United show the best form of attack is to counter

Manchester United’s game plan of containment, control and speed on the counter left Arsenal outgunned at the Emirates.

It was time again for Sir Alex Ferguson to get re-acquainted with the back of his hand. The wily Scotsman has enough big match experience – and success – against contemporary Arsenal to comfortably make it his chosen specialist subject on Mastermind as his side went about dismantling Arsenal’s title bid and reaffirming their’s. Manchester United met thrust with counter-thrust and vice versa but where much more ruthless from the latter.

There was little to separate the teams with half an hour on the clock as both teams found it troubling to break down each other’s defence from open play. United opting to play without Ryan Giggs missed a bit of invention in the final third and as a result Arsenal sucked up their attacks and looked to punish them on the break – Andrey Arshavin going closest with a drive wide of Edwin Van der Sar. But Arsenal have been slow starters this season, having scored only once before fifteen minutes in the league and once they started getting into their groove, Manchester United sensed their moment pounce. Luis Nani’s wonderful trick and run forced the ever-growing culpable Manuel Almunia to claw into his own net (although in fairness the cross looked to be headed for Park at the back post).

However, it was two devastating moments on the break that settled the tie. William Gallas was crowded out in the United box following a corner and as the ball fell to Wayne Rooney, the England striker, starting the counter-attack ended it with a finish of real conviction after running close to the full length of the pitch. Rooney then showed Arsenal the movement they tried to create with Arshavin as the false nine, as the forward took three defenders out by dropping short and the rest was rudimentary for Park.  There were only two options for Gael Clichy  – gamble and close down the attacker but risk the early pass or delay and hope the angle narrowed. As it turned out, Clichy left it two late for the latter and Park poked the ball past Almunia (could the ‘keeper have been more committed?). Counter-attacking is not merely a policy for Manchester United but a deadly and utterly ruthless weapon in their armoury. “Counterattacking has always been part of our game, particularly away from home, and we capitalised on those opportunities,” said Sir Alex Ferguson. “Arsenal play a lot of good football and get to the edge of your box regularly, but if you can win the ball there and counterattack quickly you’ll have chances against them.”

“Transitions have become crucial,” says Jose Mourinho, who always seeks to keep his side organised with five at the back in guard of such moments. “When the opponent is organised defensively, it is very difficult to score. The moment the opponent loses the ball can be the time to exploit the opportunity of someone being out of position.” That was the situation that was also posed to Arsenal; the Gunners’ expansive style meaning more resources are committed forward and therefore less organisation at the back. And those gaps are even bigger this season due to the play being stretched on account of the switch to 4-3-3 and cover for the full-backs minimal. Sir Alex would have targeted the right-hand before hand with or without Valencia and deployed a ‘defensive’ winger on the other side. The slight surprise was in deploying Carrick as the deep-lying playmaker as the manager decided to sacrifice a bit of energy for extra tactical nous lower down, while Scholes’ creativity was to be translated higher up the pitch.

Arsenal in contrast were unlikely to play any differently. Arsene Wenger went into the game wanting to control proceedings but found in front of him a sea of black shirts who were very committed in not opening the floodgates and letting Arsenal have the initiative. Dynamism on one hand has waned since their electric start to the season and the late flurry could not hide the defects. The best Wenger can hope his side can regroup and find that extra spark again.

So where next for Arsenal? Chelsea at Stamford Bridge…

Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United: Almunia (og) 33, Rooney 37, Park 52, Vermaelen 80.

Arsenal: Almunia (5), Sagna (6) (Bendtner), Gallas (6), Vermaelen (6), Clichy (5), Fabregas (6), Song (7), Denilson (6) (Walcott) , Nasri (5), Arshavin (6), Rosicky (5) (Eboue).
Subs not used: Fabianski, Ramsey, Silvestre, Traore.

