Monday, 11 November 2013

United 1-0 Arsenal: Let's be honest

Robin van Persie: "I will never celebrate against Arsenal."

Aargh. This is almost too painful to type.

I could just sit here and say that we were unlucky to not snatch a point and continue our fantastic away record in this game. Or I could say that apart from van Persie's header, we were the better side at Old Trafford. I could also say that by virtue of still being 2 points clear at the top and a relatively easy fixture list after the international break, there is hardly any cause for concern.

Predictably, I'm not. Let's be honest, Arsenal lost fair and square against a motivated side who had more productive possession, more clear cut chances and ultimately more hunger and desire to win the game. True, the match was much tighter than the previous Manchester United vs Arsenal encounters, but Robin van Persie's header was a clear example how an out-and-out, world class striker can make a difference between two quality sides. What's even more painful is that he could've been the one who might've made the difference for us, had he still been in Arsenal colours.

Olivier Giroud was one of our best players on a disappointing day, but it's obvious that he can't carry the striker burden alone. Don't get me wrong, Giroud is a really good striker with an increasingly colourful and likeable personality, but as demonstrated yesterday, he's clearly not world class. There is a good chance that he will be one day, but we can't afford to hang around and pin our hopes on him to prosper and reach his undoubted potential.

Robin van Persie announced his decision to leave Arsenal on around the 4th of July. Since then, we have had one whole year and 3 transfer windows, yet we have failed to replace him. It took 2 whole years to finally replace Fabregas with Mesut Ozil and a year to get Cazorla for Nasri. Patrick Vieira left in 2005, and it's simply shameful to see 8 whole years of no leadership, until finally Mathieu Flamini was got in (whose signing still seems like a stroke of luck to me). Even after having £80m in his pocket and Champions League in the bag, Wenger procrastinated till the final half hour of the transfer window to finally get in some genuine, proven, world class quality. Why?

There is something massively wrong in this club's transfer policy. I'd even go as far as to suggest that there is hardly anything right about it. We're short of two center backs and a world class striker in this team, and it's simply ridiculous that Wenger didn't realize that and not manage to bring anyone there. Giroud needs someone to support him or overtake him in the starting lineup, but there is a good chance that there will still be no replacement for Robin got in at January. Gazidis' statement on the fact that "we need a striker" (Oh, really?) might pile some pressure on Wenger like back in August and force him to spend, but unless there is pressure from the fans too, I don't think that there are going to be any arrivals in January. It is the bitter truth, but it's the truth all the same.

Which is why we have to hope that this current crop of players perform well throughout the season, and certainly better than yesterday. Flamini was rusty (which was understandable), Ozil was average and Santi and Ramsey were - no other word for it - dire. While everyone has been praising Aaron and Mesut for their performances this season, I have always had a few niggling worries on them, especially on Ramsey. Those worries will be exploding into separate blogs throughout the international break, because I feel they aren't to be shared right now.

As I said before, the loss doesn't affect us mathematically, because we're still pretty high up on the table. However, the psychological implications of this loss is massive. We just ended our famous and well publicized away record (not to mention another record of scoring in every Barclays Premier League) against a team that broke our 49 match unbeaten run. On the same ground. We also bottled the chance of having an astonishing 11 point gap against our once-again emerging bitter rivals, and all but invited them back to the title race. Things don't really look as blossom as they did two days ago, do they?

It's a bit strange that every time we win a match, I'm heaping praises on the team and sounding increasingly optimistic, but when every time we lose, I'm against the manager and averse to the team's chances of winning trophies this year. Maybe I'm just on the edge of the line on being a Wenger supporter and a Wenger hater, and every loss pushes me over the edge, while every win pulls me back up. All I know is that I'm firmly seeing the glass as half-empty rather than half-full at the moment.

There was still a silver lining that we could take from an otherwise jet-black cloud, though.  While the result was a sure sucker punch and a slap in the face, we could still salvage some admiration from an Arsenal side that showed pride and fearlessness while playing at Old Trafford, for the first time in almost 4 years. For the first time in a long time, Manchester United were actually considered as underdogs, and while you have to credit and respect them for notching a crucial 3 points, it was heartening to see this Arsenal side dominate the closing proceedings, knocking their socks off. While we did lose, we showed great determination and mental strength (heh) and gave United a run for their money, even after playing high intensity matches at the Emirates and the Westfalenstadion as early as last week.

However, that still doesn't cover the fact that this was a game we really should've won, but lost due to a certain underestimation of the opposition. The international break could not have come at a better time, because it provides a perfect opportunity to cool off, regroup and prepare for a vital December run in. With key players like Flamini, Ozil, Rosicky and Mertesacker (possibly Jack too) [UPDATE: Only Flamini is not going out of the mentioned players. This sucks.] not going to play international fixtures and Podolski and Walcott set to return after the break, we might have a much stronger side at the other end of the two week break.

Be back on Thursday with another post. Until then, keep the faith.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )