Naïve, Dysfunctional & Timid Arsenal 1 – 3 Experienced, Organized & Clinical Manchester United

Before the game I was quite confident of a good result in this game. We have been playing well and the team sheet showed that except Van Persie this was perhaps the best starting line up we have. Within five minutes however, I was really worried. In spite of Arshavin fashioning a couple of openings for himself and making Brown look like a school boy it seemed to me that we were sitting back!

I am not sure whether we were “inhibited and tense” as Arsene said or it was a tactical decision. I doubt that Wenger would come up with the tactics of sitting back against the opponents who had lost 5 of their last six visits to the top four sides. That means most of our players were really nervous and for this kind of a game, our playing style, and given our defensive vulnerabilities we just could not afford that.

United got in behind us quite easily and quite often in the initial minutes. Mostly from the left. Some might consider this a problem with Clichy. I think Nasri was caught in no man’s land too often and there was no left sided DM cover as Denilson was hopeless. This put a great deal of pressure on Clichy who ended up making some mistakes. It was only a matter of time before United scored.

The first goal came from some excellent play by Nani. He tends to get inspired against Arsenal. Is it a great mystery or could it be down to something as simple as most Arsenal players’ inability to put a tackle in.

The Ronaldo wannabe went straight through Nasri and Clichy. How many times have we seen that when two or more Arsenal players close someone down they tend to wait for someone else to put a tackle instead of taking the responsibility themselves. Perhaps Song is the only one who takes it upon himself. This is a really deep rooted issue and one that Wenger must address if this team has to have title aspirations.

Even after his initial bit of trickery, Nani had a lot to do or maybe not, as it was Denilson on the edge of the box. The way Denilson was mesmerized just by body movement tells me how bad the Brazilian is in a defensive role. This gave Nani a clear run into the box.

Contrary to what some people believe, Almunia’s positioning was not poor it was good. If he had been any further back the near post would have been exposed. If Nani had scored on the near post Almunia would have been criticized for being too far back. The Spaniard has a simple problem now. People have decided he is not good enough and will find faults no matter what happens. To me, there was little the goal keeper could have done as the cross was excellent. Another skill that we desperately need to learn.

After the first goal went in we were forced to throw men forward. So whether it was tactical or just out of fear, we could not sit back anymore. The second goal showed why we had reasons to be afraid!! Our defending on counters is woeful. As I have mentioned in the past, we fail to maintain a good attacking shape leaving large holes for the opposition to exploit. This has very little to do with the formation but boils down to each individual player’s reading of the game.

Firstly, how easy is it for any striker to receive and hold the ball in front of our defenders? Rooney, though halfway inside his own half, had so much time to receive the ball and keep it while Nani pulled away. This is a simple matter of poor defensive technique and is common to almost all our defenders. Other top defenders attack the ball aggressively when a striker is about to receive it and this is another area Arsene must address.

Secondly, even when the ball was played to Nani there was plenty for him to do and we had bodies behind the ball. I was gutted by the effort put in by Denilson. He was ambling back and allowed Rooney to sprint past him into a good position. How can anyone defend him by saying he reads the game well and makes vital interceptions! If ever there was a time to make one, this was it. I was also a bit disappointed that Vermaelen didn’t throw his body on the line to block Rooney’s effort.

The third goal came from a similar counter. Denilson had a horrible first touch and then went AWOL. Rooney was able to receive and hold the ball in front of our defender. Then he was able to play it back to a team mate who lobbed it forward for Park. Really school boy level of play that was enough to carve us open. Too many of our players get attracted to the ball but cannot put a tackle in. Too many of our players don’t know when to give someone space and when to close them down. Hardly any Arsenal player knows how and when to commit a professional foul.

Three goals down, we put a disjointed effort to come back into the game. By now United were taking it easy and allowing us possession up to their box and clearing anything that was floated in. Some people, of course, cannot see beyond the need of a big tall front man but our problems were more down to a lack of cohesiveness and in the case of some players, a lack of effort.

