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Man Utd vs Arsenal – The FA Cup Draw I Wasn’t Hoping For

Arsenal 0 Manchester United 2: Louis van Gaal records first away win as Arsene Wenger's misery deepens

With seven teams securing victory in the FA Cup fifth round, the onus was on Manchester United to avoid an upset against Preston North End but when the lower division side scored first, Arsenal fans probably celebrated more than the home side because the draws for the quarterfinals had been made even before Manchester United kicked the ball yesterday.

As at yesterday, Arsenal was set to continue the defense of their title with Liverpool, Aston Villa, Bradford City, Blackburn Rovers, Reading, West Brom and Manchester United all setting their sights on the trophy as well. So when the draws started, I kept my fingers crossed to see who the Gunners would play before booking a double date with Wembley.

Aston Villa and their new manager, Tim Sherwood, celebrated a winning start to his career with the club but they have been paired against a West Brom side that demolished West Ham in the previous round. Since his arrival at the Hawthrons, Tony Pulis has done a good job with the lads and he has managed to bring the best out of Saido Berahino and Brown Ideye. Both strikers were going through a drought at some point in the season.

Bradford City has been the surprise package of the competition, as they were a couple of seasons ago in the Capital One Cup. Arsenal and Aston Villa crashed along the way as Bradford City went all the way to Wembley but they were destroyed by Swansea in the League Cup final. This season, they made history to be the first side to score Jose Mourinho four goals in his home and their fairytale run continued with a 2-0 win over Sunderland. Now they’ve been paired with familiar foes, Reading, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Bantams face off with the Royals.

Liverpool has found form in just the right time this season and their latest victory over Crystal Palace has seen them propel to the next round of the FA Cup but they have a tricky tie against a Blackburn side that thumped Stoke City. Daniel Sturridge’s return to full fitness has brought some upturn in the fortunes of Brendan Rodgers men and we can only watch and see how their season pans out.

Finally, Arsenal got a very tough draw against Manchester United. When I say very tough, I just think about how bad the Gunners have been when playing Manchester United. First things first, Old Trafford was the ground where the Gunners lost their majestic unbeaten record and I can bet that if Arsene Wenger’s side managed to get at least a point at Old Trafford in the night in 2004, that record would have gone for a longer while.

Then there are the horrific and humiliating defeats the Gunners have suffered at Old Trafford. If the 6-1 mauling wasn’t bad enough, the 8-2 demolition in 2011 was an absolute disgrace. Arsenal’s last win on the ground was as far back as 2006 in a 1-0 narrow victory. Sometimes it seems like it’s a curse from beyond that Arsenal tends to struggle against Manchester United. As bas as David Moyes was last season, he still managed to notch up four points in the league off the Gunners. When both sides met earlier in the season, Arsenal outplayed their opponents but their profligacy came back to haunt them.

If the Gunners want to win the competition, they have to end their wretched run at Old Trafford.

It was a draw I wasn’t hoping for, but hey, that’s football.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 1 Man Utd 2: We Just Can’t Beat ‘em

I’ve been out for a couple of days due to work related issues (as always) and this is the first article in a long while that I’m publishing with my phone. After the debacle at Swansea, you would have expected the Gunners to show some enthusiasm against a Manchester United side that was struggling with form and injuries. The stat boys say that Loius van Gaal’s team had picked up 39 injuries already this season, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw a backline that contained the likes of McNair and Tyler Blackett with Antonio Valencia playing as a make shift right back.

Sure, the Gunners had injury concerns of their own but you’d have fancied them to rip such a shaky defense apart. Arsenal began the game well and dominated possession but for all their good work, there was no end product. Many shots were aimed straight at David de Gea but the undoubted chance of the game arrived when Alexis Sanchez pressured de Gea into making a hurried clearance that was intercepted in midfield. Danny Welbeck teed up an unmarked Jack Wilshere but instead of passing the ball to a Sanchez in a better position to score, or at least blast the bloody ball in the net, the poster boy played it straight at de Gea, much to the disgust of everyone connected with Arsenal.

It’s misses like that always come back to bite you in the ass, and as expected, it did. Wojciech Szczesny and Kieran Gibbs failed to communicate well which saw the goalie make a tame punch to Valencia (injured himself in the process). The Ecuadorian fired an opportunistic shot that was going wide but Gibbs guided the ball to Arsenal’s net. A sting in the tail but was I surprised? Hell no!

Santi Cazorla had come on for an injured Wilshere and also had a chance to end his wretched run in front of goal when Welbeck cushioned a neat header for him but he fired the ball straight at de Gea. Arsenal’s moment of anguish arrived late on when an unfortunate Nacho Monreal was allowed to mark both Angel di Maria and Shrek (where the hell was Per Mertesacker). The Angel threaded a neat ball to Shrek and the England captain waited for Martinez to commit himself before executing a neat chip to put the game beyond doubt. Unbelievably, that was also Man Utd’s first shot on goal.

Arsenal had summoned Olivier Giroud for the yet again ineffectual Ramsey and the striker almost made an instant impact when he nodded a corner kick over the bar. He wasn’t to be denied a second time when he latched onto Mikel Arteta’s lovely dinked effort to slam a shot past a hapless de Gea. Of course, it was too little too late. Di Maria even had a late chance to kill off the game but his finish was rather awkward. In the end, it didn’t matter as the Gunners lost yet again to Manchester United side with frailties at the back. De Gea might have won the man of the match award but in all honesty, it was more of a case of Arsenal’s wayward finishing rather great saves from the Spaniard.

One might ask, what does Arsenal have to do to win games like this? Why is Arsene Wenger so stubborn to persist with the same set of players that have been shite all season long? Why does Jack Wilshere hold onto the ball far too long? Why do we suffer so many injuries? When will Danny Welbeck start scoring again?

Players like Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla need to sit games out for a couple of weeks to reflect on their bad form. Right now, they tend to get on the end of very insightful attacking moves but their finishing has been atrocious. Many people have seen how vocal Lukas Podolski has been due to his lack of game time. Isn’t it high time for the manager to give him a run of games to at least get a chance to prove to everyone what his made of?

I can’t deny that I am happy to see Giroud return to first team football because despite the fact that Welbeck is one of the hardest working players I’ve seen wear the sacred Red and White, he isn’t the natural goalscorer that would give you 20 goals a season. Yes, Giroud’s record against the top-tier teams of the Premier League has been shambolic but you can trust him to give you goals against the Leicesters, Tottenhams, Swansea and co of the league, something Welbeck hasn’t been able to deliver.

But hey, I’m no Wenger, just a Process Engineer working in an oil and gas company whose passion for the club makes him write about ‘em.

It’s sad to see things pan out this way but football is an unforgiving sport because it’s a home clash against Borussia Dortmund that comes up next.

Try to enjoy your Sunday doing the things you love. Don’t worry about Arsenal till Wednesday at least.

Sayonara.

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.

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