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Arsenal 0 Man Utd 0: Sadly, the Gunners Fail to Turn Up

Tomas Rosicky

Emirates Stadium (Premier League)

Player Ratings (via the Independent)Match HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

 

It was a game where Arsenal was expected to put up a better outing from that nightmarish performance in Anfield. The manager made some expected changes as a more assured Kieran Gibbs replaced the shaky Nacho Monreal and the manager opted for a more experienced head in the form of Tomas Rosicky ahead of the Ox.

As early as the third minute, Wojciech Szczesny handed a simple pass to Mikel Arteta but the Spaniard inexplicably chose to lose the ball in front of his box gifting a chance to Robin van Persie but the Flying Dutchman’s shot was saved superbly by Szczesny. Mesut Ozil glided past some defenders before feeding Jack Wilshere that had a couple of touches before lashing a shot that was blocked by Chris Smalling. Santi Cazorla swung in the resulting corner but an unmarked Olivier Giroud glanced his header wide.

The Gunners continued to press and Rosicky fashioned a chance for himself that was deflected off Nemanja Vidic but the ball was dealt with easily by David de Gea. Rafael made a jinking run on the right flank before swinging a cross that was attacked by RVP in the near post. Per Mertesacker matched the striker pound for pound and blocked the ball from imminent danger. RVP was sent clean on goal by Juan Mata but his wayward shot went wide.

Giroud combined with Gibbs to no avail but he was handed another chance on a platter but he sent Cazorla’s corner wide off the mark.

Olivier Giroud 6/10

A familiar sight for Giroud all game long. He had a stinker

There was a moment of concern when Giroud challenged for the ball in the air with a brave Rafael but the Brazilian fullback landed awkwardly and required swift medical attention. He earned himself an ovation when he got back to his team to the relief of everyone watching the scary incident.

At the start of the second half, Mata lofted a ball into the danger area that was flicked by Michael Carrick but thankfully, no Manchester United player was in the same wavelength. Arsenal threatened again as Ozil swung in a corner that was headed goalwards by Laurent Koscielny. With de Gea beaten, he had Antonio Valencia to thank as the winger sprung off the ground to head the ball off the line. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was placed in the same situation on Saturday but Martin Skrtel’s header went in. That’s football for you.

Close shave: Antonio Valencia cleared Laurent Koscielny's effort off the line in the second half

The Gunners had a strong claim for a penalty when Vidic blatantly shoved Giroud but all appeals to Mark Clattenberg fell on deaf ears. Gibbs cut in from the left and supplied a pass to Giroud but his effort went wide. It was end to end stuff as Mata latched unto Tom Cleverley’s pass to drill a shot that sailed effortlessly wide.

Bacary Sagna swung in a lot of crosses that was dealt with by Vidic and after blasting a shot over, Arsene Wenger replaced Rosicky with the Ox. Shortly afterwards, Giroud managed to evade Vidic to meet Sagna’s perfectly-timed low cross but his bad night went worse as his touch was rather inconclusive. What a shame!!!

With Arsenal failing to take the initiative, Manchester United almost punished them when Shrek floated in a cross that was headed in point-blank range by RVP. Up stepped Super Szczesny to make a magnificent save that kept his team in the game.

 

FlawedCavernousKakarikis World Class Save! Wojciech Szczęsny v Robin van Persie GIF (Arsenal v Man United)

Late on Ozil threaded a ball to Cazorla that sent a shot at goal but de Gea made a good save. At the end, it was a classic case of two points rather than one point gained as the Gunners failed to turn up against one of the weakest Manchester United sides in history. In 11 games against the Red Devils in the Premier League, the Aaron Ramsey-inspired win in 2011 remains the Gunners only victory.

Arsene Wenger spoke about the team’s nervousness going forward and the whole nine yards in his post-match interview but watching this game proved why the Gunners made a terrible mistake by not investing in a new center forward in January. For all his aerial prowess and work rate on the night, Giroud had a very poor game.

