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It didn’t feel like Arsenal v United

ARSENAL 1 MANCHESTER UNITED 1
FROM GOODPLAYA AT THE EMIRATES

YOU KNOW how big an occasion the Emirates is hosting by the extent to which the constant standing that is most prevalent behind our “second half” goal sweeps round past the singing section towards the dugouts. Ordinarily, in our seats down by the corner flag you’d expect to spend the entirety of Arsenal v United on your feet.

But not today. I’ve never spent so much time seated for an Arsenal v United game. It wasn’t a conscious choice on my part – it was what we were all doing. It was disconcerting – a hefty something sapped from what is ordinarily such a fine occasion by the fact that for United the result mattered little. It was a strange, discomforting feeling, though arguably still better than them winning it on our turf, which would have just been hideous.

Of course in the best of all possible worlds they’d have come needing something from the game and left still needing something. But on the evidence of what we did see, I’m not sure I’d have fancied us greatly against a United side with something to play for.

We started well enough – our goal beautifully worked, albeit offside. It may seem churlish to criticise a successful finish, but to those saying Walcott took it well, I’d kindly suggest that anything less well placed would have frankly constituted a pretty poor effort.

But anyhoo. United were pretty woeful frankly for a while and there for the taking you sensed. And it was at that stage that I began to get a bit angry because I remembered that for everything A-list about the club (the stadium, the ticket prices, the wages), we essentially have just the one player who we regard as a striker and that is a fairly shocking state of affairs frankly.

United rallied, put one wide, had one well saved and then got the cheapest of goals. A sloppy ball from Sagna, a run from Van Persie, an attempt to recover from Sagna, me screaming from about 15 yards away “don’t foul him, don’t foul him, don’t foul him” and then, of course, a foul. I’m Sagna’s biggest fan but all in all that was pretty poor frankly.

After the break they probably looked most dangerous but we were game enough and fashioned a couple of openings ourselves. A draw was fair – it was one of those games where if either side had got a winner you’d have said they merited it but neither did.

A few observations on some of the players:

Van Persie: The sight of some things and some people on a football pitch make my blood boil. He is not one of them. For me, he had every right to leave: I’d have done it at the same stage. Going to United was hardly a huge punt on his part, but I struggle to see how one can begrudge him the move. Then there is, of course, how he left. Not particularly graceful I’ll grant you but changing jobs often isn’t.

But for me the overriding reason why it doesn’t really hurt is frankly because he never won anything with Arsenal (other than a bit part in an FA Cup triumph). Yes, he was once one of ours but it is largely in the winning of trophies that immortality is conferred. Without them you become the best player of a soon forgotten crop.

Theo Walcott: I hate to be negative and I am aware I am perhaps picking on him a little. But can someone tell me why he basically just stands there for large parts of the game, giving his opponents completely free reign to play around him. His goal aside, he was woeful for long periods and only sparked up when it appeared the Ox was about to replace him with five minutes left. His corners were utterly woeful too.

Aaron Ramsey: The way he gravitates towards the ball while others (see above) do the opposite, is now appreciated by the vast majority of the Emirates crowd, who realise it is better to make the odd mistake than never to do anything at all. I’m not greatly surprised: he is a useful player to have, a little Ray Parlouresque in some (but not all) senses.

Next year, I just hope this fixture is some time between November and February.

21 Responses to “It didn’t feel like Arsenal v United”

  1. ayplux says:

    great article man

  2. del says:

    so you went to the game & gave stan kroenke ur money! and now you’ll complain all summer about being in the europa league and a lack of investment!, and come august/sept… you’ll be giving stan more money again… lol

  3. slc gunner says:

    Draw was a fair result. We lack that little bit of class up front to turn a half chance into something. Podolski wasn’t getting in behind, neither was Walcott apart from the goal. A true 2nd striker is really needed.
    We played well in the first half and ok in the 2nd. But we’ve struggled to score in the last 3 games. We really need to put it together on that front in the last 3 games. I think we can do it. There are no gimmes though. QPR have nothing to play for, which might mean they play with more freedom. Wigan and Newcastle have a lot to play for.
    Agree on Ramsey. Really impressed with his energy and general play. Not all of his passes came off, but he was more direct and incisive than others. Special mention for Kos as well, who was excellent throughout. Feel sorry for Sagna, really like the guy, but his worst season by far. 3 games to make good.

