After Saturday’s 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool, Arsenal fans cannot be blamed for feeling that the defeat spelled disaster and meant that the team could almost definitely not win the title. I was particularly pessimistic about our near future and concluded that anything but a win on Wednesday night would be the proverbial nail in this season’s coffin. As it was, we only managed a goalless draw against a Manchester United side who are 7th in the table and trail us by 14 points. I was frustrated of course but after the dust settled and I gathered my thoughts, the positives were clear for me to see.
0-0 implies that the game was boring with little goalmouth action, but that wasn’t what happened. Arsenal had numerous chances with a few falling to Giroud but as has been the case more often than not lately, we couldn’t dispatch any of them. The combination of Rooney, van Persia and Mata threatened on the counter attack but nothing materialised, apart from when the former Gunner had a powerful header impressively kept out by Szczesny. Statistics wise, Arsene Wenger’s men dominated with 57% possession and 17 shots to United’s 6. However, the home side only managed 5 of those on target, which says a lot.
The main positive was that we kept a clean sheet. The last time we got torn apart away from home (6-3 by Manchester City in December), we followed it up with a stalemate and then went on a winning streak so there’s definitely light at the end of this tunnel. The back four of Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Sagna were re-united in the week. They all play brilliant together and definitely look stronger. I’m not using this as an excuse for the Liverpool debacle but our defence, including Szczesny, definitely are tougher to score against if all of the aforementioned players start. Monreal, Vermaelen and Jenkinson are OK but not a patch on the first team defenders in my opinion.
Another reason not to despair is that the league is so tight and eventhough we’ve had a bad run of form, Arsenal are still 2nd; only a point off Chelsea at the top. Other teams ineptitude plus the British weather has left us in a good position so I’m optimistic, at least for the time being. Anyway, there’s a bit of respite from the title race in the form of two cup matches, both at the Emirates. Sunday is an opportunity to get revenge on Liverpool in the FA Cup before European Champions Bayern Munich come to town on Wednesday for the first leg of our Champions League round of 16 clash. Let’s just hope we get our mojo back in both matches and I’m still upbeat next week.
By Glen Shorey