A draw in recent times against Manchester United would be a good result; such is our form in the League at Old Trafford that we still haven’t won there in nine years in the Premiership. However we have every reason to be disappointed with only managing a 1-1 draw, especially after beating them in the FA Cup at Old Trafford a few months ago. What makes the last two games especially frustrating though is that we’ve squandered the chance to finish second in the League. A defeat to Swansea and now a draw with United has put a halt on our end of season form which had been so promising. The Gunners had again been unchanged in the 1-1 draw, as Aaron Ramsey once more started on the right with Coquelin and Cazorla in the middle.
|Walcott came off the bench to play a part in the equalising goal|
Our first half performance at Old Trafford was arguably the reason we didn’t win the game. It was laboured and slow, and we failed to have a single shot on David de Gea’s goal. Our passing was poor and we lacked intensity all over the pitch. I wouldn’t say that no one was up for the game but considering the magnitude of the match it was a very disappointing game from an Arsenal point of view. Even Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla were having poor games which didn’t help our cause. The usual fast flowing way with which we play our football was seemingly not on show.
It summed up our first halves display that we conceded a rather tame goal for the second game running. Ashley Young was causing numerous problems for us (a phrase that probably hasn’t been used much this season) and his crossing to the back post towards the likes of Fellaini was proving a constant threat. However it was Ander Herrera who broke the deadlock. The ball was crossed to the back post and for some reason Herrera had been left alone to consequently side foot the ball home. Even after the goal we didn’t really wake up.
One of the reasons for our moderately average displays in the past few weeks has arguably been down to the team selection. For once we have a near fully fit squad but Wenger simply isn’t rotating at the moment. I’m not saying that the team put out there isn’t good enough because it is, but against United especially, it was visible that with Ramsey on the right, we hadn't set up in the right way tactically. Time and time again down the years we’ve seen Ramsey utilised in that position and it hasn’t worked at all. The same can be said in the past few weeks. Besides the game against Hull, his performances have been average to say the least. In the first half of the United game he offered nothing on the right once more and he rarely touched the ball or made an attacking run.
Aaron Ramsey’s second half display was far and away better though as he played a pivotal role in our revival. He made a lot more runs in behind and when moved centrally, a role which he should be playing in if he’s to discover his best football, he was excellent. He looked a lot more confident in that role and our football became more fluid, especially when he was alongside Jack Wilshere in the middle of the park. Arsenal’s situation was also helped by Theo Walcott who after a series of poorer performances off the bench had a real impact which was very pleasing to see.
Both of Ramsey and Walcott's roles in the equaliser exemplified their roles in the side perfectly. Aaron Ramsey played a lovely long ball into Walcott, who got at Tyler Blackett before firing a cross across goal which took a deflection off the young defender and spun into the net. On merit for their second half performance it was probably a deserved goal for the Gunners, and on the balance of play a 1-1 draw was probably right. Man United dropped a little in terms of their intensity in the second half which allowed us to get back into the game when we changed our set-up with a series of substitutions. To me it came as no surprise that we actually looked threatening with an actual winger on the flank. Finally we had a man getting at the defence down the right hand side, and it resultantly ended in a goal.
To add to that we may well have been able to actually win the game. Olivier Giroud is on a barren spell after being in such a good run of form previously but he had two chances of particular note that were wasted. One of them was a move where Ozil played the ball into the Frenchman at the near post but his sweeping effort was put wide from a position we've seen him score so regularly from. Another move saw him use great strength to get to the ball ahead of Rojo but de Gea came out to smother him and he couldn’t get a meaningful contact on the ball. You can’t blame Giroud for the defeat, but what we did lack was a person willing to run in behind until Theo Walcott came on. You can’t help but feel that in order to challenge next season we need a top class striker that can make things happen of his own accord.
The game at Old Trafford was a rather dull affair but it goes without saying that it was important not to lose the game despite our game in hand over Sunderland on Wednesday. The draw stopped Louis van Gaal's men from over taking us for the time being and the point we gained has now pretty much all but guaranteed a place in the top three.
The team's line-ups:
Manchester United: de Gea(73), Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Rojo(73), Young, Blind, Herrera, Fellaini, Mata, Falcao(61).
Subs: Valdes(73), Blackett(73), McNair, Januzaj, di Maria, Wilson, van Persie(61).
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin(73), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla(73), Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez(90), Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel, Gibbs, Flamini(90), Wilshere(73), Rosicky, Walcott(73).
Referee: Mike Dean.