A game in which I personally carried a higher expectation than the performance my eyes witnessed. I was filled with optimism that in this game we may be able to come together and give a solid performance, maybe get a draw if not win, and keep it tight at the back. Within 2 minutes, Vermaelen completely miss-kicks the ball, giving Van Persie the perfect opportunity to hit on the half-volley against us, his former club. He claimed at the end he didn’t celebrate as a mark of respect, something he reckons he has a lot of for the Arsenal fans, players and manager. I don’t think the fans would agree after his summer antics, and inability to be open and honest throughout the summer bar one statement. These sentiments were visible in Jack Wilshere, who clearly and deliberately looked away when shaking the Dutchman’s hand, unlike any other Arsenal players. A true Gunner. The away fans response to him wouldn’t indicate they had much in the way of respect for him in return either.
Man United dominated much of the first half, we didn’t produce anything at all, lacking width and pace, and tenacity. The likes of Walcott, Chamberlain, Gervinho were all missing from the starting eleven for various reasons, and there was certainly a real lack of speed and runs and movement for the whole first period if not the entire half.
We were lucky to go in at half-time just one goal down, Rooney missed a penalty after Cazorla was judged to have handballed, though he protested his innocence as his hands were protecting his face. There were another few chances but United looked very sloppy in front of goal. At least they got the chances, however.
There was a ten minute spell in the second half, towards its beginning when we started to play a bit more and mustered up a couple of opportunities. These were futile in the end, and United went on to get another from a Rooney cross meeting Evra’s head, who was one of several unmarked players as they ran in and we failed to follow them. This cross, came from a 1-2 from a short corner. A corner they won after Mannone made a good save one-on-one with RVP, who didn’t take his time with the shot saying at the end he thought ‘Vermaelen was closer’. Just another example of one of many chances they had to put the game to bed.
What makes it more frustrating perhaps is that although they had all these chances to score, they only scored two, and these two were goals with such bad defending that should never had happened. If we defended well, stuck to the basics, cleared an easy cross for the first, and headed away a cross to stop a 5ft 6 player getting to it first who was unchallenged. For all their missed shots, it didn’t matter as we gave them the goals they needed to win. You might think United would have pushed harder had they not got those goals, but we’ll never know because once again we defended VERY poorly. How on Earth do we have the best defence in the league?!
To make things worse, and put an end to all hope of a comeback, Jack Wilshere was sent off a second yellow, after being warned, and to be fair unlike Wenger I did see it properly and can’t stick up for him too much when the Ref was dishing out a lot of yellows and warned Jack who was clearly tired and plays his game that way anyway. The argument was that Cleverly should’ve been sent off before Fergie took him off to prevent this. He probably did deserve to go too, but he didn’t get a second yellow and he was subbed off before this could be a possibility. Wilshere remained on the pitch, and got the red. Wenger was criticised for not taking him off, but in Wenger’s defence who do you bring on to replace him when we’re two-nil down and need him more than ever? He’s a class above Cleverley, who wasn’t at all missed.
In the dying minutes we put the pressure on them and got a few shots in. In the 95th minute, Cazorla curled in a beauty and it was to be the last kick of the game. Somehow we only lost 2-1, and come the end of the game, both sets of players and fans were very subdued. Ferdinand told BBC, the atmosphere in the changing room ‘felt like we’d lost’, probably due to their poor finishing and conceding a goal late on to our ten men. Ferguson however just laughed their missed chances off, to the camera at least. And Wenger, well he looked bitterly disappointed.
A lot of work to be done, he must have be thinking. I should hope so anyway.