Arsenal: Honors Even At Old Trafford


Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side, unchanged for the 6th consecutive league fixture, traveled to Old Trafford on Monday in a crucial matchup for the race for 2nd place and direct Champions League qualification.

Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw missed the match for United which saw Radamel Falcao get a rare start, while Danny Welbeck missed the chance to play against his former club as he failed a late fitness test for Arsenal.

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The match got out to a rapid start as the visitors were relentless in their pressing, refusing to allow United to be comfortable in possession.   Unfortunately though for Arsenal after about 10 minutes the tables turned.  For the rest of the half Arsenal found it nearly impossible to hold onto the ball and United was able to get forward with relative ease.

Despite decent chances from Falcao, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young, Arsenal had the first real chance to open the scoring and probably would have had it not been for some incredible defending from Phil Jones.

Per Mertesacker played in Olivier Giroud in the right side of the penalty area as he and Jones jockeyed for the ball.  In what became a common occurance on the day Jones slipped in his defence and could do nothing but crawl defiantly towards the ball as Giroud controlled it and easily sent it past David De Gea and into the back of the net, or at least that’s what every other defender on planet Earth would have done.

Jones instead took a few steps(?) on all fours and then threw his head at the ball in the last second possible before Giroud could get a touch.  In the end the touch was just enough to ensure that Giroud could not control the ball and nothing came from the chance.  I wish it hadn’t happened, but it was incredible for sure and hysterical to watch.

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United’s patience and possession did eventually pay dividends though as they were the first to score in the 30th minute.  The resurgent Ashley Young brought the ball down the pitch on the left flank and let loose a high cross over the box.  The ball flew over almost every one in the box and fell perfectly for Ander Herrera on the far side.  The stature of Maroune Fellaini had pulled the Arsenal defenders away and Herrera was able to calmly volley the cross home, near post, with nobody around him.

I get that you always have to keep and eye a man of Fellaini’s size, but the defending was pretty terrible leaving Herrera unmarked. It wasn’t the first time it happened either.  All day the Arsenal side seemed to be defending set pieces like they had the past couple of seasons with the opposition finding space at will.

The halftime whistle blew and Arsenal could not have waited any longer.  They were a little lucky United had not done more damage with their attack and went into the dressing room only down 1-0.  The gunners looked utterly toothless and failed to record a single shot in the first half, the first time in something like a decade.

Despite coming out in the second half looking better at the back and going forward as well, it would take Arsenal about 20 minutes to carve out a real chance.  In the 63rd minute Mesut Ozil found himself played in near the left boundary of the United penalty area and pulled back a pass for Giroud near the 6 yard box.

The pass looked lacking at first, but upon further review it was placed only where Giroud could pull up for it and never gave Marcos Rojo a chance.  Further, Giroud still had some work to do, but he made it look easy as he quickly controlled the ball and nipped it past a recovering Rojo which put him one on one with De Gea.  De Gea though, continued his incredible year as he stopped Giroud shot with an outstretched leg.

A few minutes later Aaron Ramsey almost had the equalizer as well. Alexis Sanchez brilliantly played in the Welshman over the top of the defense and into the penalty area.  Once again though, the United defense did enough to deal with it as Rojo was there to quickly get a toe in and make sure Ramsey could not get a shot off.

In an unfortunate twit of fate for United as we prepared to bring on Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott late on, David De Gea suffered an injury and was forced off.  Whether or not the De Gea could have done any better than his replacement Victor Valdes is unknown, but frankly who cares?  The important thing is that Arsenal got their equalizer in the 82nd minute.

Aaron Ramsey, from a central position, picked out Theo in the United box with a unbeleiveable pass from Arsenal’s own half.  Theo did the rest and danced and dribbled around Tyler Blackett to send a cross into the middle of the box.  Blackett did just enough to get a touch on the cross though and was indeed just enough to send the ball in the back of the net.  Walcott may try to claim the goal, but it was a clear own goal.  I don’t think anyone associated with Arsenal will care as a loss would have been fairly damaging both mentally and mathematically going into the final fixtures and an FA cup final.

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Despite having the feeling of one side getting a winner the match ended 1-1 and I think Arsenal will be happy to get on with it.

Though he was better in the second half, Hector Bellerin had a tough day against Ashley Young on the right.  An off performance is always unsettling, but with a player of his age these things are bound to happen.  The important thing is that it didn’t end up biting us in the ass and I’m sure he’ll be able to move on.

On the other side of the pitch though Nacho Monreal’s performances are starting to concern me.  He didn’t look particularly good in attack or defense and this has been something of a trend in recent weeks. If I were Wenger I’d give Keiran Gibbs a run out in the final 2 games.  Just see who might be the best option for Wembley.

As Olivier Giroud continues to slow down yesterday was another reminder of what a healthy Danny Welbeck/ another quality striker could bring to the club.  I don’t think we are far away from a title winning side, but I do think Olly needs some help up front.

One point earned rather than 2 dropped and immediate Champions League qualification is still firmly in our grasp.  Until next time #COYG

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