Man Utd: Van der Sar 6, Rafael Da Silva 6, Jonathan Evans 6, Brown 6, Evra 6, Scholes 6 (Giggs), Carrick 7, Fletcher 6, Nani (Berbatov) 8, Rooney 8, Park 6 (Valencia).
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Owen, Gibson, De Laet.

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

Arsenal Team Statistics Manchester United
1 Goals 3
0 1st Half Goals 2
3 Shots on Target 3
13 Shots off Target 6
4 Blocked Shots 3
8 Corners 5
9 Fouls 12
0 Offsides 0
1 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
80.8 Passing Success 75.2
18 Tackles 36
94.4 Tackles Success 77.8
53.1 Possession 46.9
50.6 Territorial Advantage 49.4

31 thoughts on “United show the best form of attack is to counter

  1. The thing is we were devastating on the counter at the start of the game. Unfortunately, Arshavin, who was lively and very dangerous but was poor in linking up with team mates.

    Arsenal’s game is based on passing, and linking up. If a key player in attack doesn’t do that, the attack won’t function. Simple as that.

    Arshavin chose to shoot 3 times when there were team mates better placed, 2 of those would have been tap-ins.

    In the big games, the team that scores first usually wins.

    If we’d scored first, Amn Utd would have had to come at us, and we’d have been the ones picking them off on the counter.

    It’s the way of the world.

  2. Like dominoes, one problem leads to others. Our lack of height and a quality header of the ball forces us to try and flood the other penalty area during set pieces, and also push our centre backs up, hoping this is the solution. Against most teams, it works. But, with everyone up, we are exposed at the back and the counter off of set pieces.

    And no way should Rooney have scored the second it being a 3 on 6 and Rooney in the midst of 4 Arsenal defenders. Where is the speed in midfield to help track back? We have no one of Park, Valencia, Nani or Gigg’s speed, God help up, Giggs being ancient even. Again, because we need to flood the final third of the field with players in order to get chances, we end up exposing our back four with no protection.

    We need a better goalie, and a better striker, and a pairing for Song that has the speed to track back when he has been pulled out. Diaby when he is healthy, but certainly not Denilson. End of story.

    1. I completely agree that lack of height makes us flood penalty area thus opens us to counters. Porto coach will be licking his lips because Porto’s biggest weapon is on the counter. Lets hope Denilson isnt fit for both legs

  3. Alright been some while i wrote any comment on arsenal blogs. First off the performance was aweful and they “humilated” us (yes im a fuckin arsenal fan!) just like Chelsea did and then we ran into a good form and everyone was up for it and said we could win the title (I believed too), not anymore. It’s the same old story, MU beating our good run and make our team look like boys and we end up screwing another season up. Yes Arsenal was playing like boys!

    Hate how much you want but Evra was right saying it last season. 1st goal was wonderful skill from nani and beat 3 defenders and chip an easy ball but Almunia reacted late and put the ball into his own net. It was PURELY poor goalkeeping, you can see the reply and he reacted late. A schoolboy football mistake. 2nd goal was a simple quick run from the middle by the sherk and denilson was his boy here. He kept running without any intent to close down any incoming players. WTF?!

    I switched off the tv just after that and start thinking, it’s all repeating again and again every season. After conciding the first goal Arsenal normally go on wildly and lose another goal whenever they play MU and wenger talks about attitude, mature and stupid lies about his players! 70% of them have no guts and heart! If I was a good footballer and play for a great team like Arsenal I’ll make sure I give 100% in every game and don’t do silly mistakes like that!

    I hate to say this but the team and manager is not title winner material. Only cesc, song, gallas, verminator, arshavin and nasri are the good ones. The rest are average and a few are below average (denilson and almunia in particular!). Where are the “we trust in wenger guys?”. Some might say it’s just a game but to be honest losing at that margin to your title competitator and arch rival is not 1 game, it’s a massive blow and I guess it’s 6 years without a single trophy. If i was a Hull fan I wouldn’t care but this is Arsenal
    and the fans n club don’t deserve this shit wenger is putting up each year. He trust his players but he has more pride and ego for his phylosopies.

