've worked out how to beat us. We, on the other hand, have simply employed the same approach time and again and are getting the same result - the famous "play the game we love" rallying cry or "focus on our performance". This is because Wenger so believes (wants to believe) we can play our beautiful football game, without tweaking, against even the top opposition. The one time we did tweak our tactics, by playing a 5 man midfield and Bendnter alone up front, we ended up beating United at home a couple of seasons back in the league 2-1 with a couple of goals from Nasri. That was even a better United side with Ronaldo et al. The irony is that we're like England on the international scene; good in the qualifiers or against lesser opposition, but found wanting when you have to really deliver.
Good enough for 3rd/4th but never going to be 1st/2nd. Some people will see that as consistently good, others will see it as groundhog day, its all a matter of perspective.
The thing about those 2 or 3 results we can pick out every season is that those results have invariably been against our closest rivals ...the proverbial 6 pointers. Not only do these games represent points on the table, but in my opinion they're significant psychological hurdles that make all the difference between actually winning and making a 'decent fist' of things. Like Shatkar Donestk in the CL yesterday's game may have more far reaching consequences than many of us would like to admit.
Wyn Mills
Never going to be anything other than 3 or 4th? No chance of Arsenal ever winning a title ever again? Given the structure of the club and the way the game is shaping up I tend to think that's a little negative - but no doubt a popular opinion. We weren't too far away from getting something from the game yesterday. We've only played all 3 of other teams currently in the top four away so far and we've won one of them. ManU took the title the season before last despite only one win against any of the other top four. We're not favourites to win the title this season,we haven't been at anytime and may not be the strongest side in the competition this season but we are one of them. That's a good position to be in. In the history of the club these are the good times.
if i were an arsenal fan, i would no doubt be disappointed with the final score but not in the manner which they lost. they were playing at old trafford and lost just 1-0! even the penalty decision was dodgy! Furthermore it was not as if united had tons of chances to score. if you look carefully, all of united's attacks were either long balls or counter attacks. in fact, i think arsenal had more possession than united. i am sure the gunners will turn over united at the emirates. they just have to remember this loss and motivate themselves. i hope we will be able to turn united at whl, and here's to hoping that howard webb is not referee.
Attitude-wise we were not at the races. I still maintain that. It was encapsulated for me in the final minute of extra time when we get a free kick deep in our half, right back position. Instead of motioning everyone up into the Utd half and pumping the ball forward, Sagna jogs over the ball leaving a surprised Fabregas to run back, retrieve and start things in motion again. Seconds on the clock and we are trying to tippy-tappy our way from the back as though we had the entire half to play with. For me it is an attitude problem with this team. Not a talent issue. Not a dodgy pitch. Not bad luck. Not really even tactics, although Ferguson clearly knows how to take advantage of our propensity to over-elaborate. We will not win this league until we have a true leader in the middle of the park urging his team on. Wenger can spread his palms as much as he likes. In the end its up to the players to want it enough, believe in their collective ability and to work for each other. At the moment it isn't happening.
Wyn Mills
Manchester United's "good times" are better than ours.
Sir Henry
GoonerVin: "The thing that grates is that Man Utd and Chelsea employ specific tactics to play against us and nullify our game. They've worked out how to beat us. We, on the other hand, have simply employed the same approach time and again and are getting the same result - the famous 'play the game we love' rallying cry or 'focus on our performance'." -- Exactly! Any smart tactical manager can figure us out very easily and AW has no answer. If we get Madrid in the CL, Mourinho will have AW for breakfast. Doesn't matter a damn if his team has weaknesses, Mourinho has no problem figuring us out. Same old same old. Just like the same old "we're so close" blahblahblah. We're always "so close" and never deliver. Same old story. Absolutely nothing new. Utd are crap right now, they were poor yesterday, doesn't matter-they know how to beat us. We can't ever capitalize. They & Chelsea will come to the Grove and will get their simple, basic tactics right and will of course get a result. "We weren't too far away from getting something from the game yesterday" - well that's always the case isn't it? We're never "too far away" - just never ever get beyond that. Season after season. This team never moves forward.
GV even then the only reason we shifted the system was because we had Adebayor, van Persie and Eduardo all out injured. I'd argue that was not down to Wenger's tactical nous but sheer necessity. As I was saying last night, we're in a very good position, and positive as that is, the blatant flaws cannot be ignored. As Iceman pointed out, these are six-pointers: games at the pinnacle of importance. I understand your point, Amos, but the fact is that this year we're not even the flat-track bullies we were for the majority of last season. If we're beaten at Old Trafford and the Bridge, most of the time you put your hands up and say the best team won. But we've also capitulated at home to West Brom and Newcastle which is unacceptable. Had we won those games we'd be top. I know we can talk about if, buts and maybes all day long but the fact is, it's becoming extremely unsettling that not only do we go into the big games fearing the worst because of recent experience, but teams we should be putting 4 and 5 past are continually worrying us. Long way to go yet, and we're right in the mix, but we're extremely fortunate to be there. We simply have to start capitalising on the gifts and opportunities we keep getting offered.
I think the media have invented this myth of the "mini league"...."you have to win that if your going to be champions"....what a load of tripe! I don't think there giving the rest of the league the respect they deserve. I'm sure a lot of other teams in this league will have a say where the title goes not just the "mini league". I would rather win the title without beating utd and Chelsea then lose the title while beating these two.....lets not get so obsessed and concentrate on the other 34 games!
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