  4. hemmy says:

    It was a great game after all, I never dreamt of seeing arsenal draw the match.
    Arsenal needs an outstanding striker and hopefully a good defensive mid-fielder because both the striking force and the mid-field {majorly the defensive mid-field} needs competent players. I hope this match next season is going to be a memorable one for both teams.

  5. Bill says:

    We missed Giroud today pitty the pricks at the fa couldnd see hiss foul at fulham was an accidend,
    Fergie says utd could have won the game comfortably ,I say right back at you you scotch coffin dodger ,we laked composure in the final third ,promising perfomance though I do hope we can see that we need to be more ruthless on the counter!

  6. Jonny says:

    The strange thing is that when you say ‘our turf’, my gut reaction is ‘eh? The Emirates is not really our turf’.

    If you say ‘our stadium’, however, I would go along with it.

    ‘Our turf’ implies a more visceral sense of connection with a particular place. Hallowed ground. A place where blood, sweat and tears have been spilt in a noble cause, perhaps.

    I don’t have that sense of connection with the Emirates Stadium, not the way I did with Highbury.

    If things continue as they are at Arsenal, I suspect I never will.

    Who cares if Man U win at the Emirates? They’ve done it before, and if Arsenal carry on as they are, they’ll do it again. What difference does it make? At the moment it feels like they’ll go on collecting titles while we go on collecting fourth places. Life goes on.

    Disillusioned.

  7. skillz says:

    a brilliant arsenal first half…a subdued and nervous arsenal 2nd..Many say there is a gulf in quality between both teams but on the basis of the 1st half that is untrue..some say football spins on fine margins and u cannot go into any game with an entitlement mentality so against that backdrop a point is fair..Podolski is never a central striker so lets now put that myth that he is to bed now..i watched him closely and from the runs he was making appeared to be hiding and not wanting it enough..theres a certain pressure that comes with being a central striker and this position is where our fate for next season will hinge..get a tested quality man in and this team will be strengthened by 70%..dwaddle or settle for any less and it’ll be another top four scrap with no silverware

  8. Elvis says:

    I loved the way we pressed and harried in the first 30 minutes. It lifted the crowd and gave a sense of pride to the team.

    If we were able to do that in every game (I honestly don’t think we have the fitness levels), if we had two or three top quality forwards in the squad who can break with decisive efficiency (rather than getting to the box, checking and passing backwards of square) and if we had decent crossers who whipped in 4-5 dangerous set pieces per game (instead of the absolute dross we have on corners and free kicks) we would challenge Man United for the title.

  9. Wallace says:

    nice article. w/r/t next season – the thing that bothers me about the Jovetic rumours is that he is a short f**ker, and can’t really see him playing the middle man in a front three. i know Suarez is equally effective through the middle or out wide, but he is pretty unusual in that regard.

  10. PD says:

    skillz, Utd came after a week of celebrating & quite clearly were not playing anywhere near 100%. We still couldn’t beat them. There is a massive gulf in quality. To suggest otherwise given there is 21 points between the teams in the league is just madness.
    We learnt nothing new really : we’ve only got one striker, Arteta is a total liability in that position (every single time Utd attacked his lack of pace & physical presence was brutally exposed. Arsene, you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself putting such a good pro to waste like this. Arteta deserves so much better) & against the top teams we are just not good enough. Not even close to it. 10 games in the league against the top 5 teams around us (the two Mancs, Chelsea, Totts, Everton) & we won one game. A game where we played against 10 men for most of the game thanks to Adebayor’s stupidity. If that isn’t proof that we’re miles away then I don’t know what is.

    We’ve got 2 very winnable games now but without Giroud I just don’t know where our goals are going to come from. Podolski is clearly nowhere near fit; that was patently clear to anyone watching. The rumours about his impending ankle surgery must be true. And what does it say about the ‘best player in Africa’ that he can’t even be picked ahead of a man who can barely break into a sprint due to injury.

    Never wanted a season over so badly. It’s been relentlessly depressing from start to finish.

  11. MDP says:

    I’m pretty happy with a point. Games against Utd are always tough, regardless.

