Tag Archives: Premier league

Arsenal-v-Manchester-United

Arsenal 1-2 Man U: running over the same old ground

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.

Too familiar.

Qq

Wenger

Arsenal punished as midfield abandons Wenger again

After Arsenal’s bitter loss to Swansea, Arsène Wenger stood in front of a reporter and berated his team’s midfielders for conceding possession too easily and for lack of defensive awareness. It was the third time this week that Wenger spoke about the defensive duties of his midfielders going so far as to name Aaron Ramsey before and after the Anderlecht debacle. You would think that Wenger’s public proclamations and change in game plan would shore up the Arsenal defense. It didn’t.

“I thought we lost some decisive challenges in the middle of the park in the last 20 minutes and we paid for that costly and that’s where we lost the battle.”

Arsenal’s midfielders followed the new plan in the first half against Swansea. It was a bit of a dire affair, but Arsenal looked good value not to concede a goal with Ramsey and Flamini patrolling midfield, making tackles and interceptions, and with Ox helping out Calum Chambers down the right.

But in the second half — after Arsenal took the lead 1-0 off some wonderful interplay between Ox, Welbeck, and Alexis — Ramsey and Flamini both abandoned post and Arsenal were almost immediately punished. A few minutes after the first goal Arsenal were struck again, this time from a great assist by a player who had been torching Arsenal’s right back all night — a right back who deserved help. Help which never came.

Wenger criticized the first goal saying that Arsenal probably should have done better to keep the ball and could have (fouled or) won it back earlier, thus preventing the goal all together. I watched the highlights and sure enough, the old man is exactly right.

Here’s the setup image: top of the screen, Calum Chambers standing in advance of the Arsenal forwards, forming a line across the top of the screen with him are Ox, Alexis, and Welbeck – in acres of empty space. In the little triangle is Cazorla (back to goal), Ramsey, and Flamini. Score is 1-0 to the Arsenal and there are seven Arsenal players forward, and the balance of the team with Barrow in tons of space is all wrong.

Cazorla then loses possession* but Ramsey picks the ball up between Ki and Sigurdsson.

Cazorla (640x363)

Ramsey is in jail here. He probably could have made a pass to Alexis or Ox (the two players on his right) but the position of Barrow prevents him from exploiting the space Welbeck is in. Flamini senses that he is out of position, way too far forward and takes a step back.

Ramsey (640x361)

Sigurdsson makes a tackle and dispossesses Ramsey. Note the position of Flamini. He is going back and forth toward the ball like an accordion. At this moment, the wrong moment, he decides to attack the ball.

Sigggurd (640x362)

Sigurdsson passes over to Barrow and now both of Arsenal’s “defensive midfielders” are so far out of position that they look like a book on the wrong shelf, of the wrong library.

If you look at what Barrow sees, he’s got a sea of green in front of him, Gibbs is ball watching, Bony is straight ahead of him and Montero is already streaking down the space which should have been occupied by Calum Chambers. Note all the players who are standing and watching. This is a still but the video is even more damning. Four players want to be spoon-fed the ball.

But the naivete here is that Arsenal are 1-0 up and they have conceded the entire pitch to Swansea’s two fastest players. What are Ramsey and Flamini doing all the way up here with the score the way it is?

Walking (640x358)

Meanwhile, Gibbs has a moment to think, starts to advance toward the ball, and changes his mind.

fast break (640x358)

Now, Barrow is off like a greyhound. Leaving both defensive midfielders in the dust and forcing Gibbs to cover from left back. Note the position of Montero at the top right of the screen. Barrow could have passed the ball to him and he would have had an easy 1v1 with Per Mertesacker. I venture to say that Montero would have eaten Per Mertesacker alive.