We scored from a deflection as a handful of individuals worked hard. I was particularly impressed by the work put in by Gallas and if he had better awareness of where the goal was we might have scored the second, setting up an interesting final few minutes. On the other hand the visitors had plenty of chances on counter attacks but they couldn’t find the finish. This only highlights what I have said many times in the past – scoring a goal is difficult and needs multiple mistakes from the defending team and some great skill from the offensive team.

As it stands, our title challenge is in tatters. Before these four games we had discussed that whatever happens, we cannot lose to our title rivals in this period. A draw with Villa and this loss has put us in a situation where we need multiple slip-ups from Chelsea and United. I am a staunch supporter of this squad and Le Boss but it is difficult to see us coming back into the title race after such a showing. I doubt if the players have enough confidence and spirit to deliver under pressure.

When we lost to Chelsea, it was after playing well and dominating the ball. This defeat on the other hand was a complete mess as United had 58% possession at the end of the first half. The next two games are very critical and the fight for the title could easily be changed into a fight for third and fourth place. Worrying times ahead.

Individual Performances

Almunia: Was fairly decent. I don’t blame him for any of the goals.

Sagna: Efficient in defense as can be seen from the limited number of attacks down our right.

Gallas: A hardworking and solid performance. Couldn’t have done much more.

Vermaelen: Was poor for the second goal, could have done better for the first one as well.

Clichy: He is not match fit and doesn’t have his positioning right. Gets caught in no man’s land far too often. We need him to deliver on both fronts but right now he is struggling.

Song: My player of the match. Don’t want to imagine the scoreline without him. Worked really hard, was everywhere.

Denilson: I don’t like saying this about any Arsenal player but he was utterly useless, a serious liability in fact. Partially at fault for all the three goals.

Cesc: Struggled to get into the game as United played with three defensive central midfielders. Our play was tentative and off the ball movement was poor so we cant blame Fabregas too much. He tried as much as he could individually.

Rosicky: Really poor work rate and off the ball movement. I expect more from an experienced campaigner. At times, he has the tendency to stand and watch in stead of making an effort to get involved.

Arshavin: Worked really hard and created our best chances. Might have been too eager to deliver in a big game. Those who think he missed a number of chances should also count the number of chances Rooney missed. The only difference was the United front man got a lot more and better opportunities.

Nasri: Very poor positioning and work rate. Not sure if he is fully fit or not but he must do better both offensively and defensively.

Subs: Walcott is not a natural and cannot do wonders in such a game. Bendtner is out of touch and cannot come into a big game after a week of training. It’s not difficult to see why he didn’t start. Should we have played Eboue ahead of Sagna in this one?


17 Responses to Naïve, Dysfunctional & Timid Arsenal 1 – 3 Experienced, Organized & Clinical Manchester United

  1. Robespierre says:

    Very astute analysis as usual. and your point about agressive tackling is surely right , Manu had twice ! as many tackles as us(36:18). However the flaws go deeper. We are practically playing a system we are not equipped to play at the moment
    ‘Tactical naive/poor’ what does that mean?. We turned to a 4-3-3 this year, a system that was considered naive, till Barca implemented it, modified, to great effect, demolishing Manu,and subduing the Blues, both ofd whic banked on the counter that demolished us but was mostly anulled by Barca.the difference is that we do not have the personal to really execute it well. We are a passing team, but NOT a great passing team ,sorry, fact, Barca controls games first of all by controlling middle third, we simply do not have the ability to do that regularly.Barca perfected the art of pressing, hurrying the opposition in their own half into mistakes and regaining possession right there before a counter develops. We almost never do that. incredibly. Barca also sends often a CD up (pujol OR pique),but when a CD goes up there is always cover of 3, or 4: the other CD +left back +DM. you rarely see Busquet or Toure desperately forced to score goals.If offensive speedy Keita plays (out Diaby, say) there is always extra cover. Of course you need that brave strong keeper that Wenger ludicrously thinks is redundant, and you seem to think as well(not being blameworthy is NOT enough for a keeper, he has to save some “impossible” ones). and most of all you need a target man. not for nothing Ibra came instead of Eto’. the feeling was that a pivot, strong and technical at the same time, is the foil for the hobbits to play off and around.Who is ours?.Brilliant vPersie made up with th help sometimes of Bendtner drifting in from the wing. all that is history.Arsenal owes it to itself a one- chance-one-goal type striker, that could make all the difference for us in such games.and if he costs a lot so be it. Further Fabregas tries, forced, to be a Xavi and Iniesta in one. he has no partner in midfield.Idealy it should be Ramsey perhaps, but he not at that level yet. In anycase for all practical purposes with Denilson who has no role or particular qualities whatsoever we play with 10 men, and weakened Midfield. We have consistenly the most ineffective crossing game in the league. to prefer Eboue to Sagna is a desperation that tells it all. It all seems a flawed application of a system arrogantly and foolishly pursued gang ho in all conditions. It may work against the minnows, sometimes barely, but not against the big guns,who always punish us in the same way. What Chelsea and Manu did not manage with the best team in the world they inflict easily and alas mockingly breezingly ,on us. Wenger for all his impressive genius,as a strategist primarily far less as a battlefield tactician, is a very stubborn man.HE is admired as talent digger, but is he all the way?, not really, and how much can you get on the cheap, for a while we thought he really has no money, but that is evidently not true. There is a willfulness of conviction verging on Hybris. no other words to describe the desperate state he leads this club ‘Footbalistically” even if not financially…

    • desigunner says:

      I agree that our 4-3-3 doesn’t work in big games, have an article lined up just on this topic for this week.

      As you mentioned, any system can work as long as the personnel are right and we need to adapt to the opposition.

  2. nikkogunners says:

    I think we are in trouble as i do not see Wenger Signing in the final hours remaning. We have to concentrate on the team we have at the moment. I think there is need to drop Denilson and bring in Ramsey to the team. Bendtner should start so that Nasri can come in the second half for either Ramsey or Rosicky. Anybody knows why Sagna was pulled off? I think Traore would have had a decent game compared to Clitchy. We must regroup

  3. mario india gooner says:

    to start off with pls fuck almunia off……the guy is old and is actin worse than jens lehmann…..how many fukin own goals against the mancs??….might as well had stayed at home if ur giftin the game away…to top it up at the end he threw the ball straight to rooney as if to say come fuck me ….lucky us it would have been 4…..cumin to the defence i suggest promotin gallas as the frontman and vermaelen in the midfield…..wtf r they doin up top when ur supposed to be playin in defence….the counter attacks of manure made us look like a bunch of loonish kids runnin after thier daddies……totalli fukin exposed….almost as if evry attack looked like a goal for those twats…..me says traore did a far better job than clichy….all clichy does is he runs around players like a wild beast but hes made to look like a tamed cat when hes foxed…… i dont wanna get to denilson cos im wastin my time givin n opinion……arshavin was so fukin selfish as if he wanted to prove a point ……sadly he already has proved to us what a gr8 player he is if only he would be as good as bergkamp to lay it back to nasri or fab….maybe we would have been 2-0 before they wer….fuck it i miss rvp the most……if u guys rember last game we wer without fab and rvp played his role……last season we wer without fab aft his injury….who changed the game rvp…..21 games unbeaten it was i suppose…..fuck shit happens

  4. mario india gooner says:

    and by last game i meant the last game against the mancs

  5. Senprudent says:

    Very good analysis friend…, I would want to agree with U completely but the one U said about Alumnia fails to attract me…!!! Of course our defenders are pathetic…, but it doesn’t mean our goalie is better… He’s equally horrible in judgment (both in terms of time and space)… To me AW need to drop both Alumnia and Denilson….!!!

  6. hmm... says:

    nice analysis dude….i think title chances are surely over…and arshavin needs a kick in his butt, b’coz in last few games he is playing for personal glory, which is not acceptable…

  7. redOak13 says:

    agree with you and good points Desi.

    DISGUSTING!!! thats the words i would use to describe how my beloved Arsenal played last night!! We lack the desire, hunger, determination, drive, passion and all of the adjective to describe an Arsenal team. every player is at fault and that God damn spanish keeper is just damn awful and not even good enough to play for a league one team. what an idiot!!! all the talking before the match of how and what and why they must win last night game to show who and who and who is all bullshit!!! this team will not win anything this season or the next if they don’t wake the fuck up and look in the fucking mirror! my prediction for the chelsea game, we, the ARSENAL WILL LOSE again for sure if they played like they did last night…

  8. Steve D. says:

    I simply wrote one word in my diary today – “BUGGER”

  9. Kanz says:

    Totally disagree about Almunia – he is a clown and should never keep goal for Arsenal again!

