‘Just a s*** Barcelona’ was the chant directed at the Gunners over the weekend as Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United team produced an organised and clinical display of football to dump Arsenal out of the F.A Cup.
The trend of the match was set early on as Arsene Wenger’s men dominated the midfield as an injury-hit Red Devils’ side absorbed the pressure and looked to hit on the counter attack. For all their beautiful football, Arsenal’s constant string of short passes once again failed to penetrate the two banks of five and four red shirtsthat face them. Ferguson’s tactics worked a treat as United twice scored two goals on the break, with Manuel Almunia and his flat-footed defence unable to prevent both Fabio Da Silva and Wayne Rooney from converting rebounds. United were very energetic and direct, whereas their counterparts were anchored by the lazy combination of Abou Diaby and Denilson, who both seemed content to casually jog around the pitch and slow the play down when a bit of urgency was needed.
When Arsenal did manage to pierce the rearguard, led superbly by the brilliant Nemanja Vidic and the improving Chris Smalling, the yellow shirts of Arsenal found Edwin van der Sar in outstanding form. I’m sure the United manager will do his very best to convince the veteran goalkeeper, who still seems to be getting more dependable and agile with age, not to retire at the end of the season.
For the Gunners faithful, Johan Djourou’s dislocated shoulder injury that will rule him out for the rest of the season will hurt as much as losing the game itself. The Swiss international has been a rock in a suspect defence and the Professor must have felt like banging his head against those Nike CTR billboards that surround the Old Trafford turf when he saw his best centre-half hauled off on a stretcher. Not even the return of Aaron Ramsey could lift the doom and gloom feeling that surrounds the Emirates at the moment.
Arsene Wenger will obviously stick to his philosophy of attractive football that brought him glory in the past, but the shaky core of his team needs to be addressed, along with the lack of leadership that was all to apparent on Saturday. Doubts have been placed upon the players commitment and character these past couple of weeks, these questions have to be answered quickly.
Jens Lehmann is open to a return to his former club, but is an extra crazy man needed when times call for calm. Minus a captain and a rookie keeper, the Gunners have again fallen short when it has mattered most. The Premier League trophy is now their sole target, a piece of lent that needs to head back to North London.
Rewind a couple of weeks and Equipio’s resident Gooner was slightly optimistic about the possibility of a quadruple. However, come what may at the end of the season, ‘In Arsene We Trust!’