Arsenal 1 – 2 Manchester United: Manchester continued their reign of dominance over London in the second Premier League fixture of the day, as Manchester United beat Arsenal with a late winner to maintain their chase on title-rivals, Manchester City, who beat Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the day.
Discovering League leaders Manchester City beat Tottenham thanks to a last-gasp Mario Balotelli penalty was a disappointing blow to their title-chase – a City draw and a United win would have left Sir Alex Ferguson’s side just one-point behind – so a win was all the more necessary.
For Arsenal, it was more about negating – if that is even possible – their 8-2 humiliation in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, and putting an end to their run of two losses on the bounce. Is an increase in transfer activity the answer to their problems? WinkBall reporters asked Arsenal fans for their views on the transfer window so far.
Arsenal lined-up minus Thierry Henry, due to injury, but with League-starting debutant Alex ‘The Ox’ Oxlade-Chamberlain. The 18-year-old had whetted Arsenal appetites in games before, and certainly cemented his case for a more regular place after his performance against Manchester United on Sunday 22nd January.
The Ox was one of Arsenal’s most persistent and creative players up-front, showing a passion that has been somewhat waning from other squad members of late. However his industry in attack, and probably inexperience, left him sometimes wanting to cover struggling full-back Johan Djourou.
Manchester United were dominant throughout, gaining plenty of space and productivity down that flailing left-flank. Despite the excuse of having limited cover, Djourou seemed ill at ease to contain Nani and was compassionately substituted for 18-year-old Nico Yennaris at half time. What this says about Arsenal’s defensive frailties speaks for itself, replacing an experienced (yet floundering) defender for a teenager yet to cement his natural position.
Arsenal succumbed to the left-wing persistence of Manchester United and conceded their first, inevitable, goal just minutes before the break – as Antonio Valencia showed the most passion to reach Ryan Giggs’ and head his side in front.
Arsenal missed chances to level the score in a more productive second half: a slip from Chris Smalling left Tomas Rosicky room to unselfishly (or under-confidently) tee-up captain Robin Van Persie, who blazed his shot uncharacteristically wide. Welshman Aaron Ramsey shot an Oxlade-Chamberlain pass over, while The Ox himself pulled a shot just wide of the left-post.
Despite the score-line, United were still overly dominating, so Arsenal’s goal seemed more to come during a temporary United malaise. Despite that, it was a goal of classic ‘end-to-end’ beauty that made Arsenal fans swoon with reminiscence of what their side were once more capable of. Laurent Koscielny, who gave a reputable performance, was the key to this equaliser – the French defender enacted a resolute tackle and played his way out of the box with a pass to Rosicky, who passed across field to Oxlade-Chamberlain. The debutant stormed forward and dinked a perfect set-up pass for Van Persie – the Dutch goal-hero did not hesitate this time and equalised for the Gunners.
One of the most controversial moments of the game came just three-minutes after the goal – and, despite this being Arsenal vs Man United, it didn’t involve fouls, penalties or player disputes – this controversy was in-fighting thanks to a ill-advised substitution.
Despite being the most engaging players on the pitch, and responsible for the equalising goal, Wenger elected to take Oxlade-Chamberlain off and bring on Andrei Arshavin – much to the vociferous dismay of the Emirates crowd and indeed, also Robin Van Persie. Whether the anger was for the industrious Ox coming off, or for a recently apathetic Arshavin coming on – or a combination of both – is unclear.
What was clear was the error, as the Russian was overall responsible for Danny Welbeck’s winning goal, ten minutes from time. He failed to track-back with Valencia down the right-wing and was lackadaisical about retrieving the ball in the penalty area, allowing Valencia to pass the ball back to Welbeck who side-footed home in front of a frustrated Arsenal audience.
United maintained their title-challenge with this result, gripping on to their 2010/11 title and unwilling to let go, hot on the heels of City, three points behind. Are their fans convinced they can win a successive Premier League title?
And what about Arsenal – what went wrong today, was it all about Oxlade-Chamberlain?
Hear the fan views from immediately before and after the game at the Emirates – and hit us up with a video of your own if you agree or disagree with their views.