  10. GonnerGun says:

    Alright been some while i wrote any comment on arsenal blogs. First off the performance was aweful and they “humilated” us (yes im a fuckin arsenal fan!) just like Chelsea did and then we ran into a good form and everyone was up for it and said we could win the title (I believed too), not anymore. It’s the same old story, MU beating our good run and make our team look like boys and we end up screwing another season up. Yes Arsenal was playing like boys!

    Hate how much you want but Evra was right saying it last season. 1st goal was wonderful skill from nani and beat 3 defenders and chip an easy ball but Almunia reacted late and put the ball into his own net. It was PURELY poor goalkeeping, you can see the reply and he reacted late. A schoolboy football mistake. 2nd goal was a simple quick run from the middle by the sherk and denilson was his boy here. He kept running without any intent to close down any incoming players. WTF?!

    I switched off the tv just after that and start thinking, it’s all repeating again and again every season. After conciding the first goal Arsenal normally go on wildly and lose another goal whenever they play MU and wenger talks about attitude, mature and stupid lies about his players! 70% of them have no guts and heart! If I was a good footballer and play for a great team like Arsenal I’ll make sure I give 100% in every game and don’t do silly mistakes like that!

    I hate to say this but the team and manager is not title winner material. Only cesc, song, gallas, verminator, arshavin and nasri are the good ones. The rest are average and a few are below average (denilson and almunia in particular!). Where are the “we trust in wenger guys?”. Some might say it’s just a game but to be honest losing at that margin to your title competitator and arch rival is not 1 game, it’s a massive blow and I guess it’s 6 years without a single trophy. If i was a Hull fan I wouldn’t care but this is Arsenal
    and the fans n club don’t deserve this shit wenger is putting up each year. He trust his players but he has more pride and ego for his phylosopies.

    Keep it up wenger, it’s all down to him and his decisions. This will go on and only top 4 is the club’s concern. Highest wages and ticket prices and we just manage to finish 4th each season and with a few more tough games to go we might end up fighting for 4th position yet AGAIN this season! Hopes…that’s all this manager can give us.

    I had it enough, for me things will get onto track if :

    1. Wenger get the F.off and get a new manager in place of him. I don’t care anyone as long as he have the experience and are not afraid of spending!

    2. Wenger changes his FAILED experiments and phylosopies and start buying mens not boys anymore!

    I don’t know about you guys but for me this will be the start of downfall for this season like many other previous seasons and we’ll lose cesc and arshavin. Steps in ramsey (not ready) and some unknown kid wenger will buy. The club loves him because he will save them money and finish top 4. I love Arsenal as much as any of you do and
    I have been watching them since i know what football was. Wenger is just living his past glories that he didn’t built himself alone, it as “leftovers” and he worked for a few years on them (players). That’s all.

    Utterly dissapointed Gooner!

  11. bobbygee says:

    The entire squad seemed out of synch. They didn’t have the spark. How much did playing a tough Villa squad take out of the boys? This is a guess guided by experience. Make Nai beat you was a good plan. He has not produced much until this game. Nani ran the Man U offense to perfection. The season is not lost. Arsenal will win the title. So far even money one win, one loss and one tie. Chelsea will go down.
    http://bobbygee.wordpress.com/

  12. 0.9 Calibre says:

