Man U 1-0 Arsenal; Wenger Still Has Faith

Match Reports

The John O’Shea gives Manchester United the advantage

ESPNSoccernet: blah blah blah O’Shea.

Man of the Match

I will be the first to admit that I’m a horrible judge of goal keepers, but even a Dumb American like me could tell that England’s Future #1 had a monster game last night. I mean, even the guys at the Telegraph saw him step up into the rarefied air of a “top four” keeper last night.

So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m giving Man of the Match to England’s Future #1, Manuel Almunia.

The Good

Don’t listen to them, they don’t know what they are talking about: Arsenal were not just lucky to escape that match 1-0 down, they played their asses off and several key players stepped up huge to keep that scoreline down to 1-0. Moreover, 1-0 is a good result for United but it’s not a devastating result for Arsenal. 2-0? 3-0? The game could have easily gone that way and those results would have been devastating.

United played one of the best games I’ve ever seen them play and they only managed a 1-0 score line. This is a completely surmountable obstacle: 1-0 and penalties or a 2-0 win and we go through. Now that I’ve seen what a fully actualized Man U looks like, I can say that we were always going to have to win a game. So, I like our odds of winning at home in the return leg. Wenger too has confidence

It will be a good opportunity to show our character and our mental strength. I am confident you will see it so I invite you to a press conference next Tuesday after the game, and then you would have seen it.

There is a Final at stake. Don’t worry, when you play at home knowing you could reach a Final, we will be up for it. I am confident because I believe we will be on top next Tuesday and you will see a different Arsenal team.

The one thing I can say for sure about Arsene Wenger is that he is full of faith. Hell, this man has more faith than a priest.

I also want to give a shout out to both Gibbs and Song who both had monster games last night. Gibbs in particular was simply spectacular against what seemed like 18 attacking United players. But in particular, aside from that one shot that rattled the cross-bar, Ronaldo basically was handed a nightmare by the 19 year old.

Unlike Gibbs, who has basically been thrust into the fire and has performed magnificently, Song has grown slowly in his position and is now a nearly complete holding midfielder. Last night he had a great game defending and shielding the midfield, though he looked kind of jaded at the end of the match and I have to wonder if the long haul of the season plus the massive workrate he put in against a hard working Man U hasn’t taken it’s toll. I know that sounds strange because he’s had a good break but I’m struggling to explain why he was so good in the first 70 minutes and so listless in the last 20.

The Bad

OK, so we’re down 1-0 and that’s bad. Draws won’t put us through, even one goal wins don’t put us through. We need a 2 goal win to go into the finals and if United play as hard as they did last night, Arsenal will need to be the Arsenal that beat AC Milan 2-0 to get that win. Which is a tall order because while I think Arsenal played their hearts out yesterday (with some exceptions) they are going to need to both play their hearts out and have the game of their lives.


Now, about those guys who didn’t play hard…. Diaby, I’m looking at you. If you don’t want to play in a Champions League semi-final why don’t you F*CK OFF? More than once Song had to come in and clean up and shield Gibbs after Diaby was seen strolling back up the pitch behind Ronaldo. Ronaldo for f*ck’s sake. Diaby and Walcott both just looked lost in their defensive responsibilities and more than once were dispossessed by Man U while they tried to dribble out of the back 3rd. That shiat needs to be squashed right now: if those two want to play on Tuesday they need to defend from the front for 90 minutes.

And as for Silvestre, well, he had a good game last night and made a few really key defensive plays. So, it’s unfortunate that it was his poorly cleared ball that fell to O’Shea who stuck it home. Frankly, I give the blame for that goal to Toure who both ran toward the ball, rather than marking the back post, and failed to organize his defense properly, because even if he’d have stayed back, it still would have been 3 on 1. Blown defensive plays like that are not going to cut the mustard on Tuesday.

The Ugly

Ok, Wenger, we get it, you have faith. You believe in using Cesc in the support roll in the 4-2-3-1 despite the fact that this plays to all of Cesc’s weaknesses. You believe in using Nasri as a holding midfielder, despite the fact that this plays to all of Nasri’s weaknesses. You believe in playing Bendtner, despite the fact that this plays to all of his weaknesses. We get it, you have faith.

I’m afraid if you don’t switch up some of these roles and play to these player’s strengths rather than playing them out of position, faith is all we’re going to have left at the end of the season. 4th place and a whole lotta faith. We’ll all fill our cups with your faith and sup deep from the well.

Basically, like Spurs fans do every year.