Inches: Giroud stretches in vain as he fails to make contact and Arsenal's chances of winning disappear

The chance of the game,…missed by Giroud

He is also renowned for his linkup play with his teammates but those touches evaded him yesterday as he killed attacks times without number. He also had two clear cut opportunities with his head which he wasted and the final straw was that poor effort from Sagna’s cross with a goal gaping at him.

He’s all we have at the moment so the least we as fans can do will be to give him our undying support with the hope that he steps up his game. With Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey gone, the goals haven’t been coming by that easily but Cazorla has done well recently with his purple patch of five goals in six games.

The Gunners had the chance to return to the top of the Premier League but sadly, they failed to turn up.

Sayonara.

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Man Utd Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

Man United's Robin van Persie heads in the opening goal against Arsenal on November 10, 2013

RVP: 3 goals in 3 games against his former team

Just when we thought that Chelsea was going to extend their lead from the chasing pack in yesterday’s game against West Brom, Victor Anichebe popped up with a goal that was celebrated more by Gooners rather than the West Brom faithful. This ultimately means that a win against Manchester United tonight will propel the Gunners back to the summit of the Premier League, and the loss to Liverpool would become a distant memory.

For a club of Manchester United’s caliber and pedigree, their performances have been downright shambolic and this is the best time to capitalize on their poor run of form. After making a swift comeback against Fulham on Sunday, the Red Devils had a lapse in concentration that allowed Darren Bent nod home the equalizer at stoppage time. Fulham, a team doomed for a relegation battle this season, parked the bus in Old Trafford and the tactics seemed to be working but goals from You-Know-Who and Michael Carrick handed the initiative to the home side. Like their story has been all season long, they messed up again.

Misery: Wayne Rooney failed to connect with strike partner Robin van Persie (below), exchanging just six passes during the 2-2 draw with Fulham

After picking up one point in their last two matches, Manchester United trail second-placed Arsenal by 14 points and have lost their last three away games in all competitions, but for reasons best known to Chuck Norris and Lord Voldemort, this is a fixture where United have a good recent record. Unbeaten in their last five matches against Arsenal and having suffered just one defeat in their previous five visits to Emirates Stadium in all competitions, United know how to grind out results against Arsene Wenger’s men. Arsenal have won just one of the last 10 Premier League games against Manchester United (W1 D2 L7).

Sometimes, they don’t even have to be in good form but they’ll still get a result against the Gunners. Last November, teams were picking points off the defending champions but when the Gunners visited Old Trafford despite being in a rich vein of form, they simply failed to turn up. Arsenal’s last victory against Manchester United in the Premier League was as far back as May 2011, where Aaron Ramsey scored what proved to be the match winner in his return from his long-term leg injury.

The Gunners will have to be weary about its former favorite son, Robin van Persie. Since his switch to Old Trafford thanks to the little boy inside him, he has earned a pantomime villain status at the club and the reception he received at the Emirates last season was deserved. Despite being apologetic when he scored against the Gunners for the first time, he had a rather mixed emotion when he converted his penalty at the Emirates. Last November, he ran like a mad man to celebrate with Shrek when he nodded home his team’s winner against the Gunners.

Since Didier Drogba departed the shores of England to seek greener pastures elsewhere, Shrek currently holds the record for the highest amount of goals scored against Arsenal which stands at 10.

Misery: Wayne Rooney failed to connect with strike partner Robin van Persie (below), exchanging just six passes during the 2-2 draw with Fulham

He has been injured (duh!!) for a considerable chunk of this season but since his comeback against Cardiff, RVP has scored three in three, which takes his goal tally for the season to 10 in just 13 games. Van Persie averages a goal every 114 minutes, scoring 7 out of 12 of his clear cut chances. Arsenal will ignore this player at their own peril.

Arsenal have kept 10 clean sheets in their last 11 matches in all competitions at the Emirates Stadium and conceded just one in the other match. The Gunners have also won six of their last eight Barclays Premier League games at home by a 2-0 score line.

To injuries, Mathieu Flamini will serve the last game of his suspension while Thomas Vermaelen (knee), Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and Kim Kardashian Kallstrom (back) are still out. Yaya Sanogo has decided to say goodbye to Abou Diaby at the treatment table and he’s now available for selection.

At Manchester United, Marouane Fellaini (groin) is still out injured while there are doubts over the fitness of Jonny Evans (calf) and Phil Jones (concussion).

To team news, I’d expect some changes from the side that was decimated at Anfield. In the defense, the only change I’d expect would be Kieran Gibbs replacing Nacho Monreal. The Spanish fullback has been torn apart in the “big games” the Gunners have played this season and he’d be a liability at the back. In midfield, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta would still retain their places but I expect to see Tomas Rosicky start ahead of the Ox because he has been a wild card in our big games this season and he has performed admirably.

See many fans want Mesut Ozil benched but that’s bollocks in my honest opinion. He’s one of the best players at the club but he’s just going through a bad spell at the moment. Santi Cazorla stated that he’s no Superman and he can suffer a dip in form but his teammates are backing him to bounce back and there’s no better game to make your mark that a crunch clash against the old enemy, Manchester United.

Despite his poor run, Ozil has been a creative force this season amassing a total of 56 chances created so far, contributing in eight assists with a passing accuracy of 88%. He has also notched four goals so far and another goal on Wednesday will do his confidence a world of good.

My predicted lineups will be,

Arsenal 4-3-2-1 football formationManchester United 4-4-2 football formation

Let’s hope for a victory tonight.

Sayonara.

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Man Utd 1 Arsenal 0: RVP’s Strike Throws Title Race Open

Even if this fixture took place in November, it’s importance was highly significant as both sides knew what the ramifications of a loss could cause. For Manchester United, pride and points where at stake as the Gunners had not won on their home turf since Emmanuel Adebayor’s winner in 2006. For Arsenal, it presented an opportunity to continue their good form as well as going 11 points clear of their eternal rivals, which was definitely a scintillating prospect.

The game started on a rather sad note for the Gunners as two unsung heroes that had been instrumental in their recent run of good form, Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky, caught the flu and every through bred Gooner can attest that they were sorely missed.

With no disrespect to Thomas Vermaelen, but Mertesacker and Koscielny had played a lot of games together and had forged a telepathic understanding that yielded benefits at the back. Vermaelen and Koscielny shared the same traits and either of them required to have a Mertesacker to calm things at the back. Arsenal also missed the grit and determination of Rosicky, that pressed effortlessly further up the pitch.

Shinj Kagawa and  Patrice Evra worked in tandem on the left to fashion a chance for Shrek but his shot was saved by Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Aaron Ramsey attempted an impudent chip for Olivier Giroud that controlled the ball superbly before teeing up Mesut Ozil but the German schemer was blocked before he could make any real contact with the ball.

Shrek and Vermaelen were involved in a tussle for the ball on the left hand side and after the Verm intercepted the ball for a throw in, Shrek’s trailing knee hit the Belgian Verminator on his face. Vermaelen was alert to the danger in the box when he nodded Shrek’s cross over the bar for a corner kick.

The United forward took responsibility for the corner and swung it into the box but Robin van Persie reacted quicker than Giroud to loop the ball over Szczesny and Gibbs that stood on the far post to put the home side a goal ahead. The Dutchman’s elation knew no bounds as he ran to celebrate his goal with the provider as Old Trafford erupted to a rapturous roar.

Arsenal tried to respond from falling behind and a corner lofted into the box was punched hard by David de Gea. Ramsey dinked in a cross for Giroud but the Frenchman’s wayward header sailed over the bar.

Giroud was involved in the next noteworthy action as he came back to do some defending inside the box but he made a strong challenge on Shrek and won the ball but the angry mob at Old Trafford voiced their thoughts on what they felt was a penalty but the ref gave a deaf ear to their pleas.

