Manchester United put themselves right back in the title race yesterday with a 1-0 victory over league leaders Arsenal and of course the match winner could only be former Arsenal man Robin Van Persie. Tom Egerton explores the tactical side of this mentality-changing game.
Arsenal enjoyed embracing the beautiful side of the game and will always look to keep possession the best they can, but this game was in stark contrast.
The first half Arsenal struggled to effectively use the possession that they did have, because of how organised Manchester United were.
Manchester United were quick to close down the Gunners and for the first half of the game Moyes' tactics were faultless.
Man Utd's physical presence stopped Arsenal being comfortable on the ball and made sure they were as far away from the 18 yard box as possible.
Man Utd towered over Arsenal in that department and it was their physical strength that provided Utd with the goal, and Arsenal's poor set piece setup.
Arsenal positioned their players next to the goal not marking Manchester United's players - allowing Van Persie to get all the momentum in his run that he needed, and with no actual marker for the set piece Van Persie easily headed home.
Lack of Width
Another weakness that Arsenal had was their lack of width. Due to Theo Walcott's injury Arsenal are missing width, however so far this season it has not been much of a problem for the Gunners as they sit top of the table; the quality in their side is undeniable but against a side that stretch the play frequently and a team with such physical strength in the middle of the park Arsenal were always going to struggle opting for their 4-2-3-1 central formation.
Antonio Valencia was superb first half and Man Utd looked for him a multitude of times.
Michael Carrick was usually the man pinging balls over to the right hand side and with no real wingers Valencia only had the full back to beat making it easier for Man Utd to cross the ball.
Arsene Wenger's half time team talk had a huge effect on the game. He must have thought that one of the few physical weakness' was Patrice Evra and made his team play their football down the right.
Wenger played Ramsey a bit out of position but Ramsey's position change granted Arsenal with much needed width, however Santi Cazorla remained rather central which pushed Mesut Ozil closer to the right hand side too.
However this did not hide the fact that Man Utd's physical strength was far greater. Phil Jones was outstanding throughout the game along with others, but Jones in particular did a great job of keeping out Arsenal's biggest threats out of the game, especially Mesut Ozil.
Jones' versatility was also impressive starting the game as a midfielder and moving in to the centre half position when Nemanja Vidic was taken off injured at half time.
Wayne Rooney should also get a mention. His contribution to the game was gigantic. His work rate remained high all game and did his best to close down every ball that was in his sight. It was also his curling corner that set up Van Persie.
Arsene Wenger did make a change to give Arsenal a bit more of an aerial threat by bringing on Nicklas Bendtner in the 78th minute, but the change was too late to have a serious effect.
Overall Man Utd's physical authority and their organisation was too much for Arsenal and it made it increasingly difficult for Arsenal to play their usual game.
Although Arsenal got a bit of a foothold in the game in the second half they found it too difficult to get around the back of Man Utd's organised defence.
However Arsenal remain top of the table, two points ahead of second place Liverpool and five points ahead of current champions Man Utd. They remain in the driving seat.
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