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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
January 22, 2012
• 11:00 AM
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: M. Dean
• Attendance: 60093
R. van Persie 71'
A. Valencia 45'+
D. Welbeck 81'
A final word from Wayne Veysey: "An excellent victory for United, who were not quite at their best, but a real sense of anger and frustration at Emirates Stadium. Wenger was jeered at the final whistle, ordered to spend some money and questioned like he has rarely been for his decision to substitute the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain for the hapless Arshavin. Van Persie's reaction, so perfectly captured on camera, could prove a pivotal moment in Arsenal's season."
So United are back to being just three points behind Manchester City. The gap between them and Tottenham is now five points. Arsenal, though, remain five points off the Champions League places after losing three in a row for the first time in five years.
90' + 6'
Yellow Card Alex Song
90' + 6'
And that's it! The referee blows for fulltime! United run out 2-1 winners to go 15 points clear of today's opponents.
90' + 5'
United could, and probably should have extended their lead there despite all the late Arsenal pressure. Rooney breaks and sets Welbeck running clear of the two Arsenal defenders but as he closes down on Szczesny he gets his feet in a tangle and falls over.
90' + 4'
...but Arsenal collect it before it reaches the corner and break. Walcott moves up the gears and sends in a great ball that evades everyone. Van Persie was a whisker away, albeit under pressure from Smalling.
90' + 3'
Arsenal arn't helping themselves by giving away needless freekicks. United are taking their time over these and then, obviously, punt it straight for the corner flag.
90' + 1'
...Van Persie sends it in, Smalling clears but only as far as Rosicky, but the Czech midfielder is quickly closed out. Chance gone. They will be a massive FIVE minutes of added time.
Yellow Card Patrice Evra
We are just about to enter stoppage time and Arsenal have a freekick around 30 yards out, near the right touchline...
The Arsenal fans did not like that. Welbeck and Koscielny battle for the loose ball, with the Arsenal man coming out on top and tries to start an attack, only for referee Mike Dean to call the play back for a foul on Welbeck. Correct decision but Wenger is not happy.
Three minutes plus added time to go. Can Arsenal find a second equaliser?
Yellow Card Tomas Rosicky
Yellow Card Robin van Persie
Arsenal's final change is to bring on striker Park Chu-Young in place of Ramsey, who hasn't had the greatest of games.
Assist Antonio Valencia
Goal Danny Welbeck
GOAL!! Well it wasn't Park but United are back in front, Welbeck with an emphatic finish from 10 yards after Valencia twisted and turned inside the area to find space. Arshavin was tracking Valencia there and, frankly, didn't do anywhere near enough to try and pinch the ball off the United player.
With all of that going on, I forgot to mention that Paul Scholes and Ji-Sung Park have come on for United, with Nani and, substitute himself, Rafael making way. Park has a great scoring record against Arsenal, can he add to it?
Phew, he's up and walking now but he looks completely out of it.
Oooh, that looks nasty. Walcott appears to have knocked himself out as he hit the deck after challenging with Lindegaard for the ball.
For a better perspective on that, here is our man at the Emirates, Wayne Veysey on his view: "Wenger's substitution of goal creator Oxlade-Chamberlain for Arshavin has not been well greeted here. There were boos from the crowd, chants of 'You don't know what you're doing' and van Persie appeared to shout 'no' to the bench in response to the substitution."
Bit of dissent from the Arsenal fans here as they scream with disgust as Wenger opts to withdraw Oxlade-Chamberlain in place of Andrey Arshavin.
Here is Wayne Veysey's reaction to Arsenal's equaliser: "Brilliant from van Persie, but perhaps even more brilliant from Koscielny, Rosicky and Oxlade-Chambelain, who combined to take the ball from the feet of Rafael in the Arsenal box to the back of the net with less than half a dozen touches. What about the Ox in the box's reverse pass, though? That was special. And it came just as Arshavin and Park were waiting on the touchline to come on as substitutes."
