Thursday, 13 February 2014

Arsenal Draw A Blank Against Manchester United

Arsenal played Manchester United last night knowing a win would put them back on top of the Premier League. They were well beaten by Liverpool at the weekend, but got the chance for some redemption after Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw at West Brom on Tuesday night. It wasn't going to be easy against the reigning chanpions even if United were not at their best this season and languishing in seventh place in the league.

Arsene Wenger made two changes from the team which lost 5-1 to Liverpool as he went in search of the three points. As expected Kieran Gibbs came in at left back in place of Nacho Monreal with Tomas Rosicky coming into the midfield and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dropping to the bench. The switches meant Mesut Ozil moved to the right hand side of the attacking trio with Rosicky playing a more central role in midfield.

The game opened with a flurry and Robin van Persie should have put United ahead very early on after taking the ball off Mikel Arteta 30 yards out. His effort was very tame when he should really have scored and Arsenal were more than a little fortunate that he didn't. Arsenal came forward straight away and Olivier Giroud headed wide from the first corner of the game after some good Jack Wilshere work to win it.

There wasn't an awful lot else to write home about in the first half, but Arsenal at least tried to pick the pace up after the break. They pushed a little further forward and had a few decent chances with Giroud failing to connect with a Bacary Sagna cross from what might have been the best of them. There were a couple of decent saves from David de Gea to deny Santi Cazorla in the dying minutes, but they were fairly routine in reality. 

Laurent Koscielny had a header from a corner cleared off the line by Antonio Valencia earlier in that second half and Giroud had a good shout for a penalty turned down too. He was pushed to the ground by serial cheat Nemanja Vidic as he attempted to reach a cross from the left, but the referee was adamant it wasn't a foul. It continued Arsenal's run of not getting any calls in their favour in big games after very poor refereeing decisions went against them in games with City and Chelsea.

United didn't do an awful lot in the second half but they did get a very good chance late on. Arsenal lost the ball in midfield and United broke quickly with Wayne Rooney picking van Persie out with an excellent cross to the far post. His header seemed destined for the back of the net, but Wojciech Szczesny make an excellent one handed save to touch the ball on to the bar.

I really wanted the three points and I thought it would have been great for Arsenal to go to the top of the league again despite the awful result on Saturday. A point wasn't too bad tough all things considered and Arsenal are only one point behind the leaders with 12 games left to play. They have to play at home to City and away to Chelsea in those 12 games and their fate is well and truly in their own hands.

Arsenal may have let in five goals away to Liverpool at the weekend but they have been excellent defensively at home. The last team to score away to Arsenal were Everton and that was over two months ago. If they can continue that defensive strength at home they should win most of their remaining six home league games.

I was a lot happier with the contribution of Mesut Ozil last night, but it's obvious he has no outlet for his passes. With Theo Walcott injured there's no pace wide on the right to run in behind defences and Aaron Ramsey's absence has meant there are no midfielders getting beyond the opposition defences. Giroud hasn't got the pace to get behind defences and it must be frustrating for a player of Ozil's passing ability to look up and see no willing runners when he's on the ball. 

The team are finding goals harder to come by week after week and the absence of both Walcott and Ramsey is having an adverse effect. The play has become very one dimensional and the players to shake it up either aren't available or weren't brought in during the January transfer window. I hope the players that are available can find a way to open opponents up and keep their title challenge going.

It's the FA Cup up next with a chance for revenge against Liverpool and it's at home this time. The team can't afford to start that game like they did on Saturday and the boss has to play his strongest team despite the Champions League game with Bayern Munich three days later. The chances of winning the FA Cup are an awful lot better than the chances of European glory and the FA Cup cannot be treated as a second class competition as it has been on other occasions in the recent past.

While last night was disappointing one point is an awful lot better than none and the defensive performance will have gone some way towards reinstalling some confidence. Who knows what a win over Liverpool might do for that confidence or even a win over Bayern. One point is hardly a great return from the two big games this week, but at least Arsenal are still within touching distance of the league leaders.

That's it for today.

See tou tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Out of the top 4,the gunners goal difference is the lowest.The gunners have the lowest points total in a mini league of the top 4. This is cause for concern.
    It is very well beating Cardiff but against the top sides,the gunners are no where.
    I remain to be convinced the gunners can win the epl or any trophy at all.