Ask an Arsenal supporter what they want first and foremost from any of the players representing them I think 95% or maybe more would say I want to see them show some pride in playing for the club we love so much.
Personally the second thing I want to see from them is an attitude that says they will do their job properly.
I’ll do my ratings first:
Mannone – 8 left with no chance with either goal, made some good saves and nearly prevented the second
Sagna – 6 did nothing going forward, normal self when called upon at right back in the tackle but showed some nervousness in first half with clearances.
Santos – 6 when the “brazilian wing back” did find his way into the danger areas his final ball left a lot to be desired.
Vermaelen – 3 from the minute he cuddles and shakes hands with BSR he has set the tone for his performance and the team. I know it wasn’t only him but he is captain he should have said in the changing room “in that tunnel, look straight ahead, don’t look at them….FOCUS”. I’ll cover the rest of his performance later.
Mertesacker – 7 his normal impeccable self in reading of the game, interceptions and well timed tackles and good blocks. Not as good with his distribution as normal, but not his fault. (See later)
Arteta – 7 unfortunately despite all his effort he was stuck to like glue by Rooney. Very limited opportunities to be proactive with possession, but busied himself well defensively fighting fires on his own.
Cazorla – 6 despite a good finish for the goal did not see enough of the ball in space to cause threat to ManU
Wilshere – 6 battled hard but that’s not what he is in the team for, like Cazorla starved of space and options all match. First booking harsh, second through tired legs, shouldn’t have been on pitch.
Podolski – 5 didn’t contribute
Ramsey – 6 out of position and definitely made Sagna’s life easier, like everyone else starved of space.
Giroud – 7 didn’t see the ball anywhere near as much as he deserves to….can’t be faulted if he doesn’t get the ball.
Theo – 5 offered nothing different.
Arshavin – 5 ditto
Right that’s that out of the way, now lets begin the report with the positives.
Ok moving on to the rest of the match.
Fergie has not won that many titles without being annoyingly good at utilising the strengths of his team and the weakness of others. Yes that’s right he is willing to change his tactics from game to game. The club spend where it’s important, the attacking third, and they spend big, but that isn’t where it stops, they ask those big money signings to earn their corn however the manager sees fit. If that means asking the Premier Leagues most expensive teenager to man to man Arteta when Arsenal have possession he does it. If that means asking Young to run for ninety minutes up and down the flank with very little ball time he does it.
They clearly had two game plans, “if Theo is on the pitch we sit deep, if he isn’t we squeeze the play as much as possible”, there were times with BFG on the ball about ten yards from half way that Ferdinand and Evans were almost providing unique symmetry holding their defensive line ten yards in their half, they pressured the ball from the front, marked tight and we had no space, we needed our full backs and wide men to provide runs and movement in behind we had to play longer, but we can’t, either through inability, lack of pace or not wanting to.
So starved of the space options and possession we need to breathe this was always going to be difficult.
Sorry I have glossed over something, the above was what happened after they went one nil up. If we were facing a side that were set up to make it difficult for us we made it even harder by gifting them the lead. Santos had his first test of the afternoon, marking Valencia tight the ball was played to the on rushing Rafael who played a very Arsenal like nothing cross, which Vermaelen got totally confused by, he must face crap balls like that all week in training yet he clearly hasn’t worked out how to put his boot through the f’ing ball and decided he would gift BSR a nice early chance which he stroked in with ease. Had to happen but would’ve been nice to actually make him work for it.
After that we consistently failed to clear our lines effectively, after the Liverpool game my mainly glowing report focussed on a few things that still weren’t right, one of my suggestions was that it is sometimes ok to put the ball in row Z or beyond their backline to relieve pressure and regain shape.
In the first half we didn’t do this once, we allowed them space in our half without them having to work. Mannone couldn’t clear our half with his kicks, Giroud up front could have challenged Rio or Evans and will do given the opportunity, but instead Mannone was dropping kicks on Carricks head for Cazorla or Wilshere to try and win.
This was one way traffic and the only players looking like they wanted to do something were Arteta, Wilshere and BFG, Vermaelen walked around in a daze reconsidering his error, and hopefully his decision to take the captaincy.
A short corner, where the whole defence switch off – too busy telling each other who to mark and forgetting about the ball – led to the ball being fired at Cazorla from five yards away, his hands covered his face tucked tight to the body and the ball careered into it, nothing like a shout of penalty at Old Toilet to send Mike Dean weak at the knees and the home penalty was duly awarded. Somehow Mannone managed to put Rooney off and he scuffed it wide.
A let off before the break and a chance to get ourselves back in the game.
Could Arsene do anything to lift the team with his half time team talk? Would he make an early substitution which it seemed the game was crying out for?
On the first it didn’t appear so, United came out of the blocks quickly and we were called on in defence to snuff out a few scrambled balls into the box.
Theo was introduced, Ramsey the sacrificial lamb. United re set their back line dropping twenty yards further back. Didn’t really make a difference because not once did anyone try and find a ball over the top, Theo came short like Ramsey had, couldn’t do anything different as he was marked as tightly and again starved of options.
But somehow United eased off on their pressuring we started to get some good possession and move with a bit more pace. Santos was set free on more than one occasion, and on more than one occasion failed miserably to deliver a ball of note, perhaps one ball if Giroud had gambled he could have had a sniff of goal, but he had already shifted his position for a cut back. In reality he should be going for the 6 yard box and his midfielders should be the ones filling the edge of the box. He is still learning the English game and what is required, but it was the only criticism I could make of him.
Just as we had started to give United a test of their own at the back, we allowed them a second. Firstly allowing BSR to drift in unmarked only to see Mannone make one of several good saves. And the not clearing the corner well, not shutting down the crosser and not competing for the ball in the box…I’m looking at our skipper again. He didn’t even get off the ground, did not attack the ball, is this really the player we missed “so badly” for a whole season, the player that apparently “adds 10% to everyone else on the pitch”. I’m sorry I don’t see it, you are the captain, you must be better, you must lead, you must not give up.
The second half got even longer as Wilshere overrun the ball and clattered into Evra earning his second booking, he had been warned after upending BSR, Cleverley got warned by Dean too, when he did Ferguson replaced him with Anderson immediately. Wenger didn’t have the luxury having already removed the natural centre midfield replacement Ramsey.
It was pretty much all United for the rest of the game taking the game into our half whenever they wanted and Arsenal conceding ground obligingly, and I’m about as bothered to write about it as the players looked to be playing it, even then I found plenty to wind me up. Santos received the ball from Vermaelen, Vermaelen bombs past him, Santos loses the ball, sorry what planet do our players live on? Ten men on the pitch, deep in their half, and our centre back is playing a one two with our left back.
There was time for Cazorla to grab us a consolation and something for the away fans to cheer with a sublime finish, but it was way too little way too late.
So in summary, the players do not deserve the support they get from the away fans, I don’t mind losing, I don’t mind getting beaten by a better side, but just allowing the opposition to do what they want, and very few of our players seeming to care I will not take.
This defeat will affect many of us more than last seasons 8-2, that was a freak result, every shot they took first half they seemed to score, we had many understudies on the pitch and had yet to find any of our transfer targets and had just slogged our guts out on the pitch in Udinese to achieve CL qualification. This? No excuses, a week off, time to bond time to work out the kinks, experienced players across the back line, experience in midfield, 7 players older than 25, players who should be able to look at each other and work out what to do and how to put it right. They are not playing for the shirt, they are not playing for the manager, they are not playing for us…..that is not good enough, that is not acceptable.
I love my club, I love my team, I said after our drubbing in Milan last season that I would prefer to take ten paces back and a few leaps forward by doing away with the majority of failed talent on the pitch and letting the youngsters have a go, players hungry for their chance, I can support them, they will need it, this group of players need to stop hiding and start stepping up to the plate, it’s your fault, you put it right.
Despite all the other top 4 contenders slipping up and even Spudders losing at home to Wigan there was still nothing to smile about at the end of the day.
Written by Gooner In Exile