Manchester United vs. Arsenal: 10 Things We Learned
As expected, Sir Alex Ferguson outwitted Arsene Wenger and leapfrogged Arsenal to the top of the Premier League table. It was a scrappy game by all means.
Ferguson once again showed how brilliant a tactician he is by matching Arsenal's 4-2-3-1 with his own version of 4-5-1 instead of Manchester United's more successful 4-4-2.
Ironically, it was Wenger who switched to a 4-4-2 in the second-half of the game.
Ferguson's primary focus was on stopping Samir Nasri, and he did that brilliantly by playing Ji Sung Park deeper and doubled-up with Patrice Evra to make it extremely tough for Nasri to find breathing room. As a result, Nasri played a peripheral role in the first half.
Luis Nani made the difference for Manchester United going forward and tormented Gael Clichy time and time again. It was Nani's deflected cross that set-up the first goal which Park brilliantly headed over Arsenal goalie Wojciech Szczesny. There was a hint of luck involved in that goal, though.
Nani also won a penalty in the second half after conning Clichy, but surprisingly, Wayne Rooney could only manage a shot on to the roof of Old Trafford.
Arsenal, on the other hand, created very little.
Frustratingly, their passing was lacklustre with poor movement in the final third. Andrei Arshavin's inane display was shocking. It's time to seriously question his inclusion in the starting eleven.
Where do you think Wenger got it wrong?
Arsenal's captain for the night, Tomas Rosicy, was appalling.
He had a big role to play and proved that he's not quite good enough againt top sides. He couldn't manage to create space for himself and failed miserably in his attempt to control the game in midfield. Being the play maker, his failure ensured Arsenal's collapse in the first half.
Wenger made a mistake by not playing Robin Van Persie from the start. Had Van Persie played, he would have done a lot better when Arsenal had the best opportunity to score at the hour mark when Edwin Van der Saar parried Samir Nasri's shot on to the path of striker Marouane Chamakh.
As has been the trend this season, Chamakh was extremely sluggish and wasted the opportunity by taking his own time to react.
United's defence, marshalled by Nemanja Vidic, proved too good for Arsenal and never gave another chance for the Gunners to waste.
It ended 1-0 but was certainly more comfortable for United than what the scoreline says.
Here are the ten inferences drawn from the match:
1) Manchester United has a strong enough defence to win the League this season.
Vidic played outstandingly well almost creating an invisible wall alongside Rio Ferdinand. Rafael, too, looked quite solid; a future star in the making there. Evra was pumped up for the game as you would expect. Vidic was the difference between Arsenal and United, though.
The stubborn Arsenal manager must open his eyes and look at the importance of having a strong, tall defender in the line-up.
2) Arsenal's defence lacks the vigour to win tight games. Sagna simply doesn't know how to cross a ball.
Sebastien Squillaci, on the other hand, was a mistake by Wenger in the summer. Squillaci looked quite ordinary once again. He's very weak in the air, alarmingly weak for a centre-back, and he just underlined that fact with his poor clearance, a header that couldn't even clear the 18-yard box, which set-up Nani for a first-time shot.
Fortunately, for Squillaci, Nani's shot was not on target.
Once again his frailty in the air was on show when Park scored the only goal of the game. His marking was susceptible on that occasion. He was also caught in possession on more than one occasion.
3) Anderson is not a flop.
Manchester United's portuguese midfielder Anderson had a cracker of a game. He showed the strength, determination and energy needed from the midfield to win the game for his team.
Easily the best midfielder of the game.
Both offensively and defensively he was very impressive. He deserved a goal more than anyone else, but Szczesny's A-one save denied him.
4) Marouane Chamakh is not a big game player.
The Moroccan striker again looked very average, not for the first time this season. His hard-work should be appreciated. But hard-work can't make up for lack of quality.
Vidic was not even troubled one bit. Chamakh is good in the air and wins quite a few high balls but apart from that he's liability going forward.
Had it been a better striker, Arsenal would have levelled the game at the hour mark.
5) Nani is the real deal.
He was not only fantastic going forward but also helped out Rafael defensively.
Only slur on his game is the theatrical falls.
That aside, he's a complete winger with pace, accuracy and shooting skills. He set-up the first goal, won the penalty, and made Clichy look more and more like a schoolboy.
6) Laurent Koscielny is an excellent ball-playing defender.
The much-maligned centre-back was the only positive part of Arsenal's defence. His interceptions on numerous occasions just indicated the talent and intelligence possessed by this ex Lorient man.
His passing was also accurate even Cesc Fabregas would be proud of some of his passes. He was beaten once in the air though and that resulted in Park's goal.
7) Szczesny is an exceptional talent.
A few weeks ago, the young Pole was complaining about his lack of opportunities at Arsenal. Even he wouldn't have expected his Premier League debut would come in a game of this magnitude.
He looked a bit nervous in the early part but as the game wore on he looked as solid as the big man, Van der Saar. He couldn't have done anything about the goal, but the young Pole stunningly denied Andreson by making himself large and also kept Rooney out later.
He has all the makings of a future star. The main weakpoint is his poor goal-kicks and distribution. But that can be managed as he grows up.
8) Wenger must consider selling Clichy.
The Frenchman has been awfully woeful since the start of the season. He's the perfect example of how to fall down from grace in a short span of time.
Two years ago he was regarded as one of the best wing-backs in the World, but now he's not even good enough for Arsenal. His mistake against Shaktar Donetsk cost Arsenal the leadership of their Champions League Group.
It remains to be seen how many more times Arsenal will pay the price for Clichy's errors this season.
Against Manchester United, Clichy was easily deceived by Nani in the build-up to the first goal. Clichy later gave away ball cheaply near his box and Nani failed to keep his shot down. Clichy also gave away the penalty; just sums up how poor he was.
9) Cesc Fabregas should pack his bag to go back to his native club.
Fabregas has been poor whenever he played this season barring one or two games. His poor fitness and dodgy hamstring hasn't helped him either.
Against United, he was too casual and mislaid passes when Arsenal looked to threaten and also deliberately slowed the tempo of the game. Despite the fact that he's not fully fit, misplacing passess that frequently is just inexcusable.
10) Wenger's poor tactics.
The Frenchman has once again failed to overcome Ferguson's manoeuvres. His decision to play Rosicky in the AM slot had backfired.
United tied up Nasri on the wings in the first half but Wenger did little to free the French midfielder. A better move would have been to shift Rosicky outwide and bring Nasri into the middle to break the tight marking that Ferguson framed to keep Nasri quiet.
It took almost more than one half for Wenger to realize it.
Wenger should've played a more defensive winger on the left to nullify the Nani threat. In the end, Nani made the difference. With Arshavin, you can hardly expect anything defensively. Even going forward, Arshavin is a waste of space.
Just wonder how Eboue would've done at leftback especially after an eye-catching performance against Partizan Belgrade.
Also, the Vidic-Ferdinand partnership was always going to beat Chamakh. So a proactive manager would have gone for Van Persie, who gives much more cutting-edge and technical quality, up front.
Arsenal's player of the game: Jack Wilshere.
Manchester United's player of the game: Nani.
Flop of the game: Clichy.
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