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Cech, Bellerin,Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Coquelin, Sanchez, Ozil, Welbeck, Walcott 4-2-3-1

 

”We won’t bottle it” was what Arsene Wenger said in a recent interview. Well I’m afraid Arsene, you have. Against one of the poorest and most injury hit Manchester United teams in Premier league history, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger bottled it. The title, whilst mathematically possible, is surely more wishful thinking than a reality, it’s no longer in our hands as we have to rely on both Tottenham and Leicester suffering a drastic downturn in form, whilst also hoping Manchester City stay inconsistent. To make matters worse, Manchester United started with an 18 year old upfront, who after hitting the headlines through scoring twice in the Europa league, managed to cause more damage in his first 45 minutes of Premier league football, than seasoned pro Theo Walcott. United had no Rooney to continue his one man crusade against Arsenal; no Fellani to elbow his way through the 90 minutes; and no Martial to use his pace and finishing ability to cause Arsenal problems. Instead we faced a patched up defense with two holding midfielders as centrehalves, no leading fearful striker (or so we thought) and no dynamic wingers and yet we still came up short. Embarrassingly short.

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18 year old Marcus Rashford.

Where does the blame lie? We’ll cover that later, and I’ll give my views on what needs to be done to sort it out. I was puzzled when the line up was announced and surprised Theo was given the nod to lead the line. Giroud in my eyes had been unfairly dropped and I found myself wondering what Theo had done to justify his start? Yes he scored against Leicester, but drew blanks against Barca and Hull, and he had been completely anonymous in those games. Although Giroud hasn’t been much better, I feel he could have offered a lot more upfront and allowed Welbeck and Sanchez to feed off his hold up play. Arsenal started the game in confident fashion, some crisp passes and neat play led to half chances but a depleted United dealt with them easily. United offered very little themselves and when Ozil fed Monreal with a wonderful dink over the defense, which led to a shot De Gea saved, you felt a breakthrough coming. Surprisingly that breakthrough came for United.

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Welbeck impresses again

Midway through the first half, Walcott dallied on the ball far too long and allowed himself to be tackled. The ball pinged around until United fed it wide and crossed into the box where Gabriel (in for the dropped Mertesacker) lost his bearings completely and the ball fell kindly for the waiting Rashford to fire home. With the home crowd in full voice, United broke again down the right, Uniteds’ Varela managed to keep the attack alive when the ball seemed certain to go for a goal kick, somehow backwards heading the ball back to Lingard who crossed into the box and there was Rashford. He headed home unchallenged and effectively ended the game as a contest before halftime. Arsenal though, somehow managed to grab themselves a lifeline just before the half ended. Ozil swung in a free kick to Welbeck, who headed home past De Gea, and then from a corner just after, Arsenal felt they should have had a penalty when Rashford was adjudged to have handled in the area blocking, a header from a corner.

 

Manchester-United-v-Arsenal

Ozil scores

You would think that when halftime came, with Arsenal giving themselves hope, that they would come out in the second half all guns blazing and look like a team that has a great opportunity to win their first Premier League title since 2004, and dominate the match, but no. United controlled the tempo and made the score 3-1 when the impressive Rashford controlled a ball over the top and then had the composure to wait for support and tee up Ander Herrera to put a deflected shot high past Cech into the net. Wenger dropped his head and the player seemed to follow suit. Ozil did pull one back with a downwards volley that gave De Gea no chance, but that was it, with the score 3-2 and 25 minutes left, PLUS an additional 5 minutes of injury time Arsenal managed a further two shots on goal… and only one of those was on target… where was the passion? Where was the urgency? Why with 30 minutes to go weren’t we hammering the goal in search of an equalizer? Why didn’t anyone step and take control and drag us back into the game and title race? United comfortably saw the game out and once again Old Trafford proved a difficult ground for Arsenal to win at.

 

What really bugged me after the game, was not just the defeat, but the manner of it. I can take a loss, I can take playing badly, but what I can’t take is lack of desire. Manchester United had 8 youth team players in their match day squad. Why didn’t our senior players like Ramsey, Giroud, or Walcott exert their dominance and dictate the game? Where were our superstar players like Sanchez and Ozil to own the pitch and show everyone why they once played for Barcelona and Real Madrid? Where was Wenger shouting and berating the players to get at United? What this period has shown me is that we have really missed Wilshere and perhaps more importantly Cazorla. Cazorla has shown everyone with his absence just how world-class he is, he controls the midfield and dictates our play, whilst Wilshere obviously injects that passion into our game- passion that you can’t buy with money. The only player to escape any criticism recently is Danny Welbeck, and that’s partly down to the fact he’s been unavailable two-thirds of the season so far. The fact now that we are hoping Leicester lose or draw a game, is frankly speaking, disgraceful. How have we let this season, a season that promised so much, but will now predictably, and ultimately yield so little, slip away from us?

 

Until next week.

 

 

 

 

 

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