Arsenal v Man United is a big game. It has always been a big game, even now as both teams come through some difficult patches it’s still massive. As I was traveling up north on Thursday I felt like it was there was something in it for us. And there was…until we pushed self destruct. For all the improvement we’ve seen recently we still have an inability to put a team to the sword. We take the lead and sit back as if its job done and when you do that against a team like United (even this one) you get punished.
After a few beverages in a very blue pub and some friendly chat with the locals we left for the ground pumped and buoyed knowing that one half of the very fine city was behind us. As we took our seats the traveling support, as always, found their voice and it was magnificent. Arsenal started as we have done often this season, well. We looked sharp and up for the match and minutes in ESR found the net with the United keeper flapping on the ground after Fred stood on his toe. HA!
The however we saw that same old Arsenal. Sitting on a dodgy lead with the alarm bells ringing. When we do this we nearly always get punished and against a team with a quality forward line we did just before the half. The defending could have been better but we played ourselves into it. For me Arteta got the team wrong. Elneny stifles play, has no forward vision and when you’re playing out from the back he invites pressure because he simply cannot pass forward. It was there for all to see.
Something was needed at half time, but whatever it was it never came. 7 minutes into the second half we were behind. When you give Ronaldo that much time and space he doesn’t miss. Poor defending left us exposed on the left, the ball was slid across and there he was to pass it in. 2-1 down after leading. Poor. 90 seconds later a similar move found Odegaard in the box and he slid it behind. Chaos in the away end. But there was still a feeling of inevitability about the end result.
Those who have been to Old Trafford before will know that the away end is miles from one end of the pitch. This is of course due to the sheer size of the stadium but still the point remains. Those that know me will know my eyesight isn’t great either, yet I still could see that it was a foul from Odegaard on Fred. Here was the titular self destruct. How the ref didn’t is beyond me but of course in this day and age VAR stepped in. Penalty given, Ronaldo scored, game over.
The Bottom Line
As I traipsed away from Old Trafford in the teeming rain I couldn’t shake that this was another defeat up north and another one where we pushed self destruct. Arteta got the team wrong, yes, but after taking the lead we sit far too deep far too often. In this league you simply cannot do that. It needs to be fixed and fast because there are no easy games. There are some lingering concerns over ESR for our next match, losing him would be a huge blow. Fingers crossed. On Monday we go again away at a struggling Everton who need a result to steady the ship. We need three points.