So another season will go by without Arsenal beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in the league. Last Saturdays game was another failed attempt to beat Man Ure since Adebayor scored in a 1-0 win over a decade ago. It seems that Arsenal have a mental block when it comes to Old Trafford, most likely because of the embarrassing capitulations we’ve endured, I only have to mention the number 8, and we all know what I mean. This time round, Arsenal were sluggish and disappointing against a United side that we are superior to, which reflects the 3-2 of last season.
Wenger got the team selection wrong, in what was a contentious line up. Stating El Neny over Xhaka was a poor choice, and it was obvious throughout the match we missed some steel to deal with Pogba and some more clinical passing in the midfield, qualities Xhaka possesses. An argument could be made for whether Giroud should’ve started too, Sanchez seemed worn out from a heavy international duty with plenty of air miles. Starting Ramsey was logical, giving Jenkinson the cover he needed, although Ramsey was far too narrow and offered nothing going forwards. The only justification for leaving out Iwobi and Xhaka must be to rest them for this week’s Champions League game against PSG, a sign that Wenger is determined to finish top.
Overall I would argue the first half was even, neither side really dominated and Sanchez spurned the best chance of the half. We showed glimpses of counter attacking threat, but whenever we had possession we seemed far too slow in moving the ball from midfield to attack. The double act of Coquelin and El Neny provided no attacking influence, and they struggled to keep tabs on Mata as the half developed. Man Ure grew into the game, towards the second half we began to show gaps. At half time, many managers would’ve made a substitution, we looked flat and Ozil wasn’t getting enough of the ball.
Mesut Ozil received a lot of criticism following the result, with the usual accusations that he never turns up in big games. This kind of criticism if unfair, considering that Ozil was the driving force behind our 3-0 win against Chelsea earlier this year. I must admit however that in away games against the ‘bigger’ sides Ozil needs more support from the defensive duo behind him, and in the case from this season, more of the ball.
Of course no subs were made, subs before the 70th minute are a rarity under Wenger, which is a persisting irritant when you consider how blindingly obvious it often is that a change is needed. United continued to grow in confidence, and the little quality they have began to control the game. Mata and Herrera combined to score a well worked goal. The Arsenal players didn’t respond, and if we were against Chelsea, City or Liverpool then it would’ve been 2 or 3-0 before Giroud, the Ox or Xhaka could come on. In Wenger’s defence these were good substitutions (should’ve been made earlier however) and eventually we mustered a shot on target when Oxlade-Chamberlain beat Darmian and put in the perfect cross for Giroud to head home a last minute equaliser.
Overall 1-1 was a lucky result, although frustrating too as we never got going. Maureen sent out United to press Arsenal high and hard, putting pressure on El Neny and Coquelin, much like Chelsea did in September. In September we had Cazorla however, who could move the ball onto attacking players and set up swift counter attacking moves. We miss Cazorla, his quick feet and incisive passing are what we have been missing in our last two games.
Next PSG, I hope to see the return of Iwobi and Xhaka, and potentially starts for Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain. I would drop Walcott who was poor and give Oxlade Chamberlain a chance to consolidate his good performance.
Cech – 6
Jenkinson – 5 Koscielny – 6.5 Mustafi – 6 Monreal – 5
El Neny – 5 Coquelin – 6
Ramsey – 5 Ozil – 5 Walcott – 5
Sanchez – 6
Subs: Giroud – 7, Oxlade Chamberlain – 7, Xhaka – 6