Even before a ball had been kicked at the Theatre of Dreams, North London trailed Manchester as Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham were thrashed 5-1 in their own backyard. By the looks of it, a blue moon has risen and the proverbial gauntlet had been thrown Sir Alex and Man United’s way. The world awaited a response from the champions and well they got one but not something anyone in their right minds could have expected.
Arsenal’s woes in the transfer market and on the injury front are well documented. Wenger has lost two of his priced assets to the riches of Barcelona and Manchester City, while suspensions and injuries have further derailed their start to the new campaign. The night is well and truly dark at the moment and Gooners around the world seem to be losing faith in the man they once proclaimed their trust in.
Team sheets out – Half the battle won for the Red Devils
A back four of Jenkinson, Djourou, Koscielny and Traore didn’t inspire much confidence even in the hearts of the most optimistic Arsenal supporters. Guarding that rather patched up backline was a debutant – Francis Coquelin playing as the defensive midfielder in the absence of Alex Song and Emmanuel Frimpong both out due to suspensions. The signs couldn’t have been more ominous for Arsene Wenger’s men as a rampant Man United started with the same starting eleven that outplayed Tottenham six days ago.
The young Gunners were thrown in the deep end by their French manager and he hoped they would come out fighting but Fergie’s own crop of youngsters (an average age of 23) were up for it and after 90 minutes of absolute mayhem at Old Trafford, Wenger’s team selection looked to have gone horribly wrong. One can argue whether the Frenchman truly had any other options, but then Wenger truly has nobody else to blame, but himself.
Arsene Wenger must realize now how crucial the remainder of the transfer window is, if he is to find “quality” in these 4 days. A solitary point in 3 games so far represents a sorry return for the once mighty Gunners, but the international break will come in handy now and the injury cloud will most likely clear up in time for the visit of Swansea City.
Andrei Arshavin – The Little Lost Russian
After Fabregas and Nasri jumped ship, the onus was on the senior pros in the team to carry the baton. The likes of Van Persie, Arshavin and Walcott were required to step up and be counted. While Walcott has shown glimpses of his pace and movement in the last few games, Arshavin’s performances on the other hand have nosedived horribly. The little Russian was largely anonymous at the Emirates Stadium against Liverpool last week and once again failed to inspire his beleaguered side. In fact he was lucky to be on the pitch after two horrible tackles in the first half, after the break Arshavin continued his rather shoddy display. The Russian hadn’t completed 90 minutes in his last 11 games for Arsenal and he shouldn’t have stayed on the pitch one way or the other but sadly Wenger and Arsenal had no other options.
Wayne Rooney Has Got His Mojo Back
Ever since Rooney has been deployed a bit deeper with a strike partner in front of him, he has looked twice the player he was. United needed their talisman to hit the ground running this season after a very slow start to their last campaign, and he has surely answered the call. With Ashley Young and Luis Nani bombarding down the wings, Rooney and Man United look even more menacing than ever before. Two fantastic free kicks and a calmly dispatched spot kick later, Wayne Rooney had not only brought up his 150 United goals but gone ahead of luminaries such as Paul Scholes and Rudd Van Nistelrooy in the all time goal scorers list for the Red Devils. Ryan Giggs’ tally is next in Rooney’s sight and will be outscored in just a matter of time.
Pace and Movement: The New Mantra At Old Trafford
Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverly, Ashley Young, Nani, Anderson and Rooney- a front six that love to go forward and attack at pace. Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov have given way for the time being and surely no one is complaining as the young Devils have served up attacking football at breakneck pace. The United bench today consisted of last season’s league top scorer Berbatov, Manchester United’s fans player of the year – Chicharito, the grand old man of Old Trafford Ryan Giggs and former England captain Rio Ferdinand, just to name a few. None of them were missed.
Ashley Young has settled in as a Man United player like a duck takes to water, scoring two fabulous goals and creating another. Young seems to be gelling into Ferguson’s system quite well.
Silver Lining For Arsenal
It’s hard to find a silver lining when a team gets beaten 8-2, but surely there were a few heartening displays. Arsenal seem to have finally got the goalkeeping monkey off their back as Szczesny seems to be a very composed and qualified shot stopper. Although the Pole might have conceded eight, he couldn’t be faulted for any of those and might very well have kept the Gunners in the game for longer than they deserved.
The debutant Coquelin had a decent game too and can only get better with experience and age. There was an apparent fight in his belly as he didn’t seem to give up even when his more illustrious team mates threw in the towel. Along with Frimpong and Song, Arsenal seem to have good cover for the defensive midfield position.
The Verdict On David De Gea
The Spaniard has been under fire ever since his debut for the Red Devils for a few not-so-convincing moments between the posts. Even before Van Der Sar had hung up his boots, Sir Alex had singled out a few candidates to take over from the Flying Dutchman. De Gea was on top of the list and when Man United finally landed him, the fans and critics all seemed pretty pleased with the new acquisition.
But in a matter of few weeks, a couple of goof-ups has lead everyone to doubt the young man’s ability, but after tonight’s performance the pressure on him might relent a bit although the cynics will surely point to Arsenal’s first goal of the season. To judge him on his overall performance from the game, De Gea probably had his best game for Man United but that’s surely not saying much as he has hardly played a handful of games. The penalty saved off RVP and the double-save shortly after that must have done his confidence a world of good and hopefully his United career will go from strength to strength from here on.
United’s Defence – A Cause For Concern, Maybe?
There was a tiny blot on United’s day as they conceded two goals at home and that doesn’t happen too often. Patrice Evra and Johnny Evans were the guilty parties and now must be under pressure for their spot as Rio Ferdinand is back fit while Fabio Da Silva is breathing down Evra’s neck. There has to be improvement for Sir Alex’s men in defence, if they want to aim for perfection.
Howard Webb’s Reputation
Howard Webb has often been accused of being a pro-United referee and it has started to weigh heavily on the Englishman’s mind as evinced by his last two showings at Old Trafford. Andre Arshavin should have walked after his lunge on Ashley Young as he was already on a yellow; on the other hand, the penalty awarded was soft and might have caused a uproar had it gone in the home side’s favour.