    Arsenal came flying out the traps like whippets and had they got a second goal in the first 30mins they might just have won it. I was incredibly impressed how they defended and won the ball back, high up the pitch, in the opening period, “as a team”. It was a good performance all in all but the lack of a natural striker was obvious and I’m not convinced the attacking players had the belief they could win it in the last 20 minutes.

    Of course we’re miles behind United, the table speaks for itself. But, these players have come a long way in recent games, that can only be a benefit for next season. Fill the obvious gaps in the summer and things will move forward rapidly and that gap will close some what.

    I agree that playing Arteta as the holding midfielder is nuts but saying he’s a liability is stretching things a bit far. Santos was a liability, Arteta hasn’t dropped to those depths but I get your frustration PD. The biggest threat on Sunday came down United’s left and unfortunately Sagna had a bad day there. Sagna hasn’t been the same since the two leg breaks and I’m sure at 30 it’s been tough for him to see high profile players moving on around him. He deserves better for the work he’s done over the last 6 years. If he’s deemed to be in good condition physically and mentally, I’d be delighted if he signed a new contract. However, we’ve acted on sentiment in the past so if he’s past his best then perhaps it’s better for both parties to move on.

    I must hail Koscielny and Mertesacker, our best players of late. I got some stick at the start of the season for backing Koscielny as a great Wenger signing at a cost of around 8 million. Nothing has changed my mind. At 27 he is entering his best years after a relatively late start in the game. I think the best is yet to come. Sign a Mertesacker type defender this summer and we’ll have a good compliment of centre halves.

    3 very winnable games coming up, if they keep up this work rate. All 3 games have their pitfalls but I wouldn’t swap Arsenal’s position/fixtures with Chelsea or Spurs.

  12. skillz says:

    PD on the basis of the 1st half performance we didn’t look at all like a team 21 points behind them..yes they are a stronger team with better quality in each department no doubt..but our first half performance showed we can match them.. and Perhaps could have beaten them if Sagna hadn’t cocked up..And lets be honest, its not like celebrating their title would have suddenly make them forget how to play, i don’t care if they drank from that Monday until matchday….

    the ”table doesnt lie” is the common mantra we all use but my theory has always been that the table is a reflection of consistency of teams more than anything else ..we are 22 points ahead of Swansea but all the games we played against them were tense and close affairs…can we say the gulf in quality between us and Swansea is as great as the points differential suggests? i don’t think so..

  13. MDP says:

    Think I know what you’re getting at Skillz. I think the way Arsenal played in that first half hour was immense. It wasn’t about whether United turned up or not, Arsenal just didn’t give them the chance. Shame they can’t perform at that tempo for 90 minutes. But that brings me onto consistency.

    Consistency is everything in football. Consistency is what makes a top top player. Consistency is there in every great team. Consistency wins trophies. That’s why United are Champions. That’s why the last few weeks have been so encouraging at Arsenal. That’s why the league table doesn’t lie.

  14. skillz says:

    MDP you are spot on with that 1st paragraph..we simply didn’t let them get into any kind of rythm..and regardless of if they were up for it or not that tempo would have been hard to cope with..we were well worth another goal but it didn’t happen..i was taken aback by that 1st half display,i believe even Evra made a comment about it post game..

    about consistency,on 2nd thoughts i may have used the term loosely because you can argue that it is a by product of the overall ”Quality” of a Great team..”Quality” isn’t only about how tippy tappy a team is..it covers other attributes like Mental strength,discipline,experience,and resilience…Therefore,if we are speaking with respect to the above traits collectively, i accept that Manchester united do have a Gulf over us as they have exhibited them more than we have…

  15. On The Six says:

    Hey Goodplaya, just want to say I appreciate your insights over the years. You’re one of the few online bloggers on the Arsenal I find genuinely thought provoking and while I don’t always agree with what you say, you’re unpredictable and I always appreciate your reasoning. That’s why I keep coming back. I Even though the club and team seem to be stuck in a holding pattern over the years you always try to see the bigger picture.

    What I find interesting is how Wenger can always take Arsenal back from the brink time after time while most other managers eventually get sucked into the abyss and seem to find no way back, Martin O’Neill being perhaps a recent example. This probably seems like a curse to many gooners but I find it almost incredible. Cats would envy how many lives our manager has but they probably wouldn’t want the pressure.

