Arsenal vs Manchester United
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: February 12, 2014 7.45 PM BST
Arsenal missed the chance to reclaim top spot tonight after a draw at home to Manchester United. Both teams seeming a little hesitant at times, their fear of losing overpowering their desire to win.
Arsenal saw two changes from the Liverpool ‘game’. Rosicky coming in for the newly fit Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and Gibbs in for Monreal.
Many remember Vermaelen’s mistake leading to Van Persie scoring against his former club, and Arsenal almost self destructed in the same way early on. Arteta given the ball in a dangerous area, and immediately put under pressure by the Dutchman. Van Persie dispossessed the Spaniard and drove towards goal, but Szczesny was out quickly to tighten the angle and smother the shot.
Arsenal then went straight down the other end, almost scoring themselves. Wilshere showed great footwork to get past several players with a mazy run, but saw his right footed shot blocked by Chris Smalling. Giroud made himself some space for a free header from the resulting corner, but he somehow headed way wide from the centre of the box.
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Van Persie threatened again shortly after. Koscielny not pushing up quickly enough, allowing Mata to play his new striker in behind. The angle was again made tight for the Dutchman, and Van Persie opted to cut back and shoot with his right foot, rather than playing in a team mate. The effort was poor, and well wide.
Giroud was getting the better of Vidic in the United box, winning the aerial duels, but unable to convert them. He also saw a shot from the edge of box sail high and wide after struggling to get it out from under his feet.
There was a scare for both sides late in the half, Rafael coming in hard over the top of Giroud; both players falling awkwardly. The Brazilian came off worse though, and although he made it through to half time, he was replaced by Ferdinand in the second half.
Arsenal had the first real chance of the second half, Koscielny heading goalward from a corner. The ball sailed towards the far corner, and it looked destined for goal. But It was cleared off the line by Antonio Valencia.
There was a penalty shout for Arsenal fairly late on. Giroud going down after a push in the back from Vidic. The referee waved play on, and although there was certainly a shove, it would have been a soft one.
The Frenchman got yet another chance to give Arsenal the lead, Sagna whipping in a fantastic cross to the near post. Giroud made the right run, but he couldn’t quite get the right contact on it, and it flashed across goal and out of play.
It looked like United were going to grab all three points late on, Rooney weighting a cross perfectly towards the far post for his strike partner. But Szczesny got a hand to the Dutchman’s powerful header, tipping it onto the bar and back into play. By far the best chance of the game, and a fantastic save to match,
Cazorla had a couple of shots blocked and/or saved, but De Gea was up to the challenge. As the game approached ninety minutes, both teams seemed even more hesitant, and content to play out the draw. A point a piece, not really changing anything in the table.
on the result…
If you look at the domination we had then yes [we should have won it] but Man United restricted has to very few chances and the few we had we couldn’t take. On top of that, the quality they have going forward, when we lost the ball in their half they were dangerous, not always, but on one or two situations. When you have Van Persie, Mata, Januzaj – they are all players who can be dangerous on the counter. On the other hand you felt our team was highly focused not to concede, and that maybe restricted our game going forward a little bit because we were certainly hit by the five goals we conceded on saturday. You could feel that here.
on being disappointed…
No, we lost two points and we missed an opportunity to go top of the league again but a point keeps us in the race. We had difficult games just now, Liverpool and Man United, and from now on it is important we come back and win our games again.
on being nervous going forward…
I felt we were nervous, yes. Where we are usually very dangerous breaking through the middle with speedy passing, Man United defended very well there. we got plenty of crosses in and their experienced players, people like Vidic and Ferdinand in the second half, did very well with that. When we tried cut backs they defended well because they had Carrick, who has a lot of experience as well. Man United is a good team who can play against anybody in our league. At the moment they are not where they can be, but you cannot say with the players they on the pitch that they are not quality. They are quality.
on whether United can make the top four…
It is mathematically not impossible but it will be difficult for them because Tottenham won, Liverpool won – it is very tight. I don’t know more than you.
on concern at the team being nervous…
It is not worrying because we care about what we do and when you concede five goals like we did on Saturday, we are only human beings and that is always what you get after a game [like that]. Sometimes you don’t score because the team was highly focused not to concede today.
on using substitutes…
It was important not to lose, but it was also important to win. There was not a lot to do because there were plenty of offensive players on the pitch in the whole game basically. We did not manage to score, but one of the positives is that one of the guys you questioned, Ozil, had a good game. He was one of our best players.
He fights very hard. If he keeps that attitude he will score.
on lacking goals at the moment…
We are a bit short of goals at the moment, you are right. Mathematically we have lost goalscorers with Walcott and Ramsey. At the moment in games like that, you see that.
on how to rediscover top form…
Firstly by not losing tonight, then come back to our normal level offensively.
on playing with the handbrake…
Yes, tonight it was on, but I think it will [come off]. When you are hit like we were on Saturday, the players want not to lose the game and we could have lost it in the last five minutes.
on big matches coming up…
We have come out two difficult games and are still in a strong position. That is the only positive. We had two bad results, but we are still in a position where we can do it.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“Free header Giroud. Free header.”
“That Özil break was a great example of how Arsenal lack pace in the attack. No realistic options ahead of him.”
“Not good enough.”
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Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
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