Should never have been left out
The first half-hour yesterday was enough to get every Arsenal fan out of their seat. It was like the old days watching our midfield completely dominate the plodders that have somehow seen Manchester United saunter to another League Title. Arteta, Ramsey and Rosicky were quicker and stronger at every turn. The work of the players when we didn't have the ball was simply outstanding. The biggest clue that United were in trouble was the way they reverted to type and started kicking Arsenal players up in the air. Like I say, it was like the old days. Having dominated so much we had to take advantage and score more than once. However, aside from a good effort by Cazorla we didn't really test De Gea at all. Good positions were wasted by our insistence on passing the ball rather than someone taking proper responsibility. Aaron Ramsey then chose the wrong option when we broke three-against-two and Podolski saw his shot from a narrow angle comfortably saved. You just got the impression that we had wasted our opportunities because eventually United were always going to get in to the game. It is almost impossible for three players to keep that sort of intensity across midfield for the whole match.
My heart sinks whenever the ball is played to Bacary Sagna in the opposition half. You just know that the move is going to be slowed down before his eventual cross is cleared before reaching the near post. Defensively he has never got to grips with the idea of stopping the opponent crossing the ball in to our penalty area (even when he was playing extremely well). Since coming back in this season (twice he has been unjustifiably recalled ahead of Jenkinson after recovering from injuries) he has looked short of pace. His two broken legs have certainly played a part, and it's no coincidence that his best display of the season came at centre-half against Sunderland. All that aside, I never thought I'd see him do what he did yesterday. As with going forward, our players at the back are programmed to pass, pass, pass. They are unable to think for themselves, and that's why Sagna found himself playing the ball to Van Persie rather than sticking his foot through it and regrouping. United had just missed a couple of sitters yet the warnings hadn't been heeded. To then chase back and tackle the traitor from behind merely compounded the issue. It was amateurish play. With things getting no better (if anything he got worse) for Sagna after half-time it is surely time for him to get the same treatment as Vermaelen and Szczesny (who played very well yesterday, incidentally). At the start of the season we looked good at the back with Gibbs and Jenkinson at full-back. We have to finish the season with those players too. It might be too late.
The second-half was a different sort of game. United had more possession and a few chances. But we also had plenty of opportunities to test De Gea, only to play yet another square pass. I find it so frustrating to watch this Arsenal team. We see the same thing week after week after week. Pass follows pass follows pass as we crab our away across an organised opponent. At least with Rosicky playing the way he did yesterday we had someone willing to beat a player and create that bit of space. Sadly his own shooting was inaccurate while just about everybody else's was simply non-existent. I couldn't understand taking off Rosicky. And when it comes to not shooting the worst culprit is actually Jack Wilshere. Time and time again it opens up for him, on his left foot, and he refuses to pull the trigger. Having seen Jack a lot in his youth and reserve team days I know he can shoot. He used to be a regular goalscorer. from all sorts of angles, because he had an eye for goal. Now he just won't do it. Even The Ox seems to have had the urge to try and score a goal coached out of his game. Frank Lampard has made a career out of hitting a clean strike at goal and seeing it loop off a defender into the corner. Yes, he's had a lot of luck. But he's also bought a ticket for the raffle by taking a punt and trying to actually score. You can't score with a square pass twenty yards from goal, but you can certainly score with a shot every now and again.
Before the game I'd have taken a point so it wasn't a bad result, I suppose. It leaves a nasty taste that Viv Van Stapleton got their goal against us, and even more so that he led the United players to the away fans after the game. Worse than that is the fact that he was allowed in to the Arsenal dressing room after the game by Arsene Wenger. He didn't want to be part of Arsenal so he was sold. He told us (and he wasn't wrong, in fairness) that our players weren't good enough. For Arsene Wenger to allow him in the inner sanctum like that shows a lack of appreciation of the way the supporters feel. I hope one or two of the more vocal players told Van Persie where he could go. As for him being booed, so what? What did the press expect Arsenal fans to do? Were we supposed to applaud him for his achievements since leaving? I don't recall the Spurs fans being panned for their behaviour towards Sol Campbell, but I suppose that was different - he played for Arsenal when they were abusing him and throwing bottles and coins at him and the young Arsenal mascot in 2001. The double standards of the cretinous tabloid journalists are only marginally less frustrating than an unwillingness to shoot that could cost us a Champions League place.