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Arsenal vs. Man United: Rating the Arsenal Players at the Emirates

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IIJanuary 23, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Robin van Persie of Arsenal reacts after a missed chance during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on January 22, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Well, at least it was not as bad as "The 8-2."

On the other hand, maybe it was. The overwhelming senses of disappointment and emptiness felt by the entire Arsenal fanbase after yet another crushing loss to a rival were not new.

At least during the Old Trafford debacle in August, there was no sense of hope, however meager, that the Gunners would come out on top at the end of the match; it was clear very early on that Arsenal would be summarily dispatched.

In this match, however, Arsenal yet again managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, to reverse a famous euphemism used in American sports.

After only conceding one goal during the first half, despite the constant flow of United players pouring forward, Arsenal could have gone 4-1 up before the 70th minute.

Robin van Persie missed an absolute sitter, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fizzed a shot about two inches wide and Aaron Ramsey blasted an attempt over the bar from a fantastic position.

When van Persie equalized with a beautiful finish through the legs of Johnny Evans, I predicted that Arsenal would triumph, as it looked like nothing could stop the Gunners' momentum on the day.

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And I truly believe that they would have had Arsene Wenger not inexplicably removed the man who had set up the Dutchman and who was unarguably Arsenal's best player on the day: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Johan Djourou was torched by Nani throughout the first half
Johan Djourou was torched by Nani throughout the first halfMike Hewitt/Getty Images

Even though Wenger claims that Oxlade-Chamberlain was beginning to fatigue and was (somehow) not up to the intensity of the game, the Englishman showed absolutely no signs of any of those maladies.

In fact, he was more active and rose to the intensity of the match more than any other man on the pitch, regardless of which shirt they were wearing.

Martin Tyler jokingly predicted that Arshavin would end up scoring the winner, but it was all too predictable that, as United began to threaten again, the Russian committed the fatal error that led to Danny Welbeck's goal.

In the end, this was a match defined by one absolutely horrendous and unjustifiable decision, and with Arsenal teetering on the brink of seventh place, it is clear that some changes must be made, if only to show that Arsenal are still a top club with ambition. Unless we win the Champions League, it will be impossible to remain in it.

Without further ado, let's get to the ratings.

Wojciech Szczesny: 6

There was not much that the young Pole could do about the first goal, although it was a bit odd to see him flail about and fall on his bottom into his own net attempting to save it. He also made a very alert save at his near post from Nani in the first half and did well when put under constant pressure on every back pass from Danny Welbeck. On the fatal goal, there really was nothing he could do.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the most effective player on the pitch
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the most effective player on the pitchMike Hewitt/Getty Images

Johan Djourou: 1.5

I honestly cannot remember one thing that the Swiss did right in the first half. It was quickly very obvious that United were targeting him down the right flank, and Nani absolutely torched him on several occasions. It was Ryan Giggs who beat him to set up Antonio Valencia, but anyone could have done so. Such was Djourou's play.

It's not totally his fault, as he was being played out of position entirely, but the fact that Arsene Wenger made a rare halftime substitution to bring on an 18-year-old in Nico Yennaris who had never previously played in the Premier League to deal with the threat of Nani in a game against Manchester United says it all.

Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny: 7

In general, I believe that both of our center backs were quite solid on the day. Both were quite solid in the air, and the center of defence operated quite well considering that there was no help from either of the fullbacks.

I would remiss if I did not mention Mertesacker's spectacular goal-line clearance to save a goal from Danny Welbeck, which showed his hustle, awareness and the usefulness of every inch of that 6'6" frame.

Thomas Vermaelen: 5

The Verminator had quite a disappointing game, as he continuously drifted towards the center of defence and was entirely at fault for not tracking Valencia to Szczesny's far post, which of course led to the first goal. His intensity and general defensive solidity were welcome, though, and I am quite happy to see him back on the team sheet. Nevertheless, I think he felt the effects of being quickly thrust into action after a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

Alex Song: 6

Song had a very up-and-down game, as he occasionally contributed a great deal to the attack and acted as a fulcrum between the defenders and the forwards, but gifted away possession much too frequently. He greatly benefits from the presence of the injured Mikel Arteta, who takes much of the transitory burden off of the Cameroonian's shoulders.

Tomas Rosicky: 6.5

The Czech contributed more going forward than any other midfield player and generally contributed a positive attacking attitude to the team. He was present in many Arsenal's counterattacks, although there was rarely anyone in front of him to pass the ball to.

Though I initially howled at him to shoot after Chris Smalling fell down, I cannot fault his decision to square for a wide open van Persie, who would have scored 99 times out of 100.

Aaron Ramsey: 5.5

Another disappointing game from Ramsey, as he failed to create anything of note from his crucial position in attacking midfield and who lost the ball on too many occasions. His most noteworthy contribution was a shot that he nearly missed from a fantastic position on the edge of the box, which was blazed over the bar.

Theo Walcott: 4.5:

Yet another extremely sub-par game from the ineffective Walcott, who seems to lack any real footballing attributes besides blazing speed. He never tracked back to help the obviously marooned Johan Djourou at the back and was always in the wrong position to receive a good ball from midfield. If he doesn't turn the corner soon, someone else will be wearing his No. 14 next season.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 9

My man of the match. Making his first Premier League start, Oxlade-Chamberlain was nothing short of sensational, using his blazing speed, tricky feet and sublime vision to tear apart the Manchester United defence. He was far and away Arsenal's best player on the day, and everything positive that the Gunners did ran through him.

Regardless of who Arsene Wenger replaced him with, the decision to substitute him at the height of his influence is unjustifiable and torpedoed all the momentum that Arsenal had. I genuinely believe that we would have won had Oxlade-Chamberlain remained on the pitch.

Robin van Persie: 7

In the earlier stages of the match, van Persie suffered from a lack of service, and he was very isolated at the head of Arsenal's attack. However, during the second half, he developed a very productive link with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and when the Englishman began to aid him with clever passes and deft runs, the Dutchman duly contributed a great finish through the legs of Johnny Evans and just inside the far post.

Van Persie's rating only suffers because he missed what was by far the biggest chance of the game for either side, missing the proverbial barn door with his stronger foot after being set up perfectly by Tomas Rosicky.

In the end, it was mismanagement and blown chances which handed United the points, and van Persie's stunned reaction when Chamberlain was substituted perfectly conveyed the emotions of all 60,000 fans at the Emirates.

Substitutes

Ju Young Park: N/A

Not enough to rate, but quite positive in his first ever Premier League appearance.

Nico Yennaris: 7

Thrust on in his first ever Premier League appearance against Manchester United a la Wojciech Szczesny, the 18-year-old performed quite well in relief of Johan Djourou and looks to have a bright future ahead of him.

Andrei Arshavin: 1

It is really time for the Russian to go. He was completely ineffective in attack, and all of his contributions were negative, namely the horrific defensive error that allowed Antonio Valencia to set up Danny Welbeck for the winner.

But, he should never have been given the opportunity to lose the match for Arsenal in the first place.

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