    Keep it up wenger, it’s all down to him and his decisions. This will go on and only top 4 is the club’s concern. Highest wages and ticket prices and we just manage to finish 4th each season and with a few more tough games to go we might end up fighting for 4th position yet AGAIN this season! Hopes…that’s all this manager can give us.

    I had it enough, for me things will get onto track if :

    1. Wenger get the F.off and get a new manager in place of him. I don’t care anyone as long as he have the experience and are not afraid of spending!

    2. Wenger changes his FAILED experiments and phylosopies and start buying mens not boys anymore!

    I don’t know about you guys but for me this will be the start of downfall for this season like many other previous seasons and we’ll lose cesc and arshavin. Steps in ramsey (not ready) and some unknown kid wenger will buy. The club loves him because he will save them money and finish top 4. I love Arsenal as much as any of you do and
    I have been watching them since i know what football was. Wenger is just living his past glories that he didn’t built himself alone, it as “leftovers” and he worked for a few years on them (players). That’s all.

    Utterly dissapointed Gooner!

    1. Neither Fabregas nor Arshavin can leave if the club don’t accept bids for them, the club needs to allow them to leave at this moment in time, the player has no choice in the matter.

      Hleb had finished the third year out of four, he wasn’t going to sign a new contract and his value would have dropped dramatically and we’d have lost him on a free. He also had the potential to possibly force a move having played 3/4 years. Flamini wasn’t ever going to re-sign, Adebayor was kicked out and Toure is past it and wanted to leave.

  4. Arsenal General.

    I must admit that reading your comments made me smile. You truly are in pain my friend.

    I would suggest though, that maybe Arsenal could do without fans like you and we could transfer your kind of fickle minded loyalty to a glory hunting team.

    We had a bad day at the office – what’s with the hysteria. I get the sense that your biggest problem is humiliation – perhaps because you have to face your friends and colleagues in embarrassment.

    In all honesty, you have bigger self esteem issues than Arsenal football club can help you fix.

    @The Brain, nice analysis of the game. Fergie got the tactics spot on and flooded the midfield to let us have the ball and hit us on the counter.

    London Colney must be an uncomfortable place to work this week.

  5. We done okay today but we were terrible on the transitions [when we lost the ball, plus over-committing when we still had time], Denilson still cant do basic like track runners, however Almunia needs to communicate better with his teammates that Rooney was coming plus his footwork was still poor for the 1st goal.

  6. I didn’t think the performance was as bad as most people/blogs/the media are making out, we created a decent amount of chances and Arshavin had several opportunities which were wasted before going behind. Then MU got the lucky break with the quartet of Clichly/Nasri/Denilson/Almunia working together to ensure they scored and from that point on all they had to do was watch Arsenal over commit, over expose and pounce.
    I think it would be wise to keep injuries in perspective here, alongside the ones altogether out yesterday we had the walking wounded team of:
    – Sagna (Shoulder)
    – Gallas (Back)
    – Vermaelen (couldn’t walk out of Villa Park on Wed…)
    – Clichy (Clearly not match fit)
    – Denilson (Not match fit, he collapsed walking with the ball against Everton and can’t catch up with Sidibe let alone Rooney)
    – Nasri (Was supposedly out for four weeks, back after one and a half)
    – Arshavin (Right foot)
    There’s no pace in middle at the moment with Diaby out and Rosicky/Nasri pushed further up and out wide which simply makes counter attacks far too easy and exposes the fullbacks far too much as the wide players are pushed so far up.
    Once again Almunia is a complete liability, they only had three shots on target and he saved one which was a long range effort that caused him significant trouble. He needed to close down both Rooney and Park far quicker for their goals, Park’s he was positioned way too centrally (And people have a go at Fabianski for Malouda’s goal last season).
    The 4-3-3 is no longer getting the best out of the players and is turning quickly into a massive liability, exposing the fullbacks more than I’ve ever seen at the club and leaving massive gaps for teams to counter. It’s not even pressuring teams all that high up the pitch any longer.
    So the question for me is, does Song have the stamina, pace, mobility and discipline to play alongside Fabregas in a (07/08 style) 4-4-2?
    Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy
    Nasri, Fabregas, Song, Rosicky
    Arshavin, Bendtner
    Subs: Almunia, Campbell, Eboue, Traore, Diaby, Denilson, Eduardo