A scary moment arrived when Phil Jones tried to attack the ball from a corner kick but ending up flattening Szczesny was stayed motionless on the ground for some seconds, making my heart to skip a beat. Thoughts and quotes of the Hugo Lloris head injury incident with AVB started surfacing and after some good work by the physios, he was deemed fit to continue.

Shortly after the Szczesny injury incident, there was another cause for concern when Flamini clashed with Nemanja Vidic leaving the Serbian defender concussed and he wasn’t fit enough to continue and was replaced by Tom Cleverley.

Arsenal had a limp attacking performance in the first half and tried to be more penetrative in the start of the second 45 minutes. Vermaelen sent a free kick over the bar and Ozil had a shot that rattled the side netting.

Manchester United had a chance to double their money when Kagawa flicked the ball to Shrek that made mince meat of Sagna before drilling his effort wide. The home side were almost gifted another chance when Arteta was robbed off the ball by van Persie and he teed up Antonio Valencia that darted with the ball before feeding Shrek. The Englishman attempted a chip that went far off the mark.

Sagna found some space and sent a sumptuous cross into the box but it evaded everyone. Shortly afterwards, Arsenal had a corner that was headed out of the danger area into the path of Kieran Gibbs that fired a one-timed volley towards goal. It got a slight deflection off RVP but de Gea had his eyes on the ball.

Wenger summoned Nicklas Bendtner for an ineffectual Santi Cazorla. Jack Wilshere also came on for Flamini in the Gunners bid to salvage something from the game.

Wilshere committed a needless foul on Evra and van Persie swung in a dangerous cross but Chris Smalling failed to connect well with the ball and good chance went begging for the hosts.

Wenger’s last throw of the dice was to bring on Serge Gnabry for Arteta and the youngster almost made an instant impact when he drilled a cross into the danger area but no Arsenal player was in the same wavelength.

Late on, Sagna swung an inch-perfect cross that was begging for a touch from any player on yellow but Bendtner failed to oblige. At the sound of the ref’s whistle reality donned on everyone that Arsenal had lost a key fixture, throwing the title wide open yet again.

Player Ratings

Szczesny (7) dominated his area as you would expect from a keeper in fine form.

Sagna (8) had a good game and his distribution was a highlight in Arsenal’s second performance.

Gibbs (7) worked hard on the left and balanced his overall play superbly.

Vermaelen (7) did okay in Mertesacker’s absence and made a couple of vital interceptions.

Koscielny (7) was steady at the back and worked in tandem with his captain.

Arteta (7) was as industrious as ever and tried to dictate the play for his team.

Flamini (7) didn’t do have badly in his return to the squad.

Cazorla (5) played very poorly in my honest opinion and failed to capitalize on the chances you’d expect him to finish off.

Ozil (5) put up another below-par outing and looked out of sorts at times.

Ramsey (6) didn’t stamp his authority on the game from the right. Came to life when he was deployed to the middle.

Giroud (5) had a shocker. Made no genuine attempt on goal and was starved off service.

Gnabry (7) tried to make things happen when he arrived.

Wilshere (7) ran at the defense with drive and determination.

Bendtner (5) had little or no impact on the game. Would have been a hero if he converted Sagna’s chance though.

The loss to Man Utd has seen the table have a compact outlook with Liverpool just two points off the Gunners following an emphatic 4-0 thrashing of Fulham. Chelsea had to rely on the antics of bad officiating to salvage a point while Manchester City and Tottenham lost their games.

The international break comes up next and I’d say that it’s a relief. It’s always nice to focus on something else after a defeat and this time, it would be international football.

Sayonara.

Manchester United Preview: Bring Hell to the Red Devils

Two seasons ago, Arsene Wenger visited Old Trafford shortly after a dismal home appearance against Liverpool. The outcome turned out to be Wenger’s worst defeat as Arsenal’s manager as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side ran riot with Shrek scoring a hat – trick from set pieces. The Ogre has continued in that stead this season with notable free kicks against Manchester City and Crystal Palace.

