I’ve spent two days thinking about Arsenal’s loss to Man U and frankly, I can’t come up with anything brilliant to say. I can say that while the result was terrible, Arsenal played better than I’ve seen them play against Man U in a decade. I can also say that Arsenal really should outplay this Man U side because this is the worst Man U side I’ve ever seen. But in the end, as good as Arsenal were, the same old problems haunt this team and they couldn’t get over the mental and physical challenge to win against the old enemy.
If Manchester United were bad last year, shorn of their most experienced and best defenders (Evra, Vidic and Ferdinand) and with a midfield which started Marouane Fellaini along side Michael “passmaster” Carrick, this is arguably the worst Manchester United team I have ever seen. Their one saving grace is that they have a wealth of attacking talent in di Maria and Wayne Rooney.
This is a Man United team with no midfield and no defense and Arsenal exploited that beautifully. Carving open two glorious chances that should have won Arsenal the game. The first was a nifty through ball from Ox to Welbeck. Welbeck shot straight at de Gea.
The second was from Welbeck to Wilshere and that one is probably going to go down in the Torres Misses Hall of Shame. Wilshere was one-on-one versus de Gea, with the entire goal open in front of him, and he even had Alexis wide open on his left. Wilshere even got de Gea to commit and go down early. But he shot straight into the keeper. It was a dreadful shot and left Alexis gesticulating furiously.
A few seconds later, Wilshere should have won a penalty. It was a clear foul in the box with referee Mike Dean standing yards away. But the thing is, Mike Dean wouldn’t award a penalty if a Man U player chopped off an Arsenal player’s legs with a katana. He’d just make that silly scrunched up face, waggle his finger, and tell the player to get up.
I joke but it’s actually not funny. He basically did exactly that when McNair tried to take Jack Wilshere’s ankle off. Man U did what Man U does now, they started fouling Arsenal and targeted Jack Wilshere. McNair ended Jack’s night and gave him a few weeks in a boot with a horrible lunging tackle that was lucky it didn’t leave Wilshere’s ankles hanging by a thread.
The sideline official in that video has a perfect view of the tackle, he doesn’t waive the flag and Mike Dean doesn’t blow for a foul. Man U fouled the opposition’s best player out of the game. But they weren’t done there. A few minutes after taking Wilshere out of the game, Foullani shoved Gibbs into Szczesny, injuring both players. Instead of calling the foul or even stopping play because there’s an Arsenal player down on the ground in the penalty area who just got punched in the head, Mike Dean waved play on and Gibbs scored an own goal as he was laying on the pitch.
I don’t know, guys. I don’t want to believe that there is a referee conspiracy against Arsenal because that would mean that the games are not real. That would mean that the sport is not real. But I can’t help but think that there is something seriously wrong when I see how Arsenal are treated by the officials.
And once Arsenal were behind, they did the thing that Arsenal now do: damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Predictably, Man U scored the second (and could have had a third) off a breakaway. Alexis gave the ball away but the giveaway was on the edge of the 18 yard box. From there Fellaini made one pass to di Maria, who passed to Rooney and the hapless Nacho Monreal was left scuttling after the ball with hundreds of yards of space around him.
Where were the Arsenal defenders? Where was the Arsenal midfield? Where is the universe?
And so, an unfamiliar Arsenal performance, one in which Arsenal actually did dominate the game, had a familiar result, a loss coming from the opponent fouling and Arsenal playing recklessly to get back into the game.
What really frustrates me is that Robin van Persie should be suffering the choice he made to go to United but instead, every time we face our old captain, he gets the last laugh. It’s unbearable. It’s like finding out that your last girlfriend had herpes, via a text message that says “you should get checked”, after the breakup.
Van Persie left Arsenal in a huff, saying he didn’t like the direction the club was taking. He then won a League title and that seemed to justify his betrayal. But since that singular season he’s been laboring on two very poor United sides and has lost out on Champions League football. And Arsenal have been spending money, buying Özil and Sanchez from Real Madrid and Barcelona. Arsenal are on the up and Man U are on the down. We should be able to lord this over him but instead he gets to smile and say “we played a good game and got all three points, that’s all that matters”.
It’s all dreadfully familiar. Last season I wrote this:
And I know that we lost to Man U yesterday, in that heartbreaking fashion that we do with them: by being a bit timid in the first half, letting Nevra* and Rooney push us around, getting caught on a corner, and then having to watch as a traitorous backstabber dry-humps Wayne Rooney in front of 70,000 of their tourist fans.
They push us around, the refs let them get away with it, we squander several good chances, the ref doesn’t call a penalty, they injure two Arsenal players with fouls, they score on an error, we commit too many players forward, they score the winner on a breakaway.