Arsenal produced a potentially season defining win against Manchester United to silence the critics who had written off The Gunners in recent weeks. It was a game of quality football but one where Arsenal rode their luck at times.
As predicted before the game, the midfield was always going to be key but whoever made the most of a transition of play or set piece will win. The first Arsenal goal came from a corner kick while the second after the restart. Manchester United played with speed and width and looked to take advantage of The Gunners’ when they lost possession by pressuring high up, while Arsenal (as also predicted if they were to win) played in triangles. It was an enthralling game no doubt assisted by the slick surface and the circumstances surrounding Arsenal and their line up. The Red Devils went into the game with more pressure even though it should have been Arsenal as most would argue it was a must win game for the season.
So how did Arsenal win? Luck played a huge part but as Arsenal weathered the early storm (and towards the end) they started to pass in triangles; players playing closer to each other and generally working harder to provide options in attacking positions. The second goal was a big example of the triangles being played, options either side of the man in possession making it harder to mark and hold one’s position in defense.
Options in crossing positions was also improved upon as not only Bendtner was there to demand for the ball in the box; Diaby, Nasri, Walcott and Fabregas also tried to make up ground. Against ‘smaller’ clubs this is not always the case and even the main striker would leave the box. Space was provided by United than against these other clubs but the same mentality should remain.
It was one area that was recommended by Arsenal Column that must be improved upon and with injured personnel coming back will be further improved though the big match atmosphere fueled the players up and should be displayed further against ‘smaller’ clubs.
Gallas and Bendtner
The skipper was an injury doubt but put in an assured performance at the back reading the game brilliantly and producing some great tackles and blocks. Many had criticised Gallas for a lack of leadership and professionalism but leadership lies throughout and there was enough on show today from the whole team that single leadership is old fashioned.
Bendtner is another player with a recent history of professionalism come into question and the Dane’s recent performances warranting his worth to the side. Criticisms were leveled at the youngster but those that did concentrated on his missed chances. Maybe he could have done better but his all round play was very good; leading the line high and looking to bring people into play. He may have dallied a bit too much on the ball and his awareness still lacking but he worked hard up front and had Vidic and Ferdinand on their toes all game.
Arsenal: Championship Material?
Had United made more of their early pressure the story may well have been different. Arsenal have very capable players and some still to return as they are technically strong, skillful and intelligent but lack that impenetrability and resistance to attacks without the ball, and also have a bit of naivety due to lesser experience. Yesterday Manchester United could have took their chances better and gaps where open to take advantage as not many teams even last year, have the majority of the possession at the Emirates (54%, territorial advantage = 52%).
The ball was given away countless of times as Arsenal tried to play their way out and in the centre of midfield work still needs to be done. Manchester United also played some lovely football but the the organisation and shape was lacking as was the tactical awareness or in some cases desire to come back. Fabregas is leaving a bit too much for Denilson to do and even Wenger has come out and said the Spaniard is trying too hard, another suggestion made by Arsenal Column.
A quick nor on Berbatov who was singled as the main threat. Most of United’s best attacking play came from the wings coupled that to the running to the centre from Carrick, Anderson and Park which took away most of his space.
A great win for Arsenal but one where the Gunners were slightly lucky however showed great spirit and passing football though improvements can be made and built upon from this game.