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Özil tried to lift Arsenal but the team let him down

Match Review: Man Utd 3 Arsenal 2 - Premier League 28.02.16

It is currently 6:15pm the day after our defeat at Old Trafford and I still have very little desire to go back over anything that happened on Sunday. Well over 24 hours after the event and it still stings, it is still very raw for all of us. In the context of the wider weekend of football, it looks even worse: Leicester won in the last minute, Sp*rs rallied from a goal down to beat Swansea and City were lifting a trophy while our crestfallen fans made their way back from from another horrible trip to the Theatre of Nightmares.

If you read my reviews with any regularity, you’ll know I’m a big fan of Arsene Wenger. The man has worked wonders for our club, brought us trophies, the invincibles, wonderful players and sacrificed the chance to manage other European elite clubs to steer us through a rocky ten years that surrounded the move to the Emirates Stadium. I want to stress that I have nothing but admiration and respect for the man and when he finally walks away from the club, he should and hopefully will be remembered as Arsenal’s greatest ever manager.

Unfortunately, on Sunday, Arsene got it wrong, very wrong. I’m not blinkered enough to not acknowledge that Arsene Wenger has some flaws and that those flaws have resulted in disappointments and some dark times in his tenure. Against United, he got his tactics and his team selection wrong in my opinion. Gabriel and Walcott replaced Mertesacker and Giroud, with Walcott playing as the central striker. I didn’t like the look of it before the game and over the course of ninety minutes, my concerns were vindicated.

Gabriel had only just returned from a small injury and Mertesacker had put in two very good performances against Barcelona and Leicester. With the German on the bench, he clearly wasn’t injured and I really don’t understand why he was dropped. Mertesacker is a leader, an important presence on the field for us and most importantly, he is our most intelligent defender by a distance. I also don’t believe he was left out because of his ‘pace’. He wasn’t once ‘destroyed’ by Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez and the Barca goals were nothing to do with his lack of pace. For me, the decision to leave Mertesacker, who is effectively the captain, out was madness.

With regards to Theo Walcott, I’m sure many Arsenal fans, like me, are rapidly reaching the end of their tether with him. His display at Old Trafford was nothing short of appalling. He completed four passes in the first half, two of which were kick offs. Only one was in the United half of the pitch. Not only that, but he played a large part in us going behind, trying to dribble the ball out of his own half and giving it away in the middle of the field. Giroud hasn’t been scoring much lately, but he has been a useful focal point for the attack and quite frankly, a cocker spaniel would have been more use up front than Theo.

Walcott has had an impact this season and on his day, he’s a potent goal threat. I don’t know whether the knee injury has done irreparable damage to his game or whether he thinks he’s much better than he is, but whatever the reason, we are paying him over £100,000 a week and we are getting very little return on it. In some ways, he’s the perfect embodiment of Arsenal at the moment, flashes of brilliance followed by long periods of mediocrity. For me, Walcott should not start another game this season, his only value lies in being an impact player off the bench. Joel Campbell has done enough this season to show that he deserves a chance ahead of Walcott. I’d even go as far as to say that we should be open to offers for Theo in the summer.

In terms of what went on in the game, I’m not keen to relive the gory details, but surface to say, I thought most players were disappointing. For me, only Welbeck and Özil come out with much credit. Welbeck has looked by far our most dangerous player since coming back from injury and Özil was the standout performer in a sea of shit. I don’t know which game his critics were watching, but he was superb in my view. He created opportunities, provided an assist and scored a goal and in general did everything he could to try and drag us level. But one man can only do so much. To borrow a phrase from his former team-mate, if everyone else was at his level, maybe we’d be top.

None of them were though. Koscielny looks a shadow of the defender he was last year, Gabriel was tormented by an 18 year old who barely started for the U21s a few weeks ago and Monreal and Bellerin were left exposed by an absent midfield. Coquelin was only really at fault for third, scored by Herrera, the player Ramsey should be, but isn’t. I’d suggest Ramsey looks back at the video of this game and just watches Herrera. The Spaniard did exactly what Ramsey should be doing for us every week, but once again Ramsey’s positioning was poor and his attacking play was, obviously, ineffective.