    Frankly, the starting line up wasnt my favourite, Ferguson’s maybe but not mine. I dunno why you look down upon the “big tall front man” concept. Yes, the big goon up there might stick out like a sore thumb among the supremely gifted technical players in our team but, In the EPL having the “big guy” upfront has to be viewed as a tactic and not dismissed with derision. Arshavin and Rosicky are attacking players with a great degree of creativity and all throughout their lives have played off big men up front cos to create among a defense like Man Utd’s someone ought to hold the ball for a while, someone has to catalyse the movements of these creative players. I expected nasri to go back to midfield while Bendtner starts upfront.. Am not saying Bendtner came and changed the game (ofcourse it was too much for anyone) but I noticed that we were able to win more aerial balls in the final third and the last 25 minutes were able to really push Man U.. the utility of the “Big guy” upfront may not be too apparent but you can maybe analyse the last 25 min in depth. We started with Nasri upfront and Denilson in midfield. Double Whammy!… Anyways otherwise you are pretty spot on… Almunia cant really blamed for the Goals but the Cynic in me laughed out loud when he gifted possession to the opposition’s forward at some point (Lol, what was that about!)… Vermaelen wasnt that bad.. he didnt lunge during the second goal because of “Diving Shrek’s” reputation.. cant point that out as a mistake but he played with a lot of heart.. The predicament of Nasri and Rosicky was similar, they wanted to get out of the congested man u defense, drop deep and create but that left the little russian all alone upfront, so I guess their game got pretty messed up, even if one of the two had put a top class performance then we’d have seen a different result.. So overall, one must accept the painful fact that on Sunday, Man u was better than arsenal, they were more disciplined and had a clear idea bout what they were going to do and hence won.. Thats all!

    • desigunner says:

      Firstly, I don’t look down on a big striker. It’s not black and white i.e. either you like it or u don’t. In my opinion,given our personnel it was not an option for this game.

      Towards the end we were able to push United back because they were happy to drop deep and let us play. In such games you can’t analyze the last stages because the team that is up by three goals and has the defensive abilities of United doesn’t really care much.

      Bendtner actually lost the ball more often than he did something useful with it. Interestingly, to hold the ball up one does not use ones head. A good player uses his feet to do that and you don’t have to be too big to do that. Rooney was able to receive and hold it with his feet. Someone like Steven Fletcher for Burnley was able to receive and hold it against our defense. It’s a much deeper problem with our defense and attack that we fail to deal with this issue on both ends.

      Another issue is that holding the ball up applies only when we have to move out of our half. We got out often enough and conceded from goals when we were really deep in the United half.

      Our problem was with our movement and the slowness of our attacks. A big man gives us a different option, there is no denying that, but I prefer not to put blinkers on and think that is the only solution. Too many players played poorly and we cannot hide behind a “big man” theory and ignore so much that went wrong.

      • 0.9 Calibre says:

        True that is not the only solution but imho the big man theory is a different solution which has been sparsely reviewed this season.. The frame of the team has been uniform this season and we have been found lacking the edge when it came to physically tough games.. heck we could have started Bendtner against man U and still lost for all you know, but what is hard for me to understand is that after a 10 game unbeaten run how can players like nasri and Rosicky fail suddenly? with all their experience? Until yesterday never did I dream of questioning Rosicky’s work rate .. He is the “bouncing Czech” for a reason.. The way I see it its like a stack of dominoes, i dont intend to say we are a one man team or anything but it seems like the teams composure has to be perfect to the most minor element for us to perform.. Utd’s defence got “in our face” and there was very little our creative forwards could do.. I dont blame Le boss for overlooking the need of a physical presence upfront.. in fact the Boss really NEEDED the win and the inclusion of vermaelen is testament to that.. Its just the Boss didnt see it that way.. And again thats just my opinion..

      • desigunner says:

        My feeling is that Bendtner has been out for so long that he would not have been match fit for the intensity of such a game.

        In hindsight, since too many players didn’t play well, we can now think of what if he had played. I am not saying he won’t do a great job in the future, I like him and I think he will be top striker but it’s difficult to say he should have been picked without us knowing the exact fitness situation.

        By and large I agree with what you said, I think our fine tuning is a bit different but rest of the thought process is the same :)

  13. Shashi says:

    I dint agree with ur ratings for almunia.. hes woeful.. i hate to say it, his performances in the last few games were really really disappointing..
    Song had a gud game.. he tried really hard. Fabregas was like tryin to win the game on his own. nasri and rosicky dint do much to the game..
    denilson’s performance has also been really bad last few games..
    Even if we dnt win against chelsea.. i hope we win other matches and keep up the fight for the title..
    Come on Gunners..

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