The Gunners are in a spot of bother of late. Since the international break over three weeks ago Arsenal’s first team have failed to produce a convincing performance. Their only victory (bar the Capital One Cup second string side’s victory to Reading) was at home to QPR and they only just managed to fashion a narrow 1-0 victory thanks to a bit of luck from Arteta who was arguably offisde, and now they sit sixth on the table nine points off leaders United who they were embarrased by once again yesterday. It could have easily been a 4/5-0 thrashing had the home side not been wasteful.
United’s early lead had a massive impact on the fixture as ultimately the Gunners were chasing the game from the get-go and they knew they would have to take risks to ensure a comeback. Luckily these risks didn’t end up costing Wenger’s side as United fortunately blundered a host of decent opportunities, however the two goals came from a mistake and the same old story – a set piece. Arsenal’s club captain Thomas Vermaelen, who is supposed to be one of the most consistent and feared defenders in the Premier League, gifted Van Persie his opener and almost another. After such a promising start to the campaign under the new tutorship of Steve Bould Arsenal’s defence looked solid, but silly defensive mistakes and poor organization are starting to cost the Gunners valuable points in the title race.
Wenger conceded his unhappiness at Vermaelen’s rubbish clearance:
The error of Vermaelen is unwelcome. The big defenders don’t make this kind of errors.
When you give the ball to Van Persie in this situation, there are two chances on three [66%] there there is a goal.
With the return of Jack Wilshere it seemed that Arsenal’s midfield could finally get the ball rolling again, start producing some encouraging performances and score some damn goals. But now the Englishman will be suspended for next weekend’s home clash against a strong-looking Fulham side after a somewhat harsh second yellow card from the referee. With Diaby and Rosicky still not fit, it seems Arsenal will once again loose some attacking venom in the middle of the park.
Wenger shared his frustation at the sending off and the penalty decision which has become somewhat of a regularity in the fixture between the clubs. The Frenchman said:
Yes [Wilshere’s sending off] looked harsh from the stand, the second yellow.
I think we were a bit unlucky, especially with the penalty decision, we always have a penalty against when we play Manchester United, us so we get used to it.
We had the better chances than but overall in a game like this you ought to not put yourself on the back foot when you are one down.
But next up we have Schalke away, meaning we will be playing three matches away on the trot in the space of a week and we have conceded a huge 7 goals in the past two matches. So what needs to change? It seems the frontline is not necessarily the issue, but the midfield and defence. Andre Santos was turned inside out by Valencia and Rafael, Jenkinson on the left would have been a far better, reliable option. He got forward well but is just slack on defence, and coupled with mistakes from both Mertesacker and Vermaelen, Arsenal’s backline needs some serious reorganization.
Whether Jack Wilshere will travel to Germany or not is unknown at this stage as Wenger will still be cautious of over playing the youngster, but as he will sit out this weekend’s fixture perhaps he needs the opportunity to redeem himself against Schalke. Cazorla and Arteta are still a strong force in the Gunners side and can not really be faulted against United as they often dominated possession in midfield, Podolski however has been off the pace recently and struggled to get a stranglehold of the match yesterday similarly to Ramsey who just shouldn’t play out wide. But with injuries plaguing the flanks Wenger had little choice with Walcott and Arshavin playing 120 minutes in midweek.
But one player who still impresses is the hard working Olivier Giroud who did all he could to hold up the ball and distribute. He didn’t have any real chances to score against United, and the one opportunity that eventuated he created for himself. The lack of goals is certainly not the Frenchman’s doing, the whole team needs to rekindle the attacking flair they have missed since the international break and Giroud believes they can get back to winning ways this week by sticking to their slick, attacking style.
To defend and not play is not Arsenal. That isn’t our game. We will continue to play our way on Tuesday. That is what the boss wants us to do.
Schalke will defend strongly and it might be difficult for us to break them down. But we have to keep going forward. We will have to show our mental qualities and keep the dynamic that we showed at Reading.
We want to go to Germany with the idea of winning.