Sunday, April 13, 2008

United see off Arsenal, but is it time for the old guard to be axed? ...

Manchester United delivered a mortal blow to Arsenal's title ambitions on Sunday when coming from a goal behind to win by the odd goal in three. The result brought down the curtain early on the Gunners season, the inquests have begun in earnest.

Some Arsenal fans have been saying that they'd rather win nothing if it meant reverting to style of football that is 'less pleasing on the eye'. Having spent donkey's years watching pragmatic football under George Graham, you can sort of understand that view, even if it is probably ever so slightly disingenuous.

There's no doubting that this current Arsenal team do play some pretty football, but sometimes they do over elaborate. However, Sunday's game with the Champions wasn't one of those occasions as the visitors created some excellent goal-scoring opportunities. Adebayor, the Gunners main striker was guilty of wasting two first-class chances, while at the other end Wayne Rooney was equally as bad in front of goal.

It was a game that swung from one end to other and it was as even as any between these sides in recent seasons. Sky Sports motor-mouth TV pundit Jamie Redknapp, and ex-red, Ray,’ the crab', Wilkins, saw it differently when claiming that Arsenal were the better side, especially in the first-half.

The questionable views of those in the studio were not reflected in the match-stats, which suggested that on chances there was nothing between the two teams. No matter, it was a good game to watch, which isn't always the case when there's so much to play for.

United had an unlikely goal hero in Owen Hargreaves who delivered the killer-blow from a free-kick on 72 minutes from just outside the box. Thankfully, it was close enough to goal for the former Bayern star to claim that it was within his range, otherwise Ronaldo, who relies on brute power would have taken it. The free-kick itself was masterful, the execution was perfect, there was no long run-up, just one pace and the ball was hit quickly over the wall and directly into the corner giving Lehmann no chance, leaving him rooted to the spot.

Whenever the two sides clash there is always a number of talking points and at Old Trafford on Sunday it was no different. The visitors were making the most of their possession and United's generosity, the Reds persisted in gifting the ball back to the visitors throughout the opening period. Though in fairness, Arsenal were pressing United all over the park.

Arsenal eventually made the Reds pay just after half-time, after a series of slick inter-passing which eventually led to the ball being crossed from the left into the United penalty area. Rio Ferdinand later came up with the excuse that he heard the shout of 'keeper's ball' - at least that was his reason for allowing Adebayor time and space to elbow the ball into the net. Bizarrely, the United players' didn't even appeal to the referee. The goal stood, clearly it should have been disallowed.

Just three minutes later and United were level after a totally ridiculous hand-ball by William, 'tears', Gallas. Quite what the big defender was thinking would be interesting to know. It was an aberration.

No one from United was complaining though as the iceman that is Ronaldo crashed home the spot-kick, but only after being made to retake it because several players had encroached into the penalty area.

In midweek, the Gunners lost in the quarter-final of the Champions League to Liverpool, going into that game Arsene Wenger had predicted that his team would win Europe's premier club competition and the Premier League.

A week later and those predictions lie in tatters, the Gunners season has effectively ended and we are not yet midway through April. Arsenal supporters and their manager blamed the Liverpool defeat on the Norwegian referee after he awarded a late penalty to the home team at Anfield last Tuesday. There is no doubting that Gunners were hard done to in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final, as they were denied a cast-iron penalty, others may disagree with the view that penalty at Anfield was unjust.

No doubting the griping and inquests will continue for a short while longer, but already Arsene Wenger has boldy predicted that this team will win trophies. He is absolutely correct is my own view. Wenger is, as always, doing a brilliant job.

But where did it all go wrong for Arsenal this season? The Gunners have been extremely unlucky with injuries of which there has been many, perhaps none more critical than losing Eduardo in a game in which they eventually dropped two points at Birmingham. Then there was the FA Cup demolition job by United and of course the penalty claims in the recent clashes with Liverpool in the Champions League.

Despite the fact there's a great deal of rivalry between United and Arsenal, we Reds would have to be totally blinkered not to acknowledge the merits and potential of this current squad. Those who claim this Arsenal crop of players cannot compete are deluding themselves, I for one have no doubt this current team will be around for a good few seasons, but perhaps sans Senderos as the Gunners back-four does need strengthening.

For United, they are bang on course to win back-to-back titles; the confidence must surely be flowing and all connected with the club must surely be able to almost scent yet more silverware in the wind.

We also have the mouth-watering prospect of the Champions League semi-finals with Barcelona, and for those of who love free-flowing attacking football it is to be hoped that we are treated to two great games which culminate in United reaching the final in Moscow... (Don't all English fans want other English clubs to do well in Europe? :0))

It seems almost ridiculous to question the manager, yet doubts persist about Fergie's tactics, because it was only when Ferguson replaced an out of sorts Paul Scholes for Anderson coupled bringing on Tevez for Park did United really look like they were capable of beating the Gunners on Sunday.