    1. I think you are right that the performance wasn’t that bad – but it pulled no punches when it really mattered except as Ole Gunner says at the start. Wenger wanted to control the game but playing two half-wingers came at a cost to dynamism which has not been the same recently and even more of a miss against a tactical dominant side.

      One of biggest strengths of Arsenal in 4-4-2 was the creation of triangles and dragging out players with movement. That’s what the 4-4-2 will give but will it come at a cost of dynamism? I would make a slight change to the 4-3-3; drop one midfielder alongside Song and make it a double pivot thereby giving Fabregas more freedom. This will allow the shield to cover the full backs while allowing the main beneficiaries of pressuring high, Cesc and Arshavin to revel. I will also encourage AA23 to move inside more to work his damage behind the forward, giving space for the left back to run forward and the gaps can be easily covered preferably by Diaby or Denilson. On the right I like the idea of Walcott stretching play and profiting from the slight elongation of play to the left.

    2. I was actually thinking the exact same thing about the 4-3-3. It feels like our fullbacks are exposed. When we beat Man U at OT a few years ago, we completely controlled the midfield, passing triangles around Fletcher and Carrick with ease and negating the counter-attack. We actually did something similar earlier this year — but stupidly lost that game 2-1.

      Anyhow, when Barca play a 4-3-3 they both control the ball and attack with speed. We just don’t seem that good at ball-control anymore. I know we changed our tactics. We also lost Alex Hleb, who was masterful at the ball-control game (much to many fan’s consternation). But really, I’m stumped by this.

      1. I think a 4-2-2-2 with Bendtner and Arshavin up top will be good. It will give freedom to Nasri and Rosicky and Cesc should drop to a deep lying playmaker role with late runs into the box. It will involve lots of horizontal movement and sideways passing. It can also merge into a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-2-4 if required. Bendtner should be the reference around which the team should play. Diaby can play alongside Nasri when he returns. Arshavin will provide the penetrating runs. What do you think?

  7. Hi, good analysis!
    I dont agree with the seven rating for Song. He was the main person at fault for the second goal imo. He knows that Gallas/Vermaelen likes going up the pitch and attacking and he should have stayed back and covered the space to mark Rooney. Vermaelen was the only CB back and Rooney dragged him front(massive error) and suddenly only Sagna was there! Then 4 Man Utd players flooded the box and a goal was inevitable. The third goal was good too.
    I thought Park deserved more than 6… He initiated the move for the 2nd goal and scored the third goal(he was there in the beginning of the move too). United are a bunch of smart footballers and yesterday Park and Rooney were at the forefront.

  8. For the third goal, Rooney dragged three players to him! But still managed to find Park!
    Schoolboy defending from Arsenal!

  9. I won’t write much, but yet again, the team has been shown up tactically. I don’t know why Arsenal do not alter tactics, no two teams are the same, and it was dead easy for Ancelotti and Ferguson to prepare for Arsenal. Arsenal will play a 4-5-1, lots of short passes, they will never shoot from range, and they will never be a threat from crosses. They leave gaps all over the team that can be pierced. If we had a decent scouting analysis of opponents, we would know Utd are dangerous on the counter, also know that running directly at an isolated CB of theirs is a good way to get at them. As it was, we stuck to our style, and were defeated.

