It is always the intention of every sports reporter to be objective and assess every team’s merits. Unfortunately this previous Saturday, Manchester United didn’t have any. Arsenal tore United to shreds for virtually the whole match yet a lack of any serious cutting edge cost them dearly. The Gunners have every right to feel aggrieved but have only themselves to blame.
Following a recent defeat, the Mail reported how Borussia Dortmund’s manager Jurgen Klopp referred to his side’s short passing play as ‘pointless’. Arsenal were guilty of exactly the same offence and generated exactly the same result. Arsenal’s combinations of passes had their usual slickness, even the absence of Mesut Ozil couldn’t stop Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta from pulling the midfield strings. Their finishing however, was overwhelmingly poor.
Without looking for a scapegoat, substitute Santi Cazorla was a notable offender. The Spaniard made numerous threatening runs into the box, yet when the time came to put a size 12 through the ball he looked for yet another useless pass. Attractive football is all well and good, but all it has got Arsenal is their lowest points total in 32 years.
With the possible exception of Louis Van Gaal's men, Arsenal have been cursed with one of the most crippling injury lists in the Premier League. This is simply down to misfortune. Yet the style of play Wenger so stubbornly adheres to does not make the list any lighter. Wilshere’s darting runs at opposition defences will always invite fouls. His latest injury came as the result of a lunging tackle by Patrick McNair. This setback only kerbed Arsenal further.
The rather unlucky Theo Walcott is also sorely missed. When fit, his pace terrorises defenders who feel a heavy tackle may be the only way to stop him. Unfortunately, such injuries may curtail both a very promising career and any chances of Arsenal success. If the Gunners are to be successful with this style of play they need to toughen up.
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If Arsenal were struggling to convert up front, solidity at the back may have been a priority. Without Laurent Koscielny (yet another of Arsenal’s injured starlets) their defence is makeshift and weak. United’s killer goal on Saturday came as the result of a simple counter attack.
The back line was unprepared and out of position. Wenger must surely be ruing offloading Thomas Vermaelen without sourcing a replacement. The pairing of Per Mertesacker and Koscielny seemed to finally resolve Arsenal’s problems. When one is injured though, they are back to square one.
In blunt terms, Manchester United had nothing on Saturday. No ideas, no creativity and no intent. Yet they were victorious because Arsenal failed to capitalise so badly. This is why the Gunners’ title challenge for another season lies in ruins. Seldom can a match be summarised in a simple phrase but Arsenal got what Manchester United deserved. Nothing.