Arsenal Struggles Against Manchester United At Old Trafford

Chris Forero@@FurnaccioCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2010

Alex Song, Jack Wilshere and Gael Clichy Have Seen Better Days
Alex Song, Jack Wilshere and Gael Clichy Have Seen Better DaysAlex Livesey/Getty Images

Yesterday, Arsenal had an opportunity to establish some positive momentum as they faced Manchester United at Old Trafford.  

After dropping points to teams such as Sunderland, Newcastle, West Brom, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea, gooners have been hoping to see a team that plays with more determination.  

Unfortunately, that was not the case, as Arsenal fell victim to Manchester United, 1-0.  

The way they played was not like a team that is currently in second place in the EPL.  

No longer can Arsene Wenger or supporters use the typical excuses that Arsenal is too young, has too many injuries or faces a team that plays anti-football.

 Arsenal was simply beaten by a better side.  

The only solace supporters can take from this game is that despite how weak Arsenal played today, the final result was only 1-0. The problem today was not the defense, but an ineffective attack.

Andrei Arshavin continued to struggle as he had little to offer today. Unfortunately, Wenger handled this situation too late, as it took 77 minutes before Arshavin was replaced by Theo Walcott.  

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With only 13 minutes to make any sort of impact, Theo was able to take a few shots on goal, but he did not have enough time to establish a rhythm, as he had the touch of a blacksmith and his shots were not threatening at all.  

If Wenger made the change 10 to 15 minutes earlier, Arsenal would have had more chances to at least get a draw.  

Even though Walcott has been back from injury for the last few weeks, he needs to play in more EPL matches as a starter if Wenger wants him to be a valuable member of the squad.

Another player who has been missing altogether is Carlos Vela. The Mexican left winger has been out of the picture for quite some time, despite the lack of form from Arshavin. Perhaps his international incident left a bad taste with Wenger and Vela has paid the price for it.

What a shame, because Vela was off to a great start this season, but limited opportunities have taken the steam out of Vela's engine.

Other players were absent today were Marouane Chamakh, Tomáš Rosický and Samir Nasri. Even though Nasri shows some flashy dribbling and tried to make things happen, he was kept at bay by a strong United back line; same for Chamakh, whose best result today was a couple of soft headers that fell into Edwin van der Sar's hands.

Nemanja Vidic's ability to shut down Arsenal's attack proves why he is the one of the best centerbacks in the world.    

Surprisingly, the substitutions of Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie added nothing to the Gunner's attack. Fàbregas clearly showed that he was playing at 60 percent capacity at best. Cesc's inability to play a full match in a long time was definitely apparent as he was clearly not fit today.

Hopefully, Cesc can regain and maintain his fitness over the next few weeks. Van Persie had little to add as well, as he continues to play in a new role where he drops back more frequently and plays like a midfielder.

In the past, Wenger has used the excuse that opponents play anti-football when it comes to playing against Arsenal. Well today, the tables were turned as Arsenal had more yellow cards and nearly twice as many fouls as United.

While Alex Song won several critical challenges, he also pushed the envelope to the point where he earned a yellow card. Even Chamakh and Arshavin received yellow cards for challenges that were the exception rather than the norm.  

What can Arsenal supporters take from this game? For starters, there is still plenty of season left to play.  

One of the keys to United's victory today was the presence of Rio Ferdinand and Vidic. Given Rio's proclivity to injury in recent seasons, his absence in future games will surely cause United to drop crucial points as the season progresses.  

As for Arsenal, one can only hope that Fàbregas can improve his fitness and get back into the swing of things.  

As for Arshavin, perhaps it is time to give him a break and let him find his form again by coming off the bench for a month. With Vela, Walcott and even Nicklas Bendtner as possible options on the flanks or up front, Arshavin can probably benefit from a vacation from the starting eleven.  

Or, perhaps Arsenal needs to switch back to the 4-3-3 because the 4-2-3-1 seems to only work against weaker teams or teams that do not have the chemistry that Arsenal regularly has.

This weekend, Arsenal will play at home against Stoke City, which will be followed by another home game against Chelsea on the 27th.  

All the Gunners can do now is find some sort of form where they do not drop any points over the next four or more games. Because, if and when Manchester United find their true form, Arsenal will have an uphill battle for the rest of the season keeping up with the Red Devils.  

In a season that is full of inconsistency from Chelsea and United, Arsenal must put themselves in a situation where they are in control of their destiny. 

See you Saturday!