So this was supposed to different. United are vulnerable at the back, short on confidence and Arsenal are....well, they have Alexis Sanchez. This was Arsenal's best chance in aeons to beat Manchester United. A chance to finally reverse that stinky trend that has followed them lately--an inability to beat the top sides.
In the end though it turned out that Arsene Wenger is perhaps the most stubborn manager that ever lived. His constant refusal to plan for games individually means that Arsenal have the most predictible style of play in the league, possibly in the entire football league. Beautiful but very predictible. So predictible that even 8 minutes of stoppage time did not seem enough for them to conjure up the goals they needed to get a point from the game.
Pre-match, I was nervous about Louis van Gaal going to the Emirates and trying to show off our attack. It turns out I shouldn't have worried. For a manager that pays as much attention to detail as him, Arsenal's vulnerability was not going to pass him by. The 3-5-2 formation was probably not ideal, but at 40 injuries this season and counting, including an early one to Luke Shaw, United are at the point of making do with what is available. At the time though, I was slightly relieved to see Ashley Young come on for Shaw because for some inexplicable reason, he plays the wing back role better than anyone at the club. Shaw was already struggling by the time he was forced off. But it will not be many occasions that this system shall be employed so Luke needn't worry.
Whereas the story could have been different had Arsenal scored from one of their early 89 chances, it is a credit to the players that they stuck at it and patiently picked off Arsenal. That is where the credit stops because to be honest, Arsenal dug their own grave in that second period by not making a contigency plan for United on the counter attack. That it took just three passes from our penalty box to get the second goal is testament to the basics of it really. Once Fellaini had passed that ball to Di Maria, there was just the one Arsenal player to beat in a 2 vs 1 situation. To think that we've scored similar goals in 2009 and 2010 at the Emirates puts into perspective Wenger's stubborness at addressing the weaknesses in his game plan.
Enough of them though. Individually, I thought Paddy McNair was a bit of an unsung hero at the back. Its 4 games and 4 wins so far with him so I guess its now as simple as putting him in the starting line-up and the rest will fall into place. David De Gea's praises are now well documented whilst Marouanne Fellaini continues to be a nice nuisance in the middle. You wonder though whether the Spaniard duo of Mata and Herrera will be best suited for the games against Hull and Stoke as it is intelligence more than anything that is required to break down such sides, as was evidenced in the game vs Crystal Palace.
In the grand scheme of things, this was a huge result for us. With 2 wins on the bounce and 2 home games to come, we have a really big chance to go on a run of wins and address our early season form. That we are level on points with Newcastle United shows we need to to do a job to avoid slipping back into that mid table scram. Perhaps targeting third place might not be such a bad idea afterall. With City just a few points ahead of us, I think it would be healthy for our league form to target them rather than be satisfied at who is below us.
It was beginning to look bleak with great performances and poor results so itwas great seeing that we can still play poorly and win.
Onwards & Upwards!