Gibbs (640x362)

Gibbs was in position to make the tackle but his hesitation allows Barrow to run past him. Now Gibbs is playing catch-up. Again, Barrow could have played in Bony or Montero at this point. Look at the space that Monreal and Mertesacker have to cover. Where is the defensive midfielder? Monreal is fucked here too, he’s got Bony on him and can’t attack the ball, though I do wonder if he should have.Monreal (640x361)

Note the distance Barrow covered from that last photo to here. It took Gibbs 20+ yards to foul Barrow. foul (640x361)

Sigurdsson gets the benefit of another 2-3 yards on the ball placement. But he does strike it wonderfully for the goal.
Sczcesny-middle (640x361)

This entire sequence illustrates what’s wrong with the Arsenal system. People are complaining that Arsenal keep turning the ball over as if that’s what’s hurting Arsenal. But turning the ball over in their final third shouldn’t lead to a goal scoring opportunity because normally a team wouldn’t have both of their holding midfielders and one of their fullbacks in such an advanced position. I have to think that if Flamini held, you know… like a holding midfielder, that counter attack is broken up. Or if the turnover happened between Cazorla and Ox with Ramsey and Flamini back providing some cover, that goal never happens. But as it turns out, Arsenal’s two defensive mids were too far up the pitch, searching for the second goal when they should have been playing more simply.

I don’t know what’s going on at Arsenal. I have no inside information. I do know that Flamini and Ramsey were way too far up the pitch. I know that Wenger told Ramsey to play the defensive role more prior to the Anderlecht debacle, after the Anderlecht debacle, and now has said something similar after losing 2-1 to Swansea.

The weird thing is that Ramsey and Flamini did play more defensively in the first half, meaning that they listened at least a little. But in the second half, after Arsenal were up 1-0, they went rogue and Arsenal were punished.

As much as I want to blame Wenger for this loss I have to wonder if the real problem is that certain players just aren’t listening to him any more. After the match, while decrying the midfielders Wenger looked a harrowed man. He looked like a man who had once again put his faith in a player, like he had done with Cesc and van Persie before, and had that player abuse that faith.

Qq

*Incidentally, this counted as one of his “successful passes”

Man at the match; Chary: beware, Tigers poop on pitch

A stoppage time equaliser from Danny Welbeck changed an embarrassing result into a disappointing one as Assem Allam’s Tigers looked on course to snatch three undeserved points from Ashburton Grove.

Before I proceed further I will stress that what I say about the game is from a very tribal, Arsenal-centric point of view so if anyone has stumbled upon this report expecting an objective, balanced view, I politely suggest they “do one” (i.e. go elsewhere).

The overriding impression of Allam’s Tigers is of a team who waste time from five minutes into the game and then feign injury to halt opposition attacks. These tactics, combined with a pliant accomplice in the referee and a weakness in Arsenal’s defensive mind set led to two points being dropped when all three were needed.

We faced our FA Cup final victims for the first time since that epoch ending day in May on a mild October afternoon which whilst grey was far from as autumnal as you would expect and there seemed a closeness and humidity that seemed to stifle the air.

We went to Wembley, Wember-ly

We went to Wembley, Wember-ly

The Arsenal lined up as expected at the back with Bellerin replacing Chambers (suspended) who would have replaced Debuchy (injured) at right back and Monreal reprising his Emirates Cup role as centre back.

The midfield also picked itself as the fully fit players started( Wilshere, Flamini and Santi) with the three up top also being the only match fit/in form players, Welbeck, Alexis and The Ox. Arteta and Rosicky were on the bench as expected after their injury doubts but Rambo’s presence on the bench was a fillip as we’ve missed his dynamism when he is on form.

Early chants of

“Who are you ?”

from the HC Tigers fans were answered by:

“2 nil and you effed it up”

in a happy reference to our previous meeting.

An early shot from Santi, attacking the North Bank unusually in the first half, seemed sure to swerve into the top right hand corner but the first goalkeeper used by Ex Man United player coach Steven Bruce managed to palm the shot away.

The next significant action was early reward for a typically energetic and scintillating start to the game by Alexis, who controlled a high ball delivered and larruped a low drive to open the scoring.

Our free scoring Chilean

Our free scoring Chilean

Before the goal, and as noted earlier, Harper in goal for the Tigers was beginning the ritual of time wasting by approaching his goal kicks as if they were ticking bombs to be defused. Sadly the referee for the day marked his card by failing to stamp down on this gamesmanship by his inaction and as the game wore on more and more ludicrous lengths were went to in order to slow Arsenal’s attacks.

After the Alexis strike, surprise surprise, somehow the goal kicks were then taken quickly. Well, well !