Even Cech is going to get some criticism from me. He can only take some flak for the first goal as the other two he couldn’t have done much about, but when a goalkeeper of Cech’s calibre gets a good hand to a shot, I expect him to keep it out. It may seem harsh, but as I’ve said before, he’s a world class keeper and he got a full glove on the ball. He has to keep it out.

Another player we all expect more from is Alexis and at the moment, he looks lost. I don’t know what he has to do to get out of it either, his desire to be the creator and finisher of every goal is not only alarming, but it’s damaging. I think there may be an element of him being sussed by defenders after his brilliant debut season as he’s no longer gliding past full backs any more. He looks like a player who has got himself stuck in a rut and doesn’t know what to do to get himself going again.

As for our season, we are at the point of no return now. Our chances of winning the league are now very slim, if not already over. To win it, I think we’d need to go the rest of the season unbeaten and even then I think we’d only be able to draw one or two games. Leicester’s late winner was huge for them, after the last minute defeat to us, a draw at home to Norwich would have been a big blow. The talk of the fairytale being over would have intensified and Sp*rs would have drawn level on points with them. Now they’ve maintained their gap to Sp*rs and picked re-established the five point margin they had on us.

Sp*rs are now ahead of us by three points, with the North London derby shaping up to have a huge impact on the title race. The horrible thing for me is that I don’t see any way we can win that game. Sp*rs are in excellent form and really we’ve been absolute shit since the start of the year. Sp*rs, as always will be hugely fired up, while our team seems to have all the motivation and passion of a wet flannel. In fact I’m not even confident about our midweek clash with Swansea. Pretty much any team that shows an amount of discipline or application has a good chance against us.

I will by no means give up on supporting the team and hoping that somehow a miracle occurs, but the unpleasant truth is that the title is probably out of reach already. Time and time again this team chokes and it appears to me that we’re not actually any better than we were last season. To be brutally honest I think we’re in the top three because other teams have dropped off, not because we’ve improved and it’s being proven in these types of results. No league win at Old Trafford in eleven years now, despite the last four attempts coming against underperforming, very beatable United sides. Failures home and away to a poor Chelsea team, failures home and away to beat a mediocre Liverpool team, failure to beat Tottenham at home yet again, failure to win at Stoke, the list goes on for days and a lot of us are sick of it now. I get the feeling that we might need a big shake up and change at the club, because right now it’s groundhog day. We love you Arsenal, but god damn it you love to hurt us.


Man Utd (4-2-3-1)
De Gea, Varela (Y), Carrick (Y), Blind, Rojo (Fosu-Mensah 55’), Schneiderlin, Herrera (Y) (Weir 95’), Mata, Lingard, Depay, Rashford (Januzaj 80’ (Y))
Romero, McNair, Weir, Riley, Fosu-Mensah, Januzaj, Pereira

Arsenal (4-2-3-1)
Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin (Elneny 70’ (Y)), Ramsey (Y), Welbeck (Iwobi 83’), Özil (Y), Alexis, Walcott (Giroud 63’)
Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Elneny, Iwobi, Campbell

Player Ratings

Cech - 6/10 - Should have done better with the first goal
Bellerin - 6/10 - Struggled without Mertesacker beside him
Koscielny - 5/10 - Not sure what he was trying to do with their third, but it sucked
Gabriel - 3/10 - Culpable for the first two goals, looked out of his depth
Monreal - 6/10 - Missed a big chance at the start of the game, defended ok
Coquelin - 5/10 - Very poor for their third, fairly poor all game
Ramsey - 4/10 - Game passed him by, again
Welbeck - 7/10 - One of the few positive performances, key for the rest of the season
Özil - 8/10 - Did everything in his power to lift the team, but it wasn’t enough
Alexis - 5/10 - Got Varela booked early and then left him alone for the rest of the game
Walcott - 1/10 - There aren’t words to describe how poor he was
Giroud - 6/10 - Should have started the game, he’s not much of an impact sub
Elneny - 5/10 - Pretty poor in what time he was given
Iwobi - N/A - Not Iwobi’s fault, but a ridiculous substitution, Joel Campbell must be fuming

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Tags: Match Review, Match Report, Manchester United vs Arsenal, Gabriel poor, Theo woeful

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