Friday, January 27, 2012

Too Many Holes to Plug

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United

Not an unexpected result: Arsenal's squad is once again stretched to breaking point. No full backs, no Arteta to help control the midfield area, and little by way of relief from the bench.

The first half was in its own way as scalding as the 8-2 reverse at Old Trafford. Ok, the score at half time was only 0-1, but United's dominance had been complete. And, lest we forget, this is a relatively poor United side who are suffering through their own injury crisis.

That Giggs and Carrick could win the midfield battle when outnumbered says much for the importance of Arteta. Song plays far better alongside the Spaniard, and he continued his poor recent run of form. Ramsey continues to be little more than a passenger- a player who needs a rest but can't be given one because Wilshere and Diaby and Coquelin are out of action. Rosicky, on the other hand, played with drive and spirit, not for the first time this season. He looked tired as the game wore on, but for the first hour or more he looked fresh and his sporadic runouts this season have left a good impression. He should be given more game time.

Van Persie was an onlooker in the first half, and the main threat on United's goal was Oxelade Chamberlain. The contrast between his intelligent pace and Walcott's brainless pace was a damning one for the older youngster. The actual rookie already looks a better player than the perennial rookie. Walcott's defenders have stated in the past that he needed a run in the team as first choice and free of injury. He has had that and the verdict for now has to be that he will never be better than a useful squad player. That his wage demands suggest he believes in his own importance to the first team, without ever earning that kind of status, means that he should really be turfed out this summer.

Arsenl were lucky to be only one down at the interval. Valencia powered a header past Szczesny from Giggs' pinpoint cross. Both of Arsenal's stand in full backs were culpable. Djourou, who had a nightmare and was replaced at half time, gave Giggs all day to line up his delivery, and Vermaelen only reacted too late to Valencia's movement.

Second half, United lost their way, and Arsenal played with some spirit without ever really playing well. A mistake let in Rosicky, who teed up Van Persie, only for the striker to blaze wide. A sitter missed, but Arsenal seemed to gain belief. A scramble saw a Rosicky shot blocked, but at the other end Wellbeck was exploiting Mertesacker's lack of pace and a goal could have come at either end.

Arsenal broke, Koscielny tackling Rafael in the box, finding Rosicky who sent a crossfield pass to Chamberlain. The youngster capped a very bright performance by finding RVP with a clever reverse pass, and the Dutchman shot precisely, through the legs of Evans, across goal, and just out of reach of Lindegaard. A fine goal to banish the memory of his glaring miss.

Arsenal's momentum was stalled by a bizarre event. Jeers rang out as Chamberlain was replaced by Arshavin. Arsenal fans accused their own manager of not knowing what he was doing. Poor Arshavin, with his already tattered confidence, was probably hurt, but it did seem strange to take off Arsenal's best player on the day, especially when Walcott had turned in another anonymous performance.

Whatever, neither the manager's decision or the fans' reaction helped the team in any way. The outstanding Valencia cut through Arshavin, Song and Vermaelen- ALL culpable, not just the Russian- and set up Wellbeck to fire in a deserved United winner.

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