    What is more disturbing, again, is that mentally, the team is not up to it. Man Utd have won the league 3 times in a row, and fought as if they wanted to win it for the first time, taking Arsenal seriously and working hard to get the ball. Arsenal have won nothing since 2005, and never showed the hunger to indicate to Utd that we want what they have. So again, tactics, flop, mentality, flop.

  10. Arsenal have had the same problems for the last 5 games (highlighted brilliantly on this blog). They finally played a team that was good enough to exploit them. I am sorry to say, this was not a “bad day at the office”. Teams are slowly seeing the defensive flaws in the team and taking advantage. All is not lost but the strict adherence to one tactic (even when you dont have the right players available) will make it easy for the opposition to prepare for you.

    One thing I am curious about is the use of both Nasri and Rosicky in the wide positions. If they were so short of personal for the 433, why not switch to something else? This wasn’t touched upon in the analysis.

    I have said it before, this Arsenal team does not have the dribblers that are needed to make this 433 work properly. You cant pass your way through good defences. You have to take them on and drag them out of position. Even Barcelona know that.The best dribbler is Arshavin who played most of the game with his back to goal.

    Oh well.

    1. There are some things which I forget to talk up on such as the wingers but I did sort of imply it in the talk about dynamism. Read up on the reply I made to drwtw on what I think about Arshavin (which I agree with you) and a change maybe.

        1. Don’t worry, I like some constructive criticism. I just never mentioned it in full detail as it just flew by my mind when I was typing it up. But if I miss something out, I have full confidence that it will be mentioned on the comments while you guys always have something interesting to add.

  11. A lack of width is becoming a real hindrance.

    With Arshavin (and his lack of physicality/difficulties when attempting to hold-up the play) upfront, Wenger has looked to play ‘in-between-the-line’ players in order to receive the ball within the final third.
    A lack of width is concomitant with this, and as such, it’s very easy for our opposition to form a compact defensive unit, with little in the way of space for our attackers to exploit.

    I don’t want us to play a typical wide-game of playing balls into the box, but we need players to hug the line to an extent, as a means of dragging opponents out wide and stretching them. After this point, we can allow our wing-forwards to cut inside and exploit the additional space, but coming inside too early just compresses our play.

    Further, a lack of width makes it harder to relieve pressure. As you have suggested on a number of occassions, when the ball is played wide, it is harder for opponents to press you. Yesterday, when looking to play their way out of trouble, our defensive players looked to focus their passes through the centre of the pitch – only for the ball to be retrieved by the likes of Carrick and Fletcher soon after.

    The only time we had any real width (prior to Walcott’s introduction) was when Arshavin looked to run the channels in behind Rafael, but this space was only afforded when our other attackers had dropped deeper – meaning Arshavin was isolated, and the gaps in the United back 4 remained unclaimed.

    Good article as ever, BTW (Y)

  12. I was at the game and United were attacking “my” half during the first half.

    It pains me to say it, but as good as Denilson is at reading and positioning, he just doesn’t have the awareness to get out of tight situations that’s required.

    Last week you excused his poor passing by lack of defensive cover without Song, this week, he really didnt have any excuses.

  13. Darius Stone – And u thk arsenal need fans like you that keep “lickin” wenger’s ass although that man is destroying the club. Don’t talk about embarrasment, it is and funny u don’t feel the same way. I might be in pain but you seems to take it easy, Arsenal getting raped by ManUtd like that and you can smile about it. Sigh.

  14. Brain, you don’t focus enuf on the real problem. This excellent match report (from a blogger who attended the game) does:


    Players collectively failing to track back, or to attack. Nasri and Rosicky were invisible, not attacking or defending. Players just standing back for 90 mins, giving opponents the ball and failing to do anything about it.

    So here we are again.

    Our annual dose of humiliation from the mancs and the chavs. Prepare yourselves for another dose this coming weekend.

    Season after season, humiliation after humiliation from these two teams — and now both the chavs and the mancs have made our home ground their playground.