There is no place for sentiment in football, and Ferguson above all others shouldn't need reminding of that. The United manager surely cannot keep on leaving out Anderson and Tevez. Rooney does his best work when the load is shared with another striker. Anderson covers a lot more ground than Scholes and he can play – the Brazilian has the energy and the guile that is required and he has the legs. It is time for Scholes and Giggs to move over.

There would be no more fitting end to Fergie's magical career than lifting the big one in Moscow in May, we Reds just hope that any perceived tactical weakness doesn't stop us from getting there (again)...

10 comments:

  1. A refreshingly neutral, well-written article. As an Arsenal fan I must give you my respect. I totally agree. Nice one.

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  2. as an arsenal fan i agree with your comments. Both Arsenal and Man U have continued to play the game in an attacking way that is a pleasure to watch unlike the defensive minded scousers and chavskis. I wont turnthe tv on for their game but I am looking forward to Barca beating you guys.LOL

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  3. Good balanced post ... suprisingly! A general comment on the game - I think we [Arse] were the better side in the first half, as we were at Anfield, we had more possession and played the better football by far and if Adebayor were more clinical it could have been all over by half time. Having said that the subs made the difference on the day bringing more aggression to your midfield and pining us back a bit. The equaliser was a big blow - wtf was Gallas doing hand-balling that? Unreal. The second goal was a brilliant free kick but I'm not convinced the free kick was a correct decision, however these things happen in football and quite honestly although we have had some very bad refereeing decisions go against us in recent matches I think our failures this season are due to a lack of depth in the squad especially compared to your squad or that of Chelsea. The core of the team is excellent but a few players are either not good enough or past it in the PL.

    Senderos, Eboue, Hoyte, Gilberto and Lehman have got to go. Wenger will deal with it in the summer I am certain of that. I think we need four or five new players but we will probably get two ... sigh. I believe that the younger guys - Walcott, Bendtner, Diaby, Fabregas, Denilson and Carlos Vela [on loan at Osasuna] will be big players next season - watch out for Vela - he's going to be awesome! We need some attacking width so maybe Hatem Ben Arfa for the left side and a couple of defenders will do it for us.

    I'd say that ManU currently have the best squad in England and probably the best that you've ever had. One player more, possibly Berbatov, would complete the lineup. Someone like that would make the side unstoppable.

    Anyway I hope you take the title - you deserve to win it this season ... [chokes ..] well done.

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  4. Well done, very well written. We are all football fans and you've made me proud to call myself that. A very balanced article. And I'm a gooner.

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  5. Now we can't win it I would rather you lot won than Chelski who would bore for england. For the sake of football don't let them win it. Arsenal problems this year has been a lack of killer instinct at key moments and a lack of concentration for the full 90 mins.
    Dropping points when you have taken the lead is not going to win us the league. We let into many shite goals especially at home. every team seems to have 2 shots and one goes in, while we need 10 to score. Go figure

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  6. good article , dissapointed gooner here but i think we over performed this this season , good luck to guy your a fantastic team and play the game the right way hope u win it at the bridge

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  7. I aggreed with the analysis. It is time something positive take place in the club. A lot of fans are hurt, it is unblievable team that start so well and play so well got nothing for that. The manager mustn't blame the refree but the qualty of some of the players. There are players that are not good enough to cause changes when they play,so this affect results. Hoyet,sendrou,ebou and some two others are poor. I hope asen wenger buy quality strikers and defenders in the summer ,otherwise will be no where close to mu and chelse. Henry will available in the summer bring him back.
    Man united didnt outplay us as matter just poor finishinf and bad defenders caused the down fall.
    Depending on Adebayor to get goal put too much on him as he never got rest in the cause of the season. Man united often would rest some key players to maitain level of performance but we dont because of inadequate good players. We want qaulity players in the summer please frugals.

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  8. The only thing I dont agree with is "There would be no more fitting end to Fergie's magical career..."

    He wants to equal and hopefully beat Liverpool's league record - if we win this season, we will need one more league win to equal the record......so I dont think Fergie will be giving up too quickly

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  9. I for one am looking forward to the semi final between utd and barca, hopefully the overall winner will be one of these teams.the other semi final will, sadly of course be as dull as ditchwater but what do you expect from those two. I always fancied an arsenal utd final and what a game it would have been. The whole world would have seen football as it should be played and what the english premiership is all about .With of course the added bonus that blatter and his little dog platini would have hated it and been livid as the game unfolded.

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  10. It was a brilliant way, Scholes has not been at the top of his game, fair comments there. Ferguson has hinted at buying big-name players this summer, let us hope we get the striker we need and with more dexterity than we acted last summer.

    Chelsea have gone on to draw their match with Wigan, what do you say about our title chances now?

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