With a lot of pre-match banter and self-motivating chit-chat, Arsenal travelled to Manchester to bring about a change to their monotone of failures against the Big Two. The End Result – Another ‘they were just not good enough’ saga!

We’ll take a look at each Arsenal player – how they fared, what was good about them, and what was the missing element which led to the below-par show at the Theater of Dreams.

Szczney

The league debutante was nervy as far as his work with his feet was concerned. He had the obvious butterflies in his stomach, playing against the mighty Red Devils at their backyard. He compensated that with his work with the gloves, which is more important. He made a fantastic block off an Anderson shot by ‘making himself big’ in front of the United man. To add to that, he flung himself to tip off a Wayne Rooney chip, which was goal-bound. The Pole can improve with more match-practice and prove to be a top keeper for Arsenal in years to come.

Sagna

The French Full-Back was good in attack as well as defense. Manchester United didn’t have a particular threat from the left hand side, so Sagna’s work wasn’t that difficult compared to his other Full Back’s work. All said and done, Bacary needs to improve his crosses drastically. If ‘Route One’ is not working, his crosses would be really vital for Arsenal, with top European games to come at the end of the season.

Squillaci/Koscielny

The Frenchmen were solid at their respective positions and even their distributions never lacked creativity. However, we can put some blame on Squillaci for the only United goal; he should have ideally closed down on Ji-Sung and not let him bent his body to make that sort of ‘improvised header’. Both the defenders need to work on their ‘handling of aerial balls’ ability, as Rooney won most of the aerial balls and found ‘lots of space’ to shoot. Along with that, the defenders need to ‘close down’ on strikers and not give them chances to shoot.

Clichy/Arshavin

How long can we persist with Clichy’s faults?

The biggest flaw in Arsenal’s game was the combination of Clichy and Arshavin. They never complemented each other. Clichy was hardly seen overlapping the Russian on the wings, while  the diminutive Arsenal striker failed to fall back and assist Clichy during attacks involving Rafael and Nani. Clichy fails to take care of nifty-footed wingers; he struggles against Nani, Lennon and others from the ‘same tribe’. His excellent pace helps him recover from poor positions, but he lacks the temperament of Ashley Cole to deal with top quality wingers.

Arshavin, on the other hand, lacked the composure in the ‘final third’ and gave away too many balls from ‘dangerous positions’. He started off well, showing a lot of intent, but fizzed out as the game went on.

Song/Wilshere

While the Englishman was very agile throughout the game, his Cameroonian partner looked quite ‘out of sorts’. Alex Song, without any competition for his place in the team, has become a little more ‘adventurous’ this season, bombing forward every now and then, but failing to give those ‘eye-of-the-needle’ passes which can make or break a game. It is quite understandable that he lacks creativity, but Arsenal doesn’t need him to be creative. They have plenty of ingenious heads in the team to take care of that aspect of Arsenal’s game. His tackling was wayward and he lacked a lot of poise in handling the movements of Fletcher and Anderson.

Nasri

Nasri – Key man isolated in the game


Playing under huge expectations can be a bonus as well as a detriment for a football player. Nasri, in the absence of Cesc, had the responsibility of the chief playmaker to take Arsenal through. He failed to do so, simply because he stayed isolated in the wings for most of the game. The only time he had made an incisive run into the box, Arsenal came closest to scoring a goal.

Rosicky/Chamakh

Rosicky, sporting the captain’s arm band, is a player too timid for such a grand occasion. He might be an exceptional talent, but he lacks that ‘extra edge’, that little bit of ‘intelligent insolence’ that changes the nature of a team’s performance. When Patrick or Tony wore that arm-band and played Manchester United, the Red Devils feared Arsenal; they could feel the ‘presence’ of these Arsenal leaders, and they got intimidated. Tomas Rosicky will probably never have that kind of physical presence to ruffle the opponents, and that will hurt Arsenal in big matches.

Chamakh is a fantastic footballer with all the ingredients of a support striker – he can fall back and help his defense, and even ‘hold the defender’ to make space for Van Persie to strike. But, he lacks the ‘killer instinct’ of Thierry Henry or even the incredible football brain of Dennis Bergkamp. He’ll do all the basic things correctly, but he won’t ever do an exceptional ‘out-of-the-blue’ thing and win you a big match on his own.

Cesc/RVP/Theo

It is quite unusual to see three top quality players unable to make any sort of impact on a big game like this. Cesc was clearly not 100% fit, as he sprayed wrong passes all over the pitch. Van Persie was falling back too much and it didn’t help the cause. Theo was in a hurry to make an impact and cement his place in the team; he lacked decisiveness.

Arsene Wenger

Wenger employed the same strategy as he did for most away matches, except for the ‘Play Safe’ part. The Arsenal team didn’t want to force into an attack; nobody made incisive runs into the box – not even Nasri and Arshavin. The team was playing within themselves and refused to take their chances. Both Arshavin and Nasri, Arsenal’s creative focal points, stayed in the wings and failed to combine with the central players.

Arsenal movement and passes- Strategy employed at Old Trafford

The Arsenal manager could have ideally engaged Nasri in the middle of the park, pushing Rosicky to the wings. He could have kept Wilshere and Song just behind Nasri, to feed him when required and also run back to help the backline upon danger. Both Nasri and Arshavin needed to track back and help the Full Backs during attacks, which was not the case. Chamakh and Rosicky weren’t influential enough, as they failed to trouble the opponent keeper throughout the match.

Arsenal movement and passes – Strategy that could have been employed

Can Arsenal still win the league?

It has been a strange season, with Chelsea and Manchester United not at their best while Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have managed to spring quite a few surprises. It is certain that a ‘flawless’ team won’t win the coveted Championship. The team with the best record while playing top teams might end up lifting the trophy at the end of the season. Arsenal, even with their tactical flaws, can still win the league if they can win some ‘critical’ matches and keep their composure till the end of the season.

59 Responses to “Arsenal’s Corner – The Misfiring Gunners”

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  1. Shivam says:

    “strategy that could have been employed” … this was how they lined up when they came out in the 2nd half with rosicky and nasri switching positions!!!! and sagna had a poor game… neither tracked park’s runs towards the middle nor was close enough to evra on most occasions!!! and crossing of course was terrible!!

  2. Schweitzer says:

    Arsenal played unlike Arsenal in this match. They seems to play like just another EPL team hoisting the ball towards the forward line. They were not patient and played with too much spaces between the lines.

  3. Joseph says:

    Arsenal never threated to score in the whole match. Bendtner could have done much better than Chamakh and deploying Nasri in wings was a tactical mistake from Wenger.
    Arsenal has done well in most of the away games but it will be very difficult for them to win EPL this season. They are missing an experienced campaigner(Gallas :) ) who can marshall their defense.

  4. @Joseph: Completely agree with the Bendtner sub. The Dane shud have been brought on instead of RVP!

  5. Sujit says:

    Someone please teach the morrocon to win the arial balls, and yes the goal was mistake on the part of both centre backs, first koscielny missing the header, misjudging in the air and then the squillaci allowing space to ji-sung.Still dont know, what exactly is missing in the team.