Arsenal has had their fare share of doubters this season and it has been really nice serving this individuals meals of their words and they have been forced to eat them and acknowledge that the tide is turning at the Emirates. Following the opening day home loss to Aston Villa, many were quick to point their fingers and say how badly the Gunners were going to fare but right now, it’s really lonely at the top of the Premier League, as the Gunners languish at the summit.

Chelsea was touted as one of the favorites to win the crown but their recent form in the league doesn’t justify the bookmakers hopes by a far mile. After losing shamefully to Newcastle last week, they had the referee to thank as he awarded them a penalty right at the death to prevent West Brom from another historic victory.

The losses to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup and Dortmund in the first leg at the Emirates made Arsenal’s haters speak loudly in one accord but the astonishing victories over Liverpool at home and Dortmund away has instilled a measure of fear back into the minds of the opposition.

For the first time since the days dinosaurs walked the Earth, Arsenal come to Old Trafford brimming with a truckload of confidence and many believe that Arsene Wenger’s army can grab all three points against David Moyes’ side which put them 11 points ahead of their fierce rivals.

I don’t exactly expect Manchester United to roll over and play dead for Arsenal and in fairness to them, they have been in fine form as well with Moyes steadying the ship after a rather tumultuous start to life at Old Trafford.

David de Gea still makes those incredible saves, Shrek is still piling up the assists and free kicks, Robin van Persie’s screamer against Fulham last week showed that he’s still a force to be reckoned with and there’s Adnan Januzaj, the new kid on the block making more waves than the amount of times Ashley Young attempts a dive.

The Rooney – van Persie combo in attack will be a mouthwatering prospect for Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker but they have already eased past Napoli, Tottenham, Liverpool and Dortmund (away) with satisfying clean sheets to put the icing on a well-baked cake.

Arsenal’s form can be attributed to the collective performances of the team but there have been some stand out performers the Gunners will be banking on today.

Wojciech Szczesny’s form of late has been particularly outstanding and his commanding saves have been the difference between three points and one. The Gunners will be hoping he continues his good run of form because a lot would bank on his able shoulders.

Arsenal would also be hopeful that the Mertesielny pairing will he at their formidable best in their bid to quell the threat RVP and Shrek will pose. In midfield, Mathieu Flamini’s industry will come in handy but the question remains if he’s fully fit for the tie, although in his absence, Mikel Arteta has been a phenom.

Arsenal would also need the Premier League’s undoubted best player, Aaron Ramsey, to come up with another Ramseyrific moment that would end up with the ball at the back of the net as he has done so often this season. Then of course, there’s the sweet link up play from Olivier Giroud that would give his teammates a chance to get into the act.

To injury news, there’s good news as Jack Wilshere was deemed fit enough to travel North but I don’t see him getting a run out unless it’s absolutely necessary. The usual suspects are still out and I won’t bore you with who they are because we already know them.

To team news, I’ll expect an unchanged lineup from the team that has excelled over Liverpool and Dortmund. As the saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

It’s time to bring Hell to the Red Devils, and I hope they burn.

Sayonara.

Arsenal 1 Man Utd 1: Sagna’s Stupidity Ensures a Share of the Spoils

I’ve been having serious constraints blogging recently because of my Internet connectivity issues but on days like this, the good ol’ WordPress for BlackBerry had to come in handy.

With Wigan’s late capitulation against that lot from White Hart Lane coupled with Chelsea’s halftime lead over Swansea, Arsenal had it all to do against the newly crowned champions, Manchester United, on a warm afternoon at the Emirates.

This season, Arsenal’s record against their fellow rivals at the top has been nothing short of appalling. Prior to this game, they had managed only one win against 10-man Tottenham as well as draws against Manchester City (away) and Everton (home and away). The rest had been disappointing defeats.

Arsenal put up a shambolic outing against Fulham but got maximum points from the encounter. However, Arsene Wenger chose to tweak his squad, bringing on Kieran Gibbs for Nacho Monreal with Lukas Podolski replacing the suspended Olivier Giroud.

