Robin van Persie scores the winner against Arsenal for Manchester United at Old Trafford
Manchester United travel to the Emirates to take on Arsenal following disappointing results for both clubs over the weekend. The visitors could only manage a draw against bottom club Fulham, whilst Arsenal were hammered 5-1 by a rampant Arsenal. United have only beaten two teams, as it stands this evening, in the top ten – West Ham, who have risen to tenth following their win over Norwich, and Arsenal – with a Robin van Persie header back in November.
Since that game, United have only won three games in the league at Old Trafford – a shocking statistic. The visitors are without Phil Jones and Jonny Evans, who both picked up injuries in the 2-1 defeat away at Stoke City, whilst Arsenal have Yaya Sanogo available from a long term injury.
We have a great view from the opposition from four Arsenal fans; Chris Lorimer, Wayne Bartlett, Glenn Cooney and Adrian O’Leary. You can follow Chris and Wayne on Twitter @Chris_T_Lorimer and @Wayne_Bartlett_ respectively.
1) What happened at Anfield on Saturday? A dominant Liverpool performance or a below standard Arsenal one?
AOL:It was a bit of both. Liverpool are set up to score with devastating pace on the wings and two world class strikers up top they are very difficult to contain and of late Arsenal seem very one paced and find it difficult to adapt in high tempo games like against Liverpool, Everton and Southampton.
WB:What happened? We got demolished, that’s what happened! On the day Liverpool were very good, Arsenal were very poor, and the score-line reflected that. The lack of urgency from the Arsenal players did worry me though. When City put 6 past us in December we had Chelsea in our next game and kept a clean sheet so I’m hoping we can recover like that again against United.
CL:Obviously both. I saw a tweet by @feverpitch which summed it up well for me “On a scale of Santos to Gervinho how Silvestre were we on Saturday?”
Basic errors and general bad defending led to the first couple of goals. Because those goals occurred so early in the game it seemed to leave the players completely stunned. We weren’t able to react in the right way. Liverpool played at an intensity that we couldn’t match. We barely made a tackle in the midfield area within the first half. We couldn’t string a pass together. We just weren’t in the game at all in the first half.
I’m really not sure what Wenger was going on about when he mentioned this game and the Man City game both having 12.45 kick offs. Some of the players certainly seemed half asleep during the beginning of the game.
I never like to be too negative as a supporter though. Overall, you can hardly fault our season but the game in isolation had few positives to offer. At least some of the players showed some real fight in the second half and our supporters out sang the Liverpool fans for large parts of the game. The Kop is overrated isn’t United fans?
The players comments after the game all showed a real determination to make amends for the defeat. The first step of the “””make or break””” run is over and if we get a couple of good results this week the Liverpool game will soon be forgotten and the “””Arsenal annual spring collapse””” can be relabelled to some other tosh next time we get a bad result.
GC: Superb attacking display from Liverpool. They has the pace and verve about then going forward that used to be the hallmark of Arsenal teams in the 2000’s. Arsenal look one paced and due to an over reliance on Giroud – ostensibly a target man – we can be quite predictable
2) What have you made of Arsenal so far this season? Can you win the league?
AOL:It’s been a fantastic season for Arsenal beating the scum (Tottenham) earlier on in the league and more recently in the FA Cup has been fantastic especially after all the spending at the lane during the summer and we have plenty to be positive about as we are in good position in all competitions bar the coco pops cup.
WB: I think we’ve had a good season so far. With the league though it’s a situation Arsenal fans have become accustomed to. Optimism followed by a resigning to the inevitable. We’ve done fantastic to stay top for so long but it’s like watching the 10,000 metres at the Olympics and Arsenal are the front-runner. You just know one of the pack are going to kick on late in the race and overtake them. This January transfer window will have to go down as a massive missed opportunity. This was our chance to kick on.
CL: We have been remarkably consistent all season. It’s been so good to see an Arsenal team play with more maturity and determination. The atmosphere in some of the home games has been absolutely brilliant as well. There is a good feeling at the club again.