It was a result of this that my main worry before the game, of our defence lacking the cohesion of a well-drilled back four that had played together regularly, came to fruition.

A foray down our left flank went virtually unchallenged and the Tigers first attack was rewarded by a goal – first shot, one goal, an infuriating characteristic of Arsenal sides for longer than I care to remember.

Top tier view

Top tier view

Even in the less rowdy upper tier I was in for the game there was fury about the validity of the goal as, after later enquiry, there seemed to be a foul on Flamini in the build up but what compounded this was the Arsenal defenders pausing to protest rather than playing to the whistle.

First test and the defence implode and a cheap equaliser conceded, albeit potentially wrongly allowed due to the foul. We just know that had it been us who’d fouled in the build up to the goal the lino would have gleefully flagged it as such and had it chalked off. Maybe it’s my Arsenal-centric view but it does feel we suffer disproportionately more than average from poor decisions.

Thankfully, the crowd still got behind the team from the restart and the half time jeering was directed at the referee.

The restart was calamitous as the defence and midfield showed a somnambulistic approach to dealing with Allam’s Tigers attack from the whistle. A dreamy, casual attitude in the midfield carried over to the defence as a cross came over from Arsenals left, again, and unfortunately the BFG’s leap was mistimed and allowed Hernandez to nod in to put Arsenal 2-1 down.

It seemed odd to me that I would be more worried about attacks down our right due to Bellerin’s inexperience and yet both goals conceded were from our left. It must be said that young Hector’s performance, his tenacity in the tackle and his good understanding of building an attack, got him many approving cheers all afternoon.

Now the Tiger’s were in front we got the “pooping on the pitch” my report is described as the time wasting went up another level and the tactic of “dying swans in the penalty area” was in full view.

As the Arsenal pushed forward, any chance possible one of the opposition defenders would hurl themselves to the ground and lay on the pitch, and then not move off the playing area as the referee should have ordered them too.

Dawson in particular, as you would expect from an ex-spudd, was guilty of this and when he was eventually made to walk off the pitch for treatment instead of taking the shortest route to the touchline he would take a long lazy arc across the pitch to maximise his meander to the more distant point on the touch line. All this was allowed to happen by the referee (even though Welbeck and Jack were pointing at the nearest touchline for Dawson to go to) who was beginning to lose control of the game.

And the Allam Tigers fans had the shamelessness to shout:

“Same old Arsenal, always cheating”

Their team were taking cheating and gamesmanship to a level only possible by the truly snide.

They were also keeping up their Cup Final habit of advancing six-ten yards further up the pitch on their throw ins and free kicks, but the Arsenal players seemed drilled on this part of the opposition play as they were quick to point out the encroachment and even the incompetent referee of the day had to act on that.

Second half pressure

Second half pressure

For the last twenty minutes the pattern of Arsenal attack-Tigers play acting-Arsenal chance continued into stoppage time of six minutes. The two bright spots in the Arsenal forward play, Alexis and Santi (who was his usual busy, creative/scuttling self, although a bit unlucky when it came to developing attacks) continued to put the opposition under pressure.

The introduction of Joel Campbell seemed to offer something different in our attacks and in the limited time available to him, gave a good account of himself. He seemed to be a bit of a provider/link-up player and not just the target man I thought he was.

Finally the Arsenal equalised when a clever bit of interplay between Alexis and Welbeck resulted in an equaliser that prevented the Arsenal faithful from suffering the hammer blow of a home defeat.

The reaction at the end of the match was muted relief with a tinge of exasperation as to why we allowed ourselves to get into a position where we have to claw back a late equaliser and also at a very late chance not quite going in for Gibbs when it looked like a repeat of the FA Cup Final result was about to happen.

If any satisfaction could be had from the game it was that Allam’s Tigers fans were minutes away from a famous win and that it was taken away from them. For the ethos of their play, and let’s be fair about it, they deserved nothing at all.

There did seem to be murmurs of discontent brewing in the feeling around the grounds after the game, not just with the performance but the squad deficiencies, and it will take a string of good displays to dispel these.

It is now down to the players, manager and club to do that in the coming games.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)