Manchester United vs Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: May 17th, 2015 16:00 BST
Our sixth consecutive game with an unchanged starting lineup, and arguably yet another tactical failing from Arsene Wenger.
Aaron Ramsey was once again out on the right, and with the lack of width and pace in the side we really struggled to create in the first half. We were rescued late on by Theo Walcott however, with the England international helping us snatch a point from Manchester United.
Louis van Gaal’s side were all over us in the early stages, and their high pressing combined with our lack of an out ball meant we were constantly turning over possession. Our only option for most of the first half was to fire the ball up to Olivier Giroud, but we are well aware he is not the type of player who can carry the ball forward alone, and he constantly found himself without help.
The French forward did almost craft a chance for himself early on, and after a mistake from Phil Jones he looked to be one-on-one with David de Gea. Jones recovered from his slip however, scrambling along the floor and throwing his head at the ball to deny Giroud.
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Ashley Young was constantly getting the better of Hector Bellerin, and the Spaniard wasn’t getting the support he needed.
After an error from Francis Coquelin in midfield allowed Marouane Fellaini to race forward, the Belgian put Bellerin in trouble with a pass out wide to Young. The winger beat his man to get the cross into the box, where Fellaini had raced in to cause his usual chaos.
Our defenders were so concerned with the former Everton midfielder, that they neglected Ander Herrera at the back post who slotted in to make it 1-0.
Both Nacho Monreal and David Ospina should have done better, but our poor performance so far meant it was nothing more than we deserved.
We continued to struggle for the remainder of the half, with United pressing well and stifling our creativity. Santi Cazorla in particular was practically anonymous, and when he wasn’t crowded out by United, his passing was wayward and poor.
United crafted a couple of half chances in the latter stages of the first 45, but thankfully we went into the break just a goal behind.
A change of tactic was needed in the second half, but somewhat predictably, no change came.
We looked more lively and were starting to threaten slightly more, but there was still a lack of pace and width to our game.
We were also leaving ourselves more open to the counter-attack, and if it weren’t for a superb challenge from Bellerin, Young could have been through on goal.
We were starting to craft chances of our own, with Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud both threatening. Both men rushed their shots however, and were unable to find the back of the net.
Cazorla should have done better with a back post volley, but he slipped at an inopportune moment and saw his effort dribble tamely into the hands of David de Gea.
Ramsey then came close as well, dinking the ball over the Spanish shot-stopper only to be denied by a last ditch clearance from Marcos Rojo.
Arsene Wenger made his customary 70 minute mark substitutions, with Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere replacing Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla – with Francis Coquelin moving to right-back.
Both Spaniards had been having poor games, and replacing Cazorla in particular was long overdue. We almost instantly saw results following the substitutions, and Walcott’s mere presence was stretching play and forcing United deeper.
The home side were forced into substitutions of their own, with Tyler Blackett replacing Marcos Rojo and Victor Valdes getting his debut following a David de Gea injury.
And it was United’s substitutes that played the starring roles in our equalising goal, with both men arguably at fault for conceding.
We recently praised Cazorla for his fantastic long ball to pick out Ramsey during our 3-1 win over Hull, but it was the Welsh midfielder whose long balls were on display at Old Trafford.
He picked out Walcott superbly, with the England international left one-on-one with Blackett. He attempted to drill a cross into the box to find Giroud, with the ball deflecting off the young United defender.
Valdes had gone to ground far too early, and the deflection saw the ball loop delightfully over his head and into the back of the net. 1-1.
We arguably should have taken all three points in the dying minutes, with a handful of decent chances created. Alexis Sanchez shot when he probably should have passed, blazing high and wide from inside the box.
Giroud was then found in a decent position, but despite those near post flicks being a trademark of his, he could only hit the side netting.
Mathieu Flamini came on for a brief cameo in the final minutes, but despite a late push from us, the scores remained level up until the final whistle.
The draw has all but guaranteed us third place, but it seems as though second spot is now out of reach.