Yellow Card Laurent Koscielny
Assist Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Goal Robin van Persie
GOAL!! Arsenal are level and it's no wonder who scores it. Oxlade-Chamberlain picks up the ball on the right, cuts inside and plays a super disguised pass for Robin Van Persie to run onto, swivel and shoot low into the far corner off the post. Great finish.
Rooney takes advantage of hesitation from Yennaris and has won a corner. Giggs sends it in but it's straight at Szczesny.
Wow, there is a great chance every minute at the moment. Rooney plays in Welbeck but his first touch is slightly too heavy and allows Szczesny to get to it first. However, the goalkeeper doesn't keep it under control and Welbeck wriggles it clear and tries a shot from an almost impossible angle that Arsenal clear.
If you hadn't already guessed, this game is a MUCH better contest since the break. It's really come to life.
OFF THE LINE! Welbeck shows great strength the speed to run through on goal and squeeze a shot past Szczesny but it doesn't have enough speed on it and Mertesacker gets back in time to clear the ball off the line.
Oooof, yet more Arsenal pressure and it's Oxlade-Chamberlain with a great effort from the edge of the area, after a one-two with Koscielny, that skims the grass the wrong side of Lindegaard's post.
The crowd have finally woken up, at least enough to blast out a few lines of 'Come on Arsenal!', as Arsenal again go close, only to be denied with a great block by Evra. Faint shouts for a penalty as the Frenchman's arms are tucked up in front of his chest but referee Mike Dean isn't having any of it.
Here is Wayne Veysey again: "It's woken up a bit here after a lively start by Arsenal to the second half, although Emirates Stadium cannot quite believe that Robin van Persie contrived to miss the goal after Rosicky took advantage of Smalling's slip to create comfortably Arsenak's best chance of the game for the normally unerring Dutchman. On his left foot, too. Not what we've come to expect from Arsenal's goal machine."
...and now United are at it again! Wow. Again Nani is the creator as he easily runs onto a throw-in to find Valencia in space near the penalty spot but he gets his shot all wrong. Completely wrong. He tries to flick it with the outside of his boot but, instead, makes strong contact with his laces and it nearly hits the corner flag.
...and now Arsenal go close again! Has this game finally come to life?! It's all Ramsey as he skips into the area and thumps the ball goalwards, only to see it whistle over the bar with Lindegaard beaten all ends up.
And United nearly extend their lead! Nani has the better of Yennaris down the right before standing up a find cross on the byline that misses Welbeck's head by inches.
Dear, dear, dear me! Arsenal MUST be level but they are not! A slip by Smalling just inside his own half is jumped on by Rosicky, who storms forward. It's two against one with Rosicky finding Van Persie inside the area. He takes a touch instead of shooting first time, cuts onto his left foot and blasts the ball wide from eight yards. In his form you would have put your house on him scoring there.
Yennaris with his first touch, cutting out a Carrick (who has been excellent so far) pass through to Nani.
He looks like he's going to be OK though. He is trying to walk it off.
This is something Arsenal fans definitely don't want to see. Robin Van Persie stays down after a slight clash with Valencia.
...and we are back underway. Arsenal kick us off in the second half.
A change for Arsenal at halftime. Youngster Nico Yennaris, an England youth international, is coming on his his debut in place of, unsurprisingly, Djourou.
Wayne Veysey's halftime thoughts: "At half-time, a few boos ring out to the right of the press box. It's advantage United, and deserved too. The visitors have been the more dominant team and got increasingly more joy down their left flank as the half drew to a close, the source of the opening goal so neatly created by Ryan Giggs and powerfully finished by Antonio Valenica. Note - Arsenal's bench looks far weaker than the visitors', with perhaps only Andrey Arshavin offering game-breaking qualities. United can call upon Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez and Paul Scholes, so we can expect some more goals as the two teams begin to tire."
45' + 3'
...and with that the referee blows for halftime. A terrible game brought to life just before the end. Arsenal desperately need an improvement. Djourou is woeful at rightback.
45' + 2'
Assist Ryan Giggs
45' + 2'
Goal Antonio Valencia
GOAL!! That shut me up. Antonio Valencia puts United ahead with a great header across Szczesny from a Ryan Giggs cross. The away side are 1-0 up.
Just entering stoppage time, of which there will be three minutes for the Jones injury.
Yellow Card Rafael
Yellow Card Aaron Ramsey
I would say the game is winding down as it reaches halftime but that would require it being high-temp, which is has been anything but. Oxlade-Chamberlain is helping though and this time he beats Rafael easily and cuts inside to set up Rosicky for a shot from 20 yards that trickles harmlessly wide.
Dear me, that's selfish from Nani. United really should be 1-0 up. A long cross-field ball by Smalling is picked up by the winger and, yet again, Djourou is beaten with ease. Nani trots into the area with Welbeck and Rooney screaming for the cutback but instead he tries to find the far corner and it's it all wrong as it trickles out for a goal kick, some 10 yards away from it's desired target.
Giggs finds an inch of space on the edge of the area but opts to take one more touch before shooting and tries to find Rooney. The ball is bouncing up all over the place before Djourou and Rooney tumble to the ground. The striker is fuming that he hasn't won a penalty but replays show that is was a dive. And a bad dive at that.
United are boasting 68% of possession in the last five minutes. Arsenal are still threatening on the counter.
First shot on target for United and Szczesny gets down quickly and sharply at his near post to deny Nani's instinctive effort from eight yards. However, in the build-up, Djourou was beaten far, far too easily by Evra.
United are definitely growing in confidence as an extended passage of play sees three balls whipped low into the area, by Evra and Nani, in search of Welbeck but Arsenal stay strong.
Wayne Veysey's thoughts: "Goodness, it's quiet here at Emirates Stadium. It's like a pub that has only just opened and is expecting a fairly drowsy afternoon's business. The two teams have been fairly ordinary so far, failing to hold on to the ball for any length of time and lacking any sort of cutting edge, the lively Oxlade-Chamberlain excepted. But then the first half was pretty rubbish at Man City earlier, wasn't it?"
...Giggs takes it and looks for Rooney or Nani but Vermaelen puts enough pressure on the former to put him off. Goal kick.
A big moment now perhaps (the game needs it). Giggs rolls back the years to skips between Koscielny and Vermaelen and win a freekick around 25 yards out in line with the corner of the penalty area...
Best chance of the game for United, arguably their only real chance, as Nani sends a ball over the Arsenal defence to send Welbeck scampering onto it. The bounce of the ball slows his run down and allows Laurent Koscielny to great a foot in just as Welbeck steadies himself to pull the trigger.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has definitely been the brightest spark so far as again he picks up a long cross-field ball on the right and nips into the area, his cutback is met by an off-balance Walcott whose shot is spins a long way wide.
Half a chance of a United break as Mertesacker's header near the halfway line to cut out and send straight back down the right channel for Nani to run onto but it has too much pace on it. A shame as it was, in theory, a great move.
...Nani takes and again questions are raised over Arsenal's defence as both inital clearances are picked up by United for further pressure. Lots of hanging crosses by United, lots of desperate headed clearances by Arsenal. They survive, for now.
This game still hasn't sparked to life but United have another corner...
Here is Mr Veysey again: "It looks like United's defensive crisis has taken another turn for the worse. Phil Jones is being stretchered off after pulling up without even putting a challenge in while Theo Walcott advanced on him down the left wing. There is some sympathy here. The injury looks a serious one, perhaps a tweak of the ligaments."
...United take it quickly and Arsenal at not ready. Giggs sends a searching cross of his own towards Rooney at the back post but Per Mertesacker heads clear.
Corner to United after Nani's searching cross is headed behind by Vermaelen...
...and Rafael comes on in Jones' place.
And it appears Jones' game is over. Replays show he rolled over on his left ankle. Very unfortunate.
Trouble for United now, and it could have been much more. Walcott storms down the right, with Phil Jones tracking him but the United man trips and stays down. Walcott carries on into the area and tries to find Van Persie with a cutback but Smalling clears. Jones is still down and looks in some distress.
Sharp movement from the Arsenal midfield starts a promising looking move before Djourou inexplicably fails to find Oxlade-Chamberlain a mere 10 yards from him and concedes a throw-in instead.
Theo Walcott is the next man to have an optimistic pop at goal as he tries his luck from 25 yards, centre of the pitch, but it sails over. The Englishman hasn't scored at the Emirates for over a year.
Arsenal edging it on chances at the moment with Wojciech Szczesny yet to be tested.
Another half-chance for Arsenal and Robin Van Persie strides forward through the centre and finds Aaron Ramsey with a flick off the outside of his boot. The Welshman turns sharply and has a pop from 25 yards but it has nowhere near enough power on it allowing Lindegaard to, again, easily collect.
...and Oxlade-Chamberlain finds a gap of space on the right flank and whips a ball in but it's too close to Anders Lindegaard, who collects with ease.
As with the earlier game, it's a cagey opening here. Both teams trying to find space in midfield.
Nice bit of passing near Arsenal's penalty area between Nani, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs but the Englishman's return pass is too short for Giggs and Johan Djourou clears.
Here is our man at the Emirates, Wayne Veysey: "Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson had a friendly little chat when they shook hands by the touchline shortly before kick-off. If there were speeh bubbles abover their head, there's a fairly good chance they would have included something about the late drama in Manchester. I could be wrong, of course."
A glimpse of more to come? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shows a great turn of pace and neat skill to skip into the area and try and find Robin Van Persie inside the area but Chris Smalling is in the right place to clear.
It looks like Smalling is playing in the centre of defence for United, with Jones at right-back.
Here we go! Manchester United get us underway!
The teams are in the tunnel. Four, or so, minutes away from KO now.
If all games ended at half-time, United would have been at the top of the table while Arsene Wenger's men would have slipped to sixth in the standings.
Arsenal have managed to keep only one clean sheet in their last six games in the Premier League.
Manchester United have won 17 (drawn 11, lost 11) vs Arsenal in the Premier League.
It's that time for a couple of stats to whet you appetite...
Kick-off is 15 minutes away. Predictions anyone? I am going for a narrow Manchester United victory. 1-0 or 2-1. Boring, I know.
As I'm sure none of you lot have forgotten, the last time these two met Manchester United absolutely humiliated Arsenal 8-2. It must be said that the chances of anything like the same scoreline is more than remote as Arsenal have improved and United have, arguably, declined.
For United, as we exclusively revealed on Friday, Rio Ferdinand has failed a fitness test and misses out altogether.
Two big headlines for Arsenal then. First, the good news. Thomas Vermaelen returns to, hopefully, restore some well needed stability in their defence. The bad news? Thierry Henry is deemed not fit enough to even make the bench. Swings and roundabouts. Andrey Arshavin drops to the bench with youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain given his first start.
Manchester United: Lindegaard; Smalling, Jones, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Nani; Welbeck, Rooney. Subs: De Gea, Rafael, Fabio, Scholes, Park, Berbatov, Hernandez.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Ramsey, Song, Rosicky, Walcott; Oxlade-Chamberlain; Van Persie. Subs: Almunia, Park, Squillaci, Arshavin, Benayoun, Miquel, Yennaris.
So who have Wenger and Ferguson chosen to represent their teams today? Let's find out...
For Arsenal, it is fair to say that a title charge is pretty much out of their reach after two defeats on the bounce but Champions League qualification is still a possibility. They currently lie five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea so, like United, a win today is a must to close the gap on their rivals. A draw would be almost disastrous for either side.
So what does that all mean then? Well, City are now six points clear of United so only a victory here for Sir Alex Ferguson's charges will do.
So, we go straight into this game off the back of a breathless second-half at the Etihad where Manchester City and Spurs shared four goals in 10 minutes before a 95th-minute winning penalty from Mario Balotelli stealed the points for the Premier League's top side.
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE coverage of the HUGE Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United from the Emirates Stadium.
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