Me?  I’d rather have a bit more rational approach to the game on Tuesday and see Cesc paired with Song in the middle — where Cesc’s vision and defensive awareness can control the game more, Nasri on the left and Theo on the right — where their speed and ball control can cause havoc in United’s wings, Adebayor and van Persie (or Eduardo if van Persie is still out, or Vela if Eduardo is out, or the Tea Lady if Vela is out) up front — where, erm, they can score goals and stuff, and the rest of the team picks itself.

That said, I don’t feel confident that Wenger can switch things up because he’s got more faith than the Pope.


We’ve got Pompey on Saturday and I’m looking at that match as a bit of a break, honestly. 4th place is all but secure (a win secures it outright) and third place is looking a little less likely each week, though a win on Saturday and a loss for Chelsea at Fulham would put us 3 points off of 3rd ahead of the Arsenal v. Chelsea clash in 2 weeks. Still, while 3rd place matters, it just doesn’t seem to matter as much. I’d rather win the Champions League or at least get a hell of a game in the return leg than take 3rd place.

Irregardless (you KNEW I was going to say that!) of all that, I think Arsenal fans and players need a bit of an emotional break and Pompey can provide that. The game is being televised live on Fox Soccer Channel at 7am and I’ll be providing the liveblogging for the first time in what seems like a year. I think I might just get some dry smoked bacon from Costco and have a nice little breakfast and watch the game.

Right, that’s it for today, I’m going to leave you dreaming of bacon. See you tomorrow for a match preview.


  1. Fair review.

    I was shitting it after 5 minutes; they came out flying and we looked shell-shocked. 4-5-1 is hopeless against an English team as there is too much of a gap between the 5 and the 1, which the other team exploit quickly (I think the continental teams are slower to work the ball forward, which gives the midfield time to break out of the defensive mould – I may be wrong but that is how it seems to me). But we won’t play that at home – should be back to 4-4-2 or that 4-3-1-2 thing)

    Gibbs was outstanding considering his age and experience. He also nutmegged someone (O’Shea?) beautifully; I shall find a clip somewhere, hold on.

    Anyway, we need to win at home, which we were always going to have to do over two legs, realistically (and footballistically…)

    Bring it on!

  2. fourstar

    That was Ronaldo he skinned. In fact, he did it a few times. Unfortunately, every time he did so, EVERYONE was standing behind the ball watching the pretty play instead of bursting into the box for a cross.

    I can’t for the life of me figure out why the BBC, and everyone else is saying Gibbs was the worst player on the pitch yesterday. Granted he was out of position a lot but that was typically because he was tracking Ronaldo as he came in deeper to get a touch on the ball. Diaby should have been filling in that hole but was completely absent unless he was giving the ball away at midfield. It seemed to me that Gibbs’ job was not only to know what kind of gum Ronaldo was chewing but what he had to eat yesterday. For the most part, Gibbs sat on him and kept him quiet.

    We can come back from 1-0 but everyone will have to show up to play for it happen.

  3. Well Walcott did have a poor game but really I see you laying into him but it’s really displaced. The fingers should point squarely at Wenger and maybe a small look at Diaby. Walcott has gotten used to his more technical midfield with Cesc, Song, Nasri, Arshavin but Wenger sticks this Vieira look alike in there who doesn’t even play anywhere near Vieira levels. Diaby isn’t the great player we all thuoght he is, at least not right now. He loses the ball far too much and I think Theo was missing that synergy with a visionary passer like Cesc or Nasri. The fact that Cesc was moved so far up the pitch leaves Theo to rely on Diaby to supply that killer pass he can run onto and burn Evra, however the triangles with Diaby just don’t work. I’m not sure why Wenger didnt just go for the conventional 4-4-2 with Bendtner and Ade up front and Nasri out left, Cesc in the middle, Song behind and Walcott on the right. This is a European game but it’s against English opposition and they’re not suddenly going to play much different than if it were a league game. We’ve had success for over a decade playing 4-4-2 against English opponents so why play 4-2-3-1? I’m going to go about with my broken record ways and say a 2 CM formation for Arsenal is utter bollocks. I’ve said it 500 times before that it’s an exercise in uselessness – it does not promote any kind of creativity and only gives Cesc even less attacking options to work with. Stick with 4-4-2 against English teams – if it’s not broke don’t fix it.

    We can overturn the deficit, even with the lack of personnel but we need the desire and right now I think that’s very much absent from the players we expect it from. The talk of wanting to win trophies needs to be earned with performances and last night, a 19 year old left back who has played less than half a dozen European games, led the way in light of superstar names who just moan to the press that they are frustrated. Wenger is a calm and rational man but sometimes you just have to kick ass. As much discussion as he wants to have, some days a good old fashioned butt whuppin gets more done and is more effective. He needs to address the problem and drill it into the players’ heads because we cannot just give up if we can’t get chances in the opening 15 minutes. The game is 90 minutes and we need to want every second of it.

