There are losses in which you dominate but lose due to inspired goalkeeping or plain bad luck. Then there are losses in which supporters point to certain refereeing decisions that didn’t go their way. And then, there are losses in which you just weren’t good enough on the day itself.
The last scenario was most definitely the case in last year’s 8-2 capitulation away to Manchester United, and I am afraid the same can be said about our latest return to Old Trafford, despite a much closer scoreline this time around.
Our players seemed to be plagued by the same lethargy that has been associated with our last few games, with the exception of the crazy 7-5 Capital One Cup win over Reading. To beat a team like Man Utd, you pretty much have to be at your best, so it was no surprise our energy-deficient performance brought us zero points at the end of the day.
Far too often, one of our defenders had the ball at his feet but with little to no options in front of him. Our midfielders and strikers were far too static for my liking, which severely limited our ability to move the ball into the attacking third. The intricate one-twos and neat passing triangles which we saw a few games ago now seem like a distant memory.
Then we come to the defending. Despite the plaudits that our midfield has received this season, I felt they did not offer enough protection to the defence in this game. Hence, we found ourselves outnumbered on many occasions, and we could have lost by more if not for some charitable finishing from our opponents.
As for the goals we conceded, we can point to crucial mistakes that were made, and both were disappointing for different reasons.
The first was an absolute downer because: a) it came so early, b) because our captain made the error and c) that ‘man’ scored it. Wenger had it right that it does not matter who scores against you, but it was truly a wretched start to the game. Vermaelen will not look back on this game with fondness, and he must remember that his place in the side is not a certainty, especially with Koscielny waiting in the wings.
The second was crushing because: a) it came just when we were coming back into the game and b) it was scored by Evra. With all due respect to the French leftback, we should not be allowing players of that height to win headers in the penalty area. That goal further deflated us, and we never really recovered from that.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom for me.
I thought Mertesacker had an outstanding game, as he scarcely put a foot wrong throughout. Also, that Cazorla goal, though late, was something special and it provided evidence that we still possess players of significant ability, and as such we should be achieving so much more.
Wilshere’s red card (no complaints from me about this one) will force us to change things up for the next game, and that may be exactly what we need. I have preached the need for patience in the last couple of weeks, but there are players waiting in the wings who must be expecting a chance given our recent results.
My vote would go to Coquelin, who would provide a more combative element in front of our defence. After his midweek heroics, Walcott will also expect to be thrown in, perhaps at the expense of the played-out-of-position Ramsey.
It will be easy to feel depressed and feel sorry about ourselves at this point in time, having lost so much ground on the top three, but I would urge Gooners to ignore the league standings for now. The most important thing now is to get some semblance of confidence and momentum back into the side.
If we do manage that, the points will surely come, and along with them an associated rise up the table. Surely, we have enough firepower at our disposal to snap out of our current poor run.
Come on you Gunners!
Aaron has been an Arsenal fan since the mid 90's, and is currently a member of Arsenal Singapore, the official Arsenal supporters' club in Singapore. He is also a passionate Lions supporter, and he still dreams of seeing Singapore compete in the World Cup someday.