ARSENAL 0 MAN UNITED 0
The opportunity to return to the top of the league was missed as The Arsenal played out a 0-0 draw against United. Chances were few and far between, at both ends, and in the end I think both managers will have walked away neither overly happy nor overly disappointed.
Due to time difference and work commitments I didn’t get to see the whole 90 minutes on this occasion and had to settle for the extended highlights on Arsenal Player. As such, I can’t comment on the game itself in too much detail, but from what I did see it seemed like both Arsene and the players were focussed on making sure we didn’t lose as opposed to desperately searching for the win and in the end that was accomplished thanks to a world-class save from Szczesny late on.
Given we went into the game off the back of a 5-1 defeat and that the Russians had dropped points the night before it didn’t come as a great surprise, particularly as we did the same in December against the Russians having just lost 6-3 at City.
What’s frustrated me most about the big games this season has been their timing. United away was after Liverpool and Dortmund and coincided with a virus in the squad. City away was off the back of tough games against Everton and Napoli, whilst Chelsea and United at home were when we needed to re-group after heavy away defeats. I don’t want to make too many excuses, but it certainly feels like we’ve not had the best of luck or timing with our big league fixtures this year and for me that’s why the Liverpool defeat hurt the most because we actually went into with a good opportunity to send a message.
As we know that message wasn’t sent and a humbling lesson was learnt, which in turn impacted our approach to the United game. One point from six against arguably the worst United side in Premier League history is both disappointing and highly frustrating. However, we’re heading towards the end of February and we’re still well in the title race and if you offered me that in August I’d have bitten your hand off, so let’s keep the faith.
ARSENAL 2 LIVERPOOL 1
In his pre-match press conference Arsene was asked if Liverpool were the last team we wanted to face after last weekend’s defeat. His response was emphatic:
I would say it is the first team we want to play. When you can put things right, you want an opportunity to do that and we have an opportunity.
And it was one we took with an excellent 2-1 victory thanks to goals from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski.
I’m not going to lie; we rode our luck at times. In the opening minutes another fast start from Liverpool almost caught us cold (twice) just as it had done 8 days earlier at Anfield, Fabianski was the busier goalkeeper, and Liverpool should have had a second penalty when Chamberlain clattered Suarez.
That said, we also created numerous chances, two of which were clinically taken by Chamberlain and Podolski. The second, scored by the German, was my favourite. We broke forward with pace, Özil played a superbly weighted ball in behind to Chamberlain, who beat his man and pulled it back perfectly to Podolski who drilled it home with his less favoured right foot. A beautiful goal and a great indication of what we can do when we attack with pace and directness, and of what Özil can do when he has players running beyond him.
On top of that I thought we should have had a penalty of our own when Skrtel’s high foot almost took of Santi Cazorla’s foot and Gerrard was very lucky to stay on the field when he scythed down Chamberlain whilst already on a yellow card. I guess you’re not allowed to send off the England captain though; certainly not in a World Cup year!
Arsene had to make a changes due to a few knocks and niggles and I’m delighted for the players who came into the side, in particular Yaya Sanogo. When the team was announced his name was being ridiculed by many on Twitter and I have to say I was bemused. Based on what were people judging him? We haven’t seen him play! So it was great to see him have a good game. He held the ball up well, linked play with some nice touches, and (unlike Giroud) offered movement and pace in behind their defence. He’s clearly still a raw talent, but it was a very promising start after what must have been a tough five months out injured. Well done, Yaya.
Next up is another home tie against Merseyside opposition as we face Everton in the quarter-finals on the weekend of 8th / 9th of March. There’s plenty going on between now and then, including the small matter of hosting the reigning World and European Champions on Wednesday night, so until then I’ll just ask one question… What did she wear? She wore, she wore, she wore a yellow ribbon…