Manchester United vs. Arsenal: Gunners in Crisis After 8-2 Defeat

Jamrock Rover@@JamrockRoverSenior Analyst IAugust 29, 2011

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28:  Wojciech Szczesny of Arsenal looks dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on August 28, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Wojciech Szczesny of Arsenal looks dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on August 28, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Where do I begin to write about the events of Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford?

The Arsenal squad was depleted due to injuries and suspensions in the run-up to the game, and the news that both Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna were to miss the game was ominous. They are the two rocks on which Arsenal's defence is built, and it meant Armand Traore and Johan Djourou played from the start.

In my preview of the game, I predicted a 2-1 win for Arsenal, as I always predict an Arsenal win. When I actually saw the starting 11 I genuinely feared about the possible outcome of the game. I tweeted my thoughts and fears and most other Arsenal fans shared them with me too.

The defensive midfield role was taken by young Francis Coquelin in the absence of any of the first-team squad being available to fill the role. It gave the Arsenal team a very young and inexperienced look to it, but United had a team which was by no means full of age and experience either. If Arsenal were to stand a chance they had to keep the game as tight as possible, but it was clear early on that they intended to do nothing of the sort.

There were pivotal moments in the game for me and the first one came when Robin van Persie missed a penalty at 1-0. He normally strikes his penalties very hard, but this time he chose to stroke the ball towards the corner of the net. If he wanted to put so little behind his effort he surely had to get the keeper to make his move first.

With halftime approaching Arsenal were 3-0 down and Theo Walcott managed to claw a goal back to give them some hope. The second half started well for Arsenal as they pushed forward in search of a way back into the game, but they missed a couple of chances and United gradually got on top again. Then for some inexplicable reason, Arsene Wenger decided to take Coquelin off and replace him with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

It left Arsenal with nobody to defend in front of the back four, and the defence went to pieces after that. Another five goals were shipped and Arsenal conceded eight goals for the first time in more than 100 years. Arsenal are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year, and this was one of their very worst days in all of that time.

When RVP pulled a goal back to make it 6-2 at one stage I didn't even cheer, and I cannot remember that happening ever before. At the final whistle I sat in disbelief at what had unfolded in front of me, and I'm still trying to come to terms with it now. I have supported Arsenal for almost 41 years through thick and thin, and I cannot remember the club ever being in such a shambles during that time.

There have been highs and lows, of course, but I always felt the manager of the team was acting in the best interest of the team. At the moment it's very difficult to believe that Wenger has the best interests of the team in mind, as he fumbles his way towards the end of the transfer window with up to £80 million in his back pocket. I do not believe he can offer a rational explanation for his inability to reinforce the Arsenal squad with the players of genuine quality that are so obviously needed.

In his desire to save money he has sacrificed Arsenal's league games in August, and they are now eight points behind the pace-setters after only three games. Thankfully Champions League qualification was guaranteed with the midweek win over Udinese, but the current Arsenal squad doesn't have to depth to play all the extra games they now have. I have been an avid fan of Wenger for a long time, but if he fails to add the players needed to the squad in the next few days, I cannot believe he has the best interests of the club at heart any more.

Some of the players who were asked to perform at a level which was beyond them yesterday could take a long time to recover from the mauling they received. Carl Jenkinson, Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all real prospects for the future, but they were thrown to the lions yesterday and I hope it doesn't affect their futures. Those three players should all be learning their trade in the Arsenal reserves at the moment, and not asked to spend the worst 90 minutes of their professional careers in Manchester on a Sunday afternoon.

It's obvious to one and all that Tomas Rosicky can no longer last the full 90 minutes against any sort of opposition, but he was asked to do so yesterday. I thought he should have been withdrawn instead of Coquelin and I also thought Andrey Arshavin should have been withdrawn too. He looked like a man who almost wanted to get sent off, and Arsenal were lucky to finish the game with 10 players.

The tactical ineptitude shown by Wenger yesterday was quite astounding, and it has to bring his judgement into question. United's defence was short of three of their regulars, but that didn't mean that Arsenal should try to play an open game against them. They showed how easy it is to pick off a team that doesn't consider defending a priority, and Wenger has to learn something from it.

The players won't get to play for Arsenal again for another two weeks, as there are international games to be played and it's probably a good thing. It does mean there will be very little time for the players to work together before their hectic club schedule returns. Any new players signed will have to fit in very quickly as the suspensions continue to mount, and the injury problems worsen almost by the day.

When the players return Arsenal will have two games a week until the next international break, and it will again stretch their resources to the limit. Those resources have proven to be far from deep enough already this season, and other teams will attempt to exploit their obvious weaknesses. It could be a very tough time for Arsenal fans, but good results in those games will help to heal the wounds of Sunday.

I have held off on my preview of this season until the transfer window closes, and it appears that it was a wise move. In my opinion, Arsenal have to buy a left-back, a central defender and a couple of midfielders, as well as the striker they are believed to be in the process of signing. If they could not bring in those players in the last two months, what are the chances of them arriving in the next two days?

It's a very tough time to be an Arsenal fan, and it's not such a good time to be an Arsenal player either. If things don't improve very quickly, I think Wenger could quite possibly be out of a job, and he has nobody but himself to blame. He says he will only buy players who will improve the team/squad, but everybody could see yesterday that it wouldn't take much to do that. 

Why has he not bought Leighton Baines from Everton, or why did he not buy Jose Enrique from Newcastle before Liverpool did? Why have the attempts to sign Gary Cahill taken so long with Arsenal so much in need of another centre-back? How have there been no creative midfield players added to the squad after the sales of Cesc Fabregas and then Samir Nasri?

The club knew that both Cesc and Nasri wanted to leave, but they have chosen to be reactive rather than proactive in their transfer dealings. If Arsenal had four new players available to them yesterday they would have had a much stronger team. They might still have lost, but you can be sure they would not have conceded eight goals. 

The manager and the board are at fault for the current state of the squad, and the embarrassment which occurred at Old Trafford yesterday. It's up to them to ensure there is still hope for the new season by bringing in players who will make a difference before it's too late. 

The club are so embarrassed by the events of yesterday that they have offered to pay the cost of a match ticket for another away league game for the traveling Arsenal fans. The Arsenal fans could be heard singing loudly and proudly throughout the game, and they are a real credit and inspiration to those watching from afar.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights from yesterday's game if you can bear to watch them.

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