    Gunnerblog offers a short, spot-on analysis, esp. the last couple of sentences:


    It is this point that I’ve been banging on about for 2 seasons now, closing down opponents, fighting for the ball–collectively and consistently. What exactly happened to that high pressure, collective closing down of opponents that we saw at the start of the season? Why is it that the coaching team fails to instill this mentality into these players so that they play that way in EVERY GAME?

    It really is extraordinary to watch these players just stand back and do nothing on our home ground, and allow a mediocre Utd side to score at will. All 3 goals were gifted. In fact, all the goals we’ve conceded this season have not come from particularly special football. They’ve been very easy goals to concede.

    There is something fundamentally wrong with this team mentally, and their training. Gooners should stop fixating on buying new players, that is not the main problem.

    And anyone who thinks we’re going to beat Chelsea at the Bridge needs serious therapy (please STOP citing last season’s win at the Bridge — neither Drogba nor Essien were playing, and they had a clueless manager).

    1. Wenger mentioned Arsenal had a problem psychologically – in terms of positioning – and this backs up the tactical side of the game which I’ve talked about and why it has become difficult (read my previous posts on the match preview and analysing Arsenal’s defensive game).

      The players wanted to win, they are really down. This team has spirit, a good attitude mentally, and it is very difficult to say straight away after the game why we were not at all at our level. We were naive.#
      ….I believe it was much more with our positioning and the intelligence of our positioning that we were wrong.

      But there is definitely a problem of mentality; however I don’t think anyone – without delving into the brains of the players – can accuse them of not wanting to win. It looked to me the players tried but United were more intelligent in their thinking, anticipation, confidence and discipline. Playing the system the way it ought to be played is difficult hence why Van Gaal didn’t play it in it’s current incarnation under Pep when as Barca manager back in ’97 as he saw weaknesses that we are seeing now at Arsenal.
      Also Arsenal more or less matched United on distance covered so I can’t understand the point that the players are not trying. Could it be about the United players’ make-up that makes them better at doing the graft? Who knows? Park is a limited player but makes the most of talents by working hard and applying himself better mentally. Rosicky and Nasri are not wingers and their natural defensive instincts are to fall back. Arshavin and Fabregas on the other hand made 7 and 8 successful tackles respectively. Interesting to note also that the former two didn’t play pre-season much and if they did, like Rosicky, he played centrally. Wenger tells them what to do – they practice – but recreating in the match arena is up to the players. They failed.

      I can’t be perfect with my analysis but while I also like reading Vital Arsenal, he also failed to underpin why Arsenal failed to track back as aggressively and pressure high. Vital Arsenal quote:

      I honestly could not tell you where Nasri and Rosicky were- they didn`t seem to be doing much attacking, so I`m at a loss to work out why they weren`t tracking back and defending either.

      I try to give a tactical stance on the game because it’s the most rational way of thinking – I appreciate some people may not like it but preempting what the players are thinking is surely more difficult and definitely not as conclusive. I would agree, however, that Arsenal players have a weaker mental toughness overall but again how can I quantify the impact this had on the game?

      RE: I’ve added a quote from Sir Alex in the article highlighting United’s strategy.

      1. Fair enuf, Brain. I don’t argue that your tactical focus was wrong. Nor do I think the players went out there not wanting to win, of course they did.

        But honestly, the lethargy and laziness of some of our players was shocking. I truly do not understand what has happened to the Barca-like collective defensive work the team did at the start of the season. The consistent, collective closing down of opponents, the continual fight for the ball. Where has that all gone?

        I don’t understand watching players just jogging back lazily while Utd are attacking, I don’t understand how a 40 year old REFEREE gets to our box before a 20 year old footballer because that footballer is too damned lazy to run faster than at a trot’s pace. And it beggars belief that on Sunday we played at home against Man Utd without a striker. Arsenal v. Utd — without a striker. When have you ever seen that before?

        1. Also, it was striking how Utd knew exactly that Clichy is a weak spot and they consistently exploited that weakness throughout the game. He really is a liability right now.

