*Substitute desirable / non-desirables flavours where applicable.
Well, yesterday was one of those chocolates. The disappointment of the result and display even worse when you consider the build up and belief instilled into the fans and players alike. I for one, was livid yesterday and for the first time in a long time, left the game early. I was angry at the game, but found it hard to be angry at the team. I thought of writing the blog yesterday and started, but it was going to wrong way and anger took over common sense.
I’ve now had time to reflect on the game and the result and more, so let’s look back at the game yesterday and review what happened and what we’ve learnt.
Arsenal 1 – 3 Manchester United
We started with the expected line up, with Song and Cesc in the middle and Walcott and Nasri on the wings and the return of Van Persie to partner Ade up front. The defence saw Gibbs start next to Djourou with Toure and Sagna completing the back four.
Sagna – Toure – Djourou – Gibbs
Walcott – Cesc – Song – Nasri
Adebayor – Van Persie
It was the line up we all wanted, and the first ten minutes gave us hope that we could win, with us starting on fire, coming out really quickly and having a few early chances. But then, a moment which sums up our season… one of the most unluckiest events happening to the most inexperienced player.
In a rare attack, Ronaldo squared a hopeful ball into the middle of the area, Gibbs covering, favourite to win the ball – slipped and missed the ball – and the ball fell kindly to Park, who lobbed Almunia with quick thinking to make it 1-0 to the away team. We needed 3 and it was going to be an up hill struggle. But the goal shocked us we started to panic. Giving away possession and needless fouls. It wasn’t too long until we were punished for it, when a combination of sloppy play saw us lose possession and then foul… Ronaldo with a free kick, from some distance, but such is his quality and such is our inability to defend free kicks, it was 2-0 moments after. Ouch. After that goal, it was mission impossible. We looked like a team wounded. Very wounded. The third was inevitable – Man United are one of the best at counter attacking (didn’t we used to be?) and our penalty was a consolation which really meant nothing, albeit Van Persie struck it with aplomb.
Personally, I feel if Gibbs hadn’t slipped, we would have continued the good start and gone on to score first – and then who knows what would have happened. In reality, the result was bad, harsh, but we have to understand that United are a better team than us. I don’t think we’re terribly far off, but experience brings calmness and confidence breeds confidence.
Yesterday was the biggest team / experience our team has had, so they’ve learnt a lesson, and I hope it bodes them better in the future.
Let’s take a listen to Arsene on the game:
“The most disappointing thing tonight is that we don’t feel like we’ve played the Semi-Final of the Champions League because we were out of it after 10 minutes. We had 80 minutes to play against a team who defend well and waited for the counter attack. We were in a position where we had to take all the gambles after having started quite well. The most disappointing thing is that the game was over before it started, that is most difficult to swallow.
“We can only look at ourselves I must say but it’s very, very disappointing to fight such a long way to get where we have been but to give the game away like we did tonight.
“It is the most disappointing. I felt the fans were really up for a big night and to disappoint the people who stand behind the team so much tonight hurts really.”
But one player, whose mind is all over the place, to be honest, he’s probably only thinking of himself, but he’s not helping that’s for sure is Adebayor who bleated out:
“It has been a long time [without a trophy] but I joined in 2006 and I feel sorry for not winning anything in three years. Now for next season I don’t know how we are going to do to be honest. I don’t know how we are going to manage. What we are going to try to do is score with our head, our toes, whatever. We just have to try and bring trophies to this club.”
Ade is at a cross roads, maybe it’s time for him to move on? I’m not being rash with that comment, but his heart is not in it and he’s just not the same player that we once saw all those years ago (well, last season…).
Arsene was asked about whether he will strengthen the squad next season and this is what he replied with:
“It’s a difficult question to answer tonight because I am too disappointed. I need to take some distance with this season. We are on a consistent run of 21 games unbeaten but recently in the games that have mattered, like Chelsea and tonight, we couldn’t win. That of course needs thinking. It’s easy to say that we need a bit of experience but I am convinced that we have the quality and we’ll continue to develop. If you look at the average age of the team it is still very young. To reach that level deserves a lot of credit but tonight we were caught by a tem who has the art to kill and take advantage of mistakes. I believe Cristiano Ronaldo today gave us a tough time.”
In reality, I do think we need to strengthen. Experience is vital. We can see what Arshavin has done for us in the league. A world class talent with experience makes a hell of a difference.
Okay, I don’t want to wonder off topic, there will be plenty of time for the squad and the ins and outs to be discussed close season.
Let’s put this defeat into context, let’s forget about what’s happened and let’s focus on the rest of the league games and hope we put on some entertaining football for the next few games before the Summer starts…
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Djourou, Gibbs (Eboue 45), Walcott (Bendtner 63), Fabregas, Song Billong, Nasri, Van Persie (Vela 79), Adebayor.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Silvestre, Diaby, Denilson.
Booked: Nasri, Adebayor, Eboue.
Goals: Van Persie 76 pen.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (Rafael Da Silva 65), Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson (Giggs 63), Park, Ronaldo, Rooney (Berbatov 66).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Evans, Scholes, Tevez.
Sent Off: Fletcher (75).
Goals: Park 8, Ronaldo 11, 61.
Ref: Roberto Rosetti (Italy).