After honoring the champions with the customary Guard of Honor, the boo boys started gearing up for the game’s pantomime villain, Robin van Persie.

Arsenal began the game like a house on fire with the Gunners midfield closing the opposition further up the pitch. RVP lost the ball in midfield, causing Arsenal to launch a swift attack through Podolski and Rosicky. When the Czech maestro teed up Theo Walcott with a delicious through ball, the pacey Englishman was marginally offside but he finished his chance aplomb, bringing an end to his much talked-about goal drought.

Aaron Ramsey fashioned a chance for Santi Cazorla and the diminutive magician wasted no time in blasting a left-footed drive goalwards. Man Utd’s shot stopper, David De Gea, parried the ball to safety.

RVP had his first sniff at goal with a half chance that was blasted over the bar, much to the delight of the Emirates faithful. Phil Jones was brandished a yellow card for a rash lounge at Mikel Arteta but Walcott’s free kick was an aberration. Jones neglected his defensive duties and made a lot of ground to be on the end of a van Persie flick but his header glamced wide off the mark.

Van Persie incurred the wrath of the crowd when the scythed Per Mertesacker down with a careless challenge, earning himself a booking as well. Arsenal hit Man Utd on the break with another counter attack with Ramsey at the thick of things but he probably made a wrong decision in feeding Podolski on the left when Walcott was free. The German with a left foot as powerful as Thor’s hammer fired a piledriver at De Gea but the Spanish goalie saved the shot.

Luis Nani exposed Bacary Sagna’s defensive frailties on the left hand side before flicking a cross to van Persie but Szczesny saved the header at point blank range using his head, which ultimately caused him some discomfort as he hit the deck with consummate ease.

Just when we thought that Sagna was having a bad day, it became a whole lot worse when the French defender inexplicably chose to gift the ball to van Persie and in his attempt of redemption he conceded a blatant foul in the box, leaving Phil Dowd with no choice but to point to the spot. Szczesny guessed right but the power on van Persie’s shot was too much for the Pole.

All Arsenal’s good work in the first half undone by the sheer stupidity of one of the most experienced lads in the squad. A shameful familiar story.

As expected, Arsenal began the second half with more urgency with Ramsey instigating another attack before feeding Rosicky. Little Mozart chose to use the outside of his boot to fire the ball miserably wide.

With Arsenal failing to take the attacking initiative, Man Utd almost went two up when van Persie received a pass on the left from Shrek before drilling the ball into the box but there was no player on white to strike the killer blow.

Man Utd gained some momentum and pushed on for the goal that would settle the tie. With Sagna clearly struggling on the right, Patrice Evra made a rear foray forward and lofted a cross for Shrek but his header was saved by Szczesny.

Arsene Wenger replaced the vibrant Rosicky with Jack Wilshere to add some steel to the midfield. Arsenal had another chance at goal when Antonio Valencia handled the ball outside the 18-yard box but Cazorla’s free kick was pretty damn poor.

With Podolski having a peripheral outing, Wenger replaced the ineffectual German with Gervinho. Arsenal continued to press on but Man Utd held the fort with some last-ditch tackling from Phil Jones. Wenger threw his last ace in the deck by bringing on the Ox for Ramsey.

It was gung-ho stuff from Arsenal as they attacked with urgency, leaving gaping holes at the back but I was awed when Sagna, Mertesacker and Koscielny slid at the same time to block Shrek’s attempt on goal.

Gervinho created a chance for Cazorla but the Spaniard’s effort was saved by the impregnable De Gea in goal. Right at the death, Man Utd would have grabbed all three points when Shrek created a clear-cut chance for Hugh Giggs Hefner but the old hag chose to dally on the ball with the goal at his mercy.

In the end, a point gained from a game against the champions may not be as bad as it seems, bearing in mind that the Gunners are still within touching distance of a Champions League qualifying place.

With this in mind, I really can’t wait to watch the long-awaited game in hand between Chelsea and Tottenham. That would be one hell of a cup final.

Sayonara.

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