We have a really solid spine, it has taken a couple of years for the players to gel and we we are seeing that happen this season. Until we picked up a few injuries we actually looked to have an incredible midfield selection headache on our hands.
We can definitely win the league. We have not played exceptionally for a while though. We seemed to have found a way to ground out results in an efficient manner. Isn’t that what United did for years though?! Win even when you were playing badly, “the hallmark of champions”.
There was some memorable performances earlier in the season. The Borussia Dortmund away game was the best we have played in years. We also gave Spurs a thoroughly enjoyable whopping only a few weeks back.
Southampton absolutely battered us in the first half a couple of weeks and Liverpool did the same to us a few days ago. It’s a pattern that I am sure Professor Wenger will sort out. Will United be bold and come at us straight out of the blocks?
I think the league will go to the wire. Arsenal, City and the little horse Chelsea will all drop points. Chelsea are the form team at the moment but I am sure we will find form again.
GC: Generally a strong season so far built largely on a decent four and a maturing goalkeeper. Lack of cover in key positions both full back, centre back and centre forward will likely prevent us from winning the league.
3) With Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Arsene Wenger is now the longest serving manager in England. Is he still the right man to take Arsenal forward?
AOL: Yes. Wenger is the man to take arsenal forward and I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves when you look at where Arsenal have come from. Brenden Rogers gets credit for building his team at Liverpool but Arsene has been building the the whole club since he arrived on and off the field. We now boast one of the best stadiums in the country and have a very solid financial base to really become the top side in the country and all this has happened quietly in the background as we continue to produce decent football on the pitch.
WB: Personally, absolutely. I’m proud to be a fan of a club that doesn’t bin their manager because we haven’t won anything in a few years. Let alone bin a man who has made transformed Arsenal into what it is today. It’s no coincidence we haven’t won anything since we moved to our new stadium. Now the payments are less of an issue Wenger paid big money for Ozil and hopefully he’ll build on that in the summer.
CL: Without a doubt.
GC: Regretfully I would say no. His stubbornness, lack of tactical flexibility and risk-averse approach in the transfer market have – and will continue to – undermine his chances of winning trophies.
4) Mesut Ozil seems to have gone off the boil of late. Is there any reason for this and are there any other players below par at present?
AOL:Ozil has been looking tired of late but I think everyone is to quick to criticise simply because of his price tag. Ozil is definitely no Erik lamela! He has shown quality and a slight drop in form will happen at some stage in the season. Having Ramsey back as soon as possible will help rotation and resting players in the squad.
WB: I don’t think Ozil has hit top form since he’s been at Arsenal. He’s shown flashes of his world class, but he is not a player who will take a game by the scruff of the neck. More the player who will kill you with a moment of genius.
Considering other players below par, I just think we are at that familiar stage of the Arsenal season. Injuries to key players heaping responsibility onto the few available and hoping the wheels don’t fall off by the time they are back.
CL: Ozil had a poor game on Saturday but so did the whole team. He is struggling for his best form recently but he is playing in a new team in a new country. I have heard some people say that without a speedy player (i.e not Giroud) to run onto his slick passes then we won’t get the best out of him. I don’t buy that, he will find his place in the team and with his class and experience we will soon see him back to form very soon.
We have become such a solid unit this season and so much of that come from our defensive unity. I feel like Schezny has gone up a level this season as well, he has matured. Mertaskcer has become the leader on the pitch and basically tells everyone where to stand. Per and Laurent Koshcelny have formed a really impressive partnership, they compliment each other so well.
Players below par? I don’t know why Monreal has been picked ahead of Gibbs, when our back up full backs player I do get a little nervous. Gibbs is a much better player than Monreal. Arteta has not been at his best but Wilshere seems to be getting his form back.
GC: I think he was subbed in about 80% of his games at Madrid and he looks like he is struggling physically. He is a superb technician but his body language and lack of character in big matches is worrying.
Generally we have been pretty solid, however, it does feel like Arteta is in decline and, in my opinion, Monreal is not good enough.
5) What have you made of Manchester United this season? Can United still finish top four?
AOL: Man United have been struggling this season not helped by the injuries to Rooney and van Persie but as far as I can see you do not have enough quality in midfield and defence. Personally I would have got rid of both Da Silvas and Cleverley, who is a very average player and has been a problem in the middle but with new signing Mata in, you could push for a place (4th spot).
WB: I could just write ‘shite’ and everyone, even begrudgingly, would probably nod their heads in admittance. There’s many variables surrounding the situation United are in but it would have been hard to envisage what’s going on at the moment. The Fulham game just gone is another example. The way things are going I can’t see them finishing top four, and for a club like United that is unthinkable.
CL: You beat us at Old Trafford did’t you? What happened to that United? You have been very inconsistent. I haven’t watched every United game so don’t claim to be an expert on whats happening in games. I know there has been some bad mistakes by players in games. Some of the games I have seen you play, you certainly seemed to lack some creativity in midfield. The last United game I watched against Chelsea, they looked like they they were able to pick you off at will. When you look at Arsenal, Chelsea and City’s front sixes, they seem to play so fluidly. United seem a little rigid in comparison.
I might be biased but I think it will be between you and Liverpool for forth place. Spurs seem to have scraped by recently. You are only nine points behind Liverpool and you have them at home in a month. If you can find some form I don’t see why you can’t catch them.
GC: Pretty surprising. The aura of Fergie has departed and to an extent the fear factor from opposition teams and refs!
6) David Moyes is under a ridiculous amount of scrutiny at present. Will he still be in charge at the end of the season?
AOL:Moyes will still be in charge at the end of the season
WB:Stepping into the shoes of Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to place Moyes under extreme scrutiny so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Given the great history of the club, Moyes will still be there at the end of the season. Whether he’s there at the end of next season is another matter.
CL: Stability normally works best at most clubs but this United team surely needs to show signs that team is moving in the right direction? Maybe he is out of his depth? Everton played a very direct style and they never won a dime (yes, we haven’t won anything for 8 years!).
GC: Yes, he needs to be given time. I am astonished that Man United one of the biggest clubs in the world chose a manager with such little pedigree or success.
7) Many fans think, even under Fergie, United need a big clear out. What players do you think are surplus to requirements from what you’ve seen?
AOL: Cleverley; loan him to Watford. Rafael; sell to Cardiff. Vidic, Ferdinand and Giggs; out em! Jones, Fellaini; need to do more.
WB: You already have Vidic leaving at the end of the season; I’d say Evra and Ferdinand to follow him as an end to the old guard. Cleverley is a good player, I’m just not sure what he is good at, he is one that would make way as well.
It will be interesting to see whom Moyes does bring in. If he spent £27.5m on Marouane Fellaini anything could happen.
CL: Were united fans saying that? Even after winning the league by 11 points.
You have some unbelievable attacking talent; Januzaj, Rooney, van Persie, Mata, Welbeck. You have lots of normally steady Eddie players who seem to be in and out of form like who Evans, Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Evra.
It seems a lot of the players have gone past their peak and some of the younger players have just not improved for a couple of years.
Giggs and Ferdinand will probably retire. Vidić is going. Hernández could surely go? Kagawa seems unhappy. So you need to buy another few players to replace them.
Is Ashley Young good enough for United? Why has Nani not matured more as a player?
What will you do with Fellaini? He’s big, maybe he can go in goal?
I know I have answered a question with lots of questions but I guess that says a lot.
GC: Two years ago I could hardly think of an Arsenal player who would get in the Man United team. Now, outside of Rooney and RVP I am not sure I would pick any United player in the current Arsenal first team.
8) What is your most memorable Arsenal vs. Manchester United match?
AOL:FA Cup Final 2005. Loving it still! Vieira wooooooaaaoooooh….
WB: There are two. The first was watching from the East Stand at Highbury as Thierry Henry flicked the ball up, turned and walloped it over Fabien Barthez.
The second was watching Ryan Giggs, on TV, waltz through the Arsenal defence and smash the ball past David Seaman to put us out of the Cup. Painful admiration. Still the best goal I’ve ever seen.
CL:There were so many gripping games in the Viera – Keane days, all of the games between Arsenal and Man U back then seemed to have a real exciting edge to them. Maybe with Van Badger jumping ship, some of that rivalry and intensity has come back.
The most memorable games – there are five which are very lucid in my mind. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good three to one! I will start with three that were memorable for the wrong reasons.
Firstly, Manchester United 2 Arsenal 1 aet, FA Cup semi-final replay, 1999. Everyone knows what happened, Schmeichel saved a Bergkamap penalty, Vieria gave a bad ball away and Giggs danced his way through the defence. “Why didn’t someone just just kick him” as Roy Keane so delicately put in the recent “Keane and Vieira – Best of Enemies” documentary. Here here!
I read Dennis Bergkamp’s book recently and there are a few pages dedicated to how the penalty affected Bergkamp and how the result of that game potentially influenced the league that year and other years, Bergkamp did not agree with this theory though!
Secondly, Manchester United 2 Arsenal 0, 2004. The end of the 49 game unbeaten run. Fergie getting a pizza in the chops, if only there was picture of that.
Thirdly, Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2, 2011. Horrible. I looked at the teams that day. Makes quite interesting reading when you compare the current line ups. United have a lot of the same players.
Szczesny, Koscielny, Djourou, Jenkinson, Traore, Rosicky, Walcott, Ramsey, Arshavin, Coquelin, Dutch bloke, Van Pr***. A young Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench
De Gea, Evra, Jones, Evans, Smalling, Anderson, Nani, Young, Cleverley, Rooney, Welbeck. A very strong bench of Ferdinand, Giggs, Park Ji-sung, Berbatov and Hernandez.
Manchester United 0 Arsenal 1, 2002. Sealing the double at Old Trafford was almost as good as it gets
Manchester United 0 Arsenal 0, 5-4 to Arsenal on penalties, 2005. You absolutely battered us. I was a student in Manchester, I had to make a sharp exit from the pub after the game. The United fans felt robbed.
GC: FA cup final 1979 whew Arsenal won 3-2 in the last minute
9) Best player you’ve ever seen play; one from Arsenal one from United and one from traveling opposition to Highbury or The Emirates.
AOL: Henry. Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney at Everton
WB:Best Arsenal player, Dennis Bergkamp. I didn’t know footballers could be as good as him until owning a season ticket at Arsenal and watching him week in week out. The technique of the man was incredible.
Best United player is Paul Scholes but the best United player I’ve seen play live is Cristiano Ronaldo. Speed, strength, skill, towards the end with United we just couldn’t stop him.
Best travelling player, Zinedine Zidane. He didn’t have the biggest game in the Champions League return leg at Highbury but you knew you were witnessing a special player. Sheer class.
CL: Thierry Henry. Ronaldo. Messi.
GC: Henry x 2, Cantona
10) Have you a prediction ahead of the game and how will Arsenal lineup.
2-1 Arsenal (Giroud, Cazorla and van Persie)
WB: I can’t see wholesale changes from the side we put out at Liverpool purely because of injuries and suspension. Gibbs in for Monreal is a must, maybe Rosicky to start. A prediction. 2-1 Arsenal.
I am sure it will be tight. I wouldn’t be surprised if we dominate possession and territory early on. We are bound to start this game with a lot more intensity than we have in other games given what happened against Liverpool.
I just hope Rosicky starts, when he plays we seem to move the ball a lot quicker and press better defensively
A Per Giraffe like header in the 89th minute for a 1-0 win.
GC: A woeful, fraught and low quality 0-0. Szczęsny, Sagna, Gibbs, Mertersacker, Koscielny, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ox, Ozil, Giroud.