Arsenal's home ground in North London is a good ways from the West End, the British capital's famous theater district. It's a good thing, too, because this version of the Gunners wouldn't make a show with much entertainment value.
Today in Manchester, Arsenal's latest performance was another poor display and further evidence of the ever-widening gap between the quality at the top of the Premier League and everyone else. Arsenal's sad decline has seen them drop from the former to the latter.
Arsenal have always faced a significant task taking points from an Old Trafford encounter with United. The London club were outscored 10-3 in two losses in last year's two league fixtures, including an 8-2 thrashing on the their last visit to Manchester.
After three minutes, a Thomas Vermaelan turnover in his own box and Robin Van Persie's simple strike past a diving Vito Mannone portended another possible blowout. Van Persie, sheepishly embarrassed by the ease with which he opened the scoreline, reservedly celebrated in front of his old teammates. Although United failed to double their lead until the second half via a Patrice Evra header, the result seemed beyond doubt after those opening minutes.
The opening half was woefully devoid of imagination and offensive impetus from the visitors. Santi Cazorla, the lone Gunner interested in probing the United defense, saw his efforts undone by apathy in the passing game up front. On Arsenal's back line, Vermaelan and Per Mertesacker contributed to the overall dour scene with a rash of turnovers that invited an equally uninspiring United into the Arsenal third.
After 45 minutes, Arsenal had mustered not a single shot on David de Gea's goal.
Theo Walcott's intervention into the second half provided a shadow of the inspiration it had during the midweek miracle comeback versus Reading. Despite his lackluster performance, he may be the latest in a long line set to depart the club, possibly as soon as the winter transfer window.
Cazorla's pretty goal in extra time was merely a cosmetic touch-up to a dreadful exhibition. In this era of lowered expectations, the top four was a content end-of-the-season distinction for Arsenal. And though the season is still young (currently sixth place in the table), this squad hardly resembles a top-four contender.
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