  16. PD says:

    Sorry gents but all your optimism needs to come with an (*) beside it. Of course it matters that they weren’t up for it, it matters hugely. Can we say for definite we would have been able to stop them playing if they needed a result ? No. Can we make an assumption of whether we were likely to be able to stop them playing if they needed a result based on recent history ? Yes, we can – the likelihood is we wouldn’t have been able. Saying otherwise is just optimism based on rose-tinted glasses & ignoring all the available evidence …..(not the worst crime in the world obviously & probably something I need to do myself now & again !)

    MDP, Arteta does none of the things we need the player in his position to do to make this team successful. That makes him a liability imo. I’m nothing saying his performances have regressed. He’s just incapable of doing what needs to be done. I’ve said it all season but Sunday was my first game in person for many months & it highlighted to me even more. I think against poorer teams, its not such an issue but against good sides he’s embarrassed over & over again. (it’s worth repeating : 1 win in 10 games against the top 5 in the league – that’s a shameful set of results & Arteta being deployed out of position is for me the single biggest factor)

    Sorry but I’m going to give you more stick for the Koscielny comment : he has miles, miles more improving to do to be considered a great signing. No questioning his desire or bravery (unlike a lot of his teammates) but his decision-making remains very poor (would you still be lauding him if his unbelievably stupid tackle v West Brom had cost us the 3 points ? the only reason it didn’t was awful refereeing) & his distribution is quite frankly appalling. (again something highlighted even more to me in the flesh. He put us under awful pressure on loads of occasions when unable to complete even a basic 10-yard pass)

    Anyway, a must-win tomorrow. Anything less than 3 points against an already relegated QPR would be a complete disaster. If ever there was a game to play Theo at centre forward (& to be honest I’m not sure such a thing exists !!) this might be it. They are so poor it’s unreal & we might get away with him there…

  17. MDP says:

    Fair enough, I’m not going to push the point on Arteta, you know my ideal is to have a proper defensive midfielder in there. All the talk doing the rounds of Gonalons and Capoue is a good start.

    In regards to Koscielny‚Ķ All defenders fuck up from time to time. From Adams, Sol Campbell, John Terry, Vidic, Ferdinand, they’ve all got a long list of monumental cock ups and Sol was a terrible passer of the ball. I’m not saying Koscielny has reached the heights of these defenders but it’s easy to look back and forget the imperfections. I think he’s a cracking player who will look even better if Arsenal fill the gaping holes in the squad and offer our defence a bit of protection.

    I get your point about over optimism but football is my escape and sometimes I can’t help myself. Truth is, the next 3 games scare the crap out of me.

    Think you’re right about putting Theo up top PD. Podolski didn’t look fit and talk of an ankle op backs that up. Theo might just build on his goal last week if we send him out to run and run and run!

    QPR v Arsenal, Spurs v Southampton Saturday, Man U v Chelsea Sunday and Chelsea v Spurs Wednesday. We’ll have a much better idea of where we stand after those games.

  18. PD says:

    For me, for someone who cost 8-10 million quid (I thought it was 10) to be considered a ‘great’ signing he’s gotta be reaching the standards of those players. If not, he can’t be more than a decent signing. That’s why imo Sagna was the last Wenger signing who could be considered ‘great’. 6 years is a long time ago…
    I do agree agree though that all of our defenders will immediately look better if (& it is a big if) Arsene gets a Flamini-type player in.

    I just think QPR are so poor that Theo’s flaws as a central player won’t hurt us as much & his pace is bound to get him a chance or two. And for all his flaws, he is a really good finisher.

    Anyway, come on u Reds. Let’s put pressure on Chelsea for Sunday

  19. MDP says:

    Maybe you’re right on this one. “Great” is perhaps a term best used with players that have proved themselves. Still, like him though and think he is good value for money so far.

    Come on Arsenal! Please don’t make us suffer this week!!!

  20. PD says:

    Well, they made us suffer ! Delighted with the 3 points but honestly, in over 30 years watching Arsenal I have never had so little affection for an Arsenal team. How many times are they going to turn up against poor opposition with a crappy attitude, expecting the oppo to just roll over & let them win, before they finally learn a lesson from it ? We’ve seen this countless times now. That game should have been dead & buried after 20 minutes.Instead, it was terrifying. A team with an extraordinary sense of their own importance, completely out of line with their actual achievements.
    It’s pathetic…and reflects very, very badly on the manager’s ability to motivate them…..

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