Champions Manchester United and challengers Arsenal played out a goalless draw at the Emirates on Wednesday night in a result that ultimately suited neither side, with both respective goalkeepers taking the plaudits.
Who were the better team at the Emirates on Wednesday night?
In the end, though, it will be the north London club that feels the more disappointed of the two Premier League giants, with the emphasis clearly on Arsene Wenger’s men to make all the running against opponents that were clearly happy with a point right from the very outset.
However, ultimately all the Gunners had to show for their efforts were a Laurent Koscielny header that was cleared off the line, and two Santi Cazorla efforts that went close.
Meanwhile for David Moyes and Co, Dutchman Robin van Persie came closest to breaking the deadlock, but the striker saw man-of-the-match Wojciech Szczesny keep out his two goalbound strikes either side of the break.
And so this is what we have unearthed looking back at the tape of the game…
United skipper Nemanja Vidic endured a torrid afternoon at the heart of the United back four in Sunday’s calamitous 2-2 draw with bottom-of-the-table Fulham at Old Trafford, just days after revealing that he was quitting the club at the end of the season.
89' Another brilliant header clear by Vidic under pressure from Mertesacker in the United area before De Gea dives to his left to make ...— Manchester United (@manutd_action) February 12, 2014
However, the experienced Serbia international was back to his dominant best at the Emirates on Wednesday, marshalling the visitors’ defence to record an impressive clean sheet at the home of the free-scoring and championship-chasing Gunners.
And nothing characterised the centre-back’s impressive all-round display at the back for the Red Devils than his series of vital headed clearances when under pressure in the second half to confirm the champions’ well-earned point (see below).
Arsenal central defender Per Mertesacker came under scrutiny on the weekend following his seemingly out-of-character performance in defence in the north Londoners’ 5-1 mauling at Anfield, when the experienced German was run ragged by Liverpool wide man Raheem Sterling.
And so all eyes were on the 29-year-old when United came to town on Wednesday and while the home side’s back line did respond well to Saturday’s heavy loss by shutting out the Red Devils, there were still one or two more concerning moments in defence involving Mertesacker.
The centre-back, who has been part of a usually rock-solid back four alongside Koscielny so far this season, was once again exposed just past the quarter-hour mark when United forward van Persie ran off his shoulder and through on goal for an effort that the ex-Arsenal striker shanked wide of goal (see below).
However, worryingly for Arsenal, that was not the only occasion that the tall defender lost the visitors' front man, with Szczesny doing well to beat away his 80th-minute header as memories of Anfield on Saturday lunch-time came flooding back.
After a fairly even opening first half, it was Arsenal who took control of proceedings after the break, with the majority of the home side's forward thrusts emanating from their right flank.
And this was largely caused by a failure of out-of-form United left-back Patrice Evra to prevent the constant supply of deliveries from the Gunners' right wing, particularly as the contest entered its final quarter (see below).
In the end, however, Arsene Wenger's team did not possess enough quality to break the deadlock, although left back clearly remains an on-going concern for Red Devils boss David Moyes.
The France international is enjoying a fine campaign up front for Arsenal, with the striker having netted 10 Premier League goals, and 14 in all competitions to date.
But you do just wonder if the club's failure to land a big-name marksman in the recent January transfer window may ultimately come back to haunt them come the end of the season.
'Giroud has 3 goals in 20 big games against the top 6 teams, and NONE against Utd, Chelsea and City' via @TheMightyGambon— Le Grove (@LeGrove) February 13, 2014
And while Giroud had only the slimmest of openings against United on Wednesday, and was certainly less wasteful than the man he ended up replacing in attack at the Emirates, the two half chances that did end up coming his way were in the end wasted.
In particular the header that the 27-year-old steered wide from an early Gunners corner was an opening that better front men may have accepted (see below).
The Non-Flying Dutchman
United forward van Persie was the inevitable match winner the last occasion that these two arch rivals met at Old Trafford in November, and the Netherlands international really should have been the difference between the two sides again on Wednesday evening.
In a clash with few clear-cut opportunities, it was RVP who had the two most enticing at the Emirates, only for the one-time Gunners legend to leave the capital scratching his head at just how he had failed to get his name on the scoresheet.
And while Arsenal No. 1 Szczesny did brilliantly to keep out the 30-year-old's late header (see above), van Persie will be hugely disappointed not to have opened the scoring just two minutes in after robbing Mikel Arteta, only for the usually reliable striker to shoot straight at the home keeper with the clearest opening of the whole night.