  4. I also thought Gibbs played excellently. Obviously, he was man marking Ronaldo when Ronaldo was on the right, probably due to his speed. He kept Ronaldo quiet and frustrated all night.

    We keep blaming Diaby for playing like Shiat, but he is not a LW and his worst performances have come from that position. At worst, he should have been partnered with Song in the middle and Nasri deployed on the left, or better yet, he should have been pushed up behind the striker, with Fab paired with Song and Nasri on the left.

    Arsene keeps tinkering ineffectually with squad formations in the big games and we continually suffer.

    O’Shea had the run of the park on the right wing for the first half and Arsene should have changed his formation after the 1st 10 minutes. Even if he had moved Walcott over to the left that would have helped. Instead, we were continuously bombed and only Almunia and the grace of God kept this game at 1-0.

    Almunia? Yup, excellent game and was obviously MOTM. Almunia, brilliant shot stopper.

    Hate to burst your bubble though Tim, he is not a great GK, especially for Arsenal. His continual punting of the ball down field to an isolated Ade, who was sandwiched by the 2 behemoths, Rio and Vidic, was a sure recipe for the “Idiot Of The Year” award. Firstly, all this did was to give the ball to Manure so they could rebuild their attack once more and continue the offensive onslaught. The few times Ade did win the ball he was surrounded by 3 Manure players and had very few Arsenal outlets in support.

    Notice what Van de Saar did? He would feed the ball to his wing backs or CM’s so they could organize, maintain control and start their attack. Makes sense doesn’t it, especially if you are a ball control and possession team. All the world class GK’s do that. And, why was there no one on the field or on the sideline telling him not to do so. It’s just utterly amazing.

    Our substitutions once again cried out for imagination with Bendtner replacing Walcott rather than Diaby and Eduardo only being given a 10 minute cameo.

    I am very pissed at this continued lack of football acumen on display by Arsene. Our tactics were naive, misguided and defied the basics of football 101. Our lads tried hard, but were not put in the right positions to display their true abilities.

    Just my RANT!!!!!

  5. Wenger is the problem here. He comes up with stupid and ridiculous formation, play Diaby when everyone clearly knows he sucks at wings. This is all down to wenger’s stuborness and trying to prove his ass right!

    I don’t care what you guys have to say, no trophy today and wenger can fuck the hell off with his stuborness and his never growing “youth”! Football is all about winning and winning trophies, there is no such thing as baby-sitting young players and making them world beaters. Do it on small scale, making it an excuse every year is lame and unacceptable.

    Wake up you wenger lovers, he is in love with Diaby and you people are in love with him. Sick!

  6. No defending from the front, no defending at the halfway line.

    Adebayor, on his own upfront, against a rock solid defence, OK tough, but doesn’t excuse poor ball control, bad timing, and a total lack of interest. Also spends a lot of time, when he occasionally keeps the ball, wandering about on the left wing. Just where you want your big man! He’s is not Thierry. (Bendtner does the same, but works damn harder).

    Diaby, what can you say? Has the physical attributes to be another Vierra, pity he doesn’t use them,

    As for Almunia great game, great stops, Ok he did a lot of long distance punting, but was wise enough not to throw it to anyone close in case they got caught in possession.

    Gibbs, mature performance for one so young, kept Ronaldo pretty quiet. (Isn’t he a cry baby, I bet his mum was glad to see the back of him).

    Everything to play for next week, but we need our socks on fire, committment and belief are fine, let’s put some passion in to the mix.


  7. nice video fourstar, generally agree with sentiments posted, only add that walcott isolated on the wing did leave a gap in the middle, but no one used it and for good reason we were just chasing too much, and evra did play very well. gibbs was great but perhaps absent on their goal and as such almunia motm for me. We have some defensive frailties and 4-5-1 or whatever it was clearly was no match for their 4-3-3, why exactly was that, my view is that we don’t have box to box midfielders on a par with theirs. I recall one good tackle from song from our midfield the rest were just running around.

  8. I am looking forward to Saturday morning. Boxers, old Arsenal kit, pots and pots and pots of coffee, and some 7amkickoff liveblogging.

    Football, at its core, is more fun when you are not obsessing over every single touch of the ball.

  9. Bad news: Eduardo and Silvestre picked up injuries. Both unavailable for Pompey and for CL return leg.

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