          1. Every team has focused down our left flank for a long time now e.g. Villa, Everton, Bolton, United and it goes far further than that.
            I can’t understand why Wenger continues to play Rosicky on the right when we know he provides excellent support for Clichy & co who are much more defensively suspect than Sagna.
            It seems their tactic was “hammer the left back until we get a goal, then give them possession around the half way line and wait for them to make a mistake”.

  15. Well that one hurt. My impression (and I watched the game again until the third United goal) was that execution must go hand in hand with tactics. The game was fairly even and relatively open until United scored. If anything, Arsenal looked more dangerous until then. We had five or six decent moves which broke down either because of last ditch United defending, a poor final ball or poor decision making. Arshavin in particular shot when he might have passed and completely scuffed a shot that you’d expect a player of his calibre to at least test the keeper. And we paid for our inability to create goals from those chances.

    Fair play to Nani for a spectacular play. Tactically, Clichy was getting help from Nasri and he beat the double team. Denilson stepped up…and got beat. Almunia had to get a hand to the ball or else Park scores. Four players in proper position, and all got beat.

    For the second, we had numbers back. Five defenders vs three offensive players. Denilson’s failure to track one of the world’s best forwards was criminal.

    Finally, for the third Denilson failed to control a hoofed clearance. If he executes a simple ball trap, he retains possession. Heck, he could’ve even just headed the ball back toward the United goal. Instead, he loses the ball in a very dangerous area, resulting in a jail break for ManUre. Song, who was in a position to track Park, instead chose to double team Rooney, who was running back to his own goal to lay it back to Carrick(?), who then passed it to Park.

    For the second and third goals, it’s not like the team were particularly overcommitted. Players were in position to make plays, they simply made very basic mistakes. For me, this team has an amazing ability to self destruct, gifting goals to opposition. Maybe against Bolton you can do that, but not against Chelski or Man IOU. They seem psychologically fragile. Once we were down, we completely lost the midfield. United could’ve scored four or five. It’s really useless to discuss tactics when execution is so poor.

  16. I enjoy reading your blog and the fact you are more focused on the tactical side of things is interesting and refreshing. However sometimes you are too rigid. It appears to you that as long as a player adheres to what is asked of them tactically then that is pretty much all that matters. Clichy, Nasri and Denilson deserve individual scrutiny in any report because their individual deficiencies, errors and abject failure to impose themselves on the game contributed massively to Man United gaining the initiative, and yet it seems from your report and player ratings that in your mind this has been offset by the fact that they stood where they were supposed to and there were other factors that lead to them being more exposed than they should have been. This is wrong, it might not be a players fault if they don’t have the calibre to perform at a high level and wondering what a better player would have done in their position is only hypothetical, but this shouldn’t excuse them from being judged, they were pathetic, and their incompetence contributed massively to our downfall.

    I do really enjoy reading this site and don’t wish to stamp my opinions on anyone, but just think that in this game there needs to be some more blame apportioned, the performance was pitiful, one of the most depressing of recent times.

  17. Arsenal were slightly unlucky – two superb goals really but still were culpable.

    My issue would be entirely with Arsenal’s defending. It is great that Vermaelen gets forward and scores but for the second goal there were nowhere near enough men (a) getting back (b) rushing to get back.

    Defensively Arsenal were poor (and not just Clichy). They need to work harder and, actually, I’d point my finger at the midfield for not offering that protection

    For all Wenger’s whingeing about Fletcher, he is exactly the sort of player Arsenal need – a disrupting influence, a hard worker, someone who gets the ball (tackling, harrying and intercepting) and distributes it. He is massively under-rated and, well, would be an ideal foil for Cesc.

    Again, this comes back to Wenger’s philosophy (one, for what it is worth, I admire). Sometimes you need to sacrifice principals and ideologies to win games. Winning ugly, whatever Wenger thinks, is better than not winning at all.



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