Gary Neville has joined the media bandwagon with the most recent comment ahead of the game between Arsenal and Neville’s former club Manchester United. In his brave yet fruitless attempt to beat Michael Owen’s shallow attack on Arsenal players (via sport.bt.com) with his own, Neville wrote an article about Arsenal being poorly prepared for the big matches in which he said that Arsenal had won “just one game out of six against the top four opposition last term” (via skysports.com).
Whilst Neville got his statistics right, his article remains as shallow as one can be. When you use statistics, you have to be aware of the context as well. If Gary Neville hadn’t indulged in more mind-games against Arsenal, he would have noticed that in 2015 (or The Year of Coquelin) Arsenal have played three competitive games against Chelsea (W1D1L1), two against Manchester United (W1D1) and one against Manchester City (W1). The only game Arsenal have lost against the top four opposition in 2015 was the one in which the referee had made two wrong red-cards decisions in one minute at 0:0.
Also, if Gary Neville had bothered to focus on the matches between the two sides, he would have noticed that Arsenal have avoided defeat in two of their most recent visits to Old Trafford.
On the other hand, Neville is full of praise for Louis Van Gaal, the way his side defends and all that (via skysports.com). Someone would have thought that Van Gaal’s Manchester United are miles ahead of Arsenal, not a mere three points!
But, the stakes are high and Neville keeps making tackles on Arsenal players just like in’ The 50 Game’ when he and his brother should have been sent off for his fouls on Jose Antonio Reyes. In today’s article, whilst he acknowledges Arsenal have been the most consistent team in Premier League since January, he makes a cynical remark that Arsenal have lost the match against Chelsea “by losing our discipline” (via telegraph.co.uk). So, it doesn’t matter that even the bloody FA confirmed Mike Dean had made two big mistakes in one minute – a red card not given to Diego Costa and a red card given to Gabriel. It doesn’t matter that the score-line was 0:0 at the time. Therefore, Neville’s remark is an indirect praise of Costa’s ability to get away with a violent conduct which is shameful even for a player that spent his entire career playing for Alex Ferguson.
It’s stunning how former United players stick with their team just before the game against Arsenal. Of course, there are additional motives as well. Michael Owen – who had been by his own criteria a second-rate footballer at Real Madrid – has to be jealous of Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil. Compared to their spectacular transfers to Arsenal, Owen’s return to English football, with all due respect to Newcastle, was like a back door entrance. Furthermore, Alexis has won the Copa America with Chile and Özil has won the World Cup with Germany while Owen failed to win a single thing with England.
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All-in-all, Arsenal should raise above all these mind-games, prepare for the big match tomorrow and give Manchester United a long overdue thrashing!