Post Match View – Manchester United F.C.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that I’ve been here before. ‘Deja vu’ I think it’s called. I’ve felt too much pain at the hands of Manchetser United. Worse, I’ve seen the same mistakes by the same players enough times to start wondering if they belong at Arsenal.

My gripe today is not with the Gooner who’s had a go at Wenger. It’s not with the match announcer who compared us to Spurs regarding our results against top clubs. It’s not with being forced to watch an unacceptably poor effort undermine our title challenge. I’m not even upset with the guy who thought there was something funny about the team’s display. And nor am I troubled by the guy who is eager to look for excuses for our dismal performance.

The problems I have are as follows:

Almunia and Clichy have shown more often than not that they are not up to it. I’ve said it before. On 7, Clichy allowed Fletcher to cross after an overlapping run that was easy to read. William Gallas got a boot in before the approaching Rooney. A minute later, Nani eased past the left back to cross dangerously. Alex Song cleaned up on that occasion. On 26, Nani beat Clichy again with alarming ease and then later on 29, a Thomas Vermaelen intervention was needed to prevent United’s winger from going in clear from a Carrick through ball.

Clichy’s been found out. He is a weak link in our back line. Any manager or player worth even a small portion of his wages can see it.

Nani persisted. On 33, he split the sad fullback and Nasri far, far too easily. He then dribbled into the penalty area where he was greeted by a late arriving and inept challenge by Denilson. The winger’s lofted ball beat Almunia who’s fingertips helped guide it into the net.

0-1 Man Utd

The pain was just starting. Thank you Gael! Thank you Samir! Thank you Neves! Thank you Manuel!

Clichy has shown that we need to address the left back position with a seriousness that is only outdone by the urgency to finally sign a top quality goalkeeper. After looking rather amateurish on the first United goal, Almunia was always going to be the one who kept us in the game (or not) because we had to commit numbers forward in search of an equalizer. I suppose the score could have been even more lopsided but let’s be clear, United wasted chances on multiple breaks, even at the very end when Rooney could have done better. And when he shot from range on 50, Almunia looked fortunate to avoid embarrassment.

Their second came from a swift counter. Gallas was stuck very high as Rooney passed wide to Nani. He drove down field before playing it back to the on form striker. The rest was predictable. The goal was eerily reminiscent of last season’s Champions League effort.

0-2 Man Utd

Denilson has to ask himself, ‘who can do more damage on this break, Nani from a wide position, or any number of players who could be running into the box BEHIND me’? He never checked to see if the center of the pitch, the most direct path to goal, was vulnerable. Clichy was chasing the ball. Sagna had ventured over to cover. Vermaelen had sprinted back into position. Even with that many red and white shirts back the ball was allowed to make it to an unmarked Wayne Rooney. Denilson was just an observer who fancied a sprint. His contribution to preventing the goal was shockingly subpar.

You may feel it harsh to single out players since nobody in an Arsenal top played especially well. Disagree if you wish. Manuel Almunia and Gael Clichy were criminally at fault for the first goal. Denilson should have been more aware on the second.

The third also came from a United break. Denilson lost the ball in the United half. Maybe he didn’t realize that Gallas had been part of the original attack when he lost it. It looked awfully sloppy and irresponsible. I wonder how he could be so unaware of his surroundings. Carrick collected. He exchanged passes quickly with Rooney and then lofted to the breaking Park. With Clichy the only man back, it was a matter of Park staying poised to make the right decision and Clichy closing him down before he could square to Rooney or Nani. It looked to me as if Almunia had done well enough positionally to prevent the goal as Park entered the area.

Surely Park had held it too long.
Surely Clichy and Almunia would redeem themselves.
Surely we’d prevent them scoring a third goal.

Not to be! Even when Almunia came off his line, positioned so that the only option Park had was to shoot near post, it just wasn’t meant to be. He was not going to stop the third goal. Once again, Almunia has been beaten at the near post.

0-3 Man Utd

And to add icing to the unrisen cake, on 66 while we’re chasing the game for something, for anything, he and Walcott conspire to gift the ball to United deep in our half of the pitch. On 84 he kicked the ball directly to Nani just outside the 18. I couldn’t beg Arsene enough for a goalkeeper who won’t jepoardize our chances of success.

It needs to be said that there were other culprits. My commentary on the keeper and left back doesn’t absolve anyone of a poor performance. Arshavin was wasteful. Cesc failed to make an impact. Nasri and Rosicky were ineffective.

If you know me any at all, you’ll know that I covet Wayne Rooney. Yes, he is a proper bully at times but the boy can play. On 19, Vermaelen’s clearance went straight up in the air but never left the Arsenal penalty area. Witness how deftly Rooney takes it down with Vermaelen draped over him. It was a moment of top technique. I highlight it only for comparison to Denilson’s terrible touch that opened the door for United’s third. That one really bothered me.

I have no time for Robbie Earle’s gratuitous attacks on the way we play football. The man who loves to criticize our approach used the fact that we scored from a deflected goal to remark, “Arsenal can be a little bit more direct and still get the results they want”. Ok, we’ll keep that in mind.

Nice! A former Wimbledon man telling us how we should do our business. I hope this is the low point of the season.

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2 Comments

  1. Top post. Noticed that the styles of writing changes on certain days on this blog. But I like that. It’s original. Good readin’ fellas!

  2. It was a tough post to write. You probably could tell by my cursory mention of the goal Vermaelen scored. Thanks to the rubbish effort, you’ll never find a day when an Arsenal goal meant so little to me.

    The writing styles are different because there are three of us. We appreciate and welcome the feedback. Spread the word.

    Cheers!


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