Arsenal 2 – 0 Manchester United
Arsenal hauled themselves back to the periphery of the top four with a very welcome three points over Manchester United. Despite the match losing some of its’ needle factor, there is something wholly satisfying in beating them.
A Lampard-esque goal from Granit Xhaka and a thumping header from Danny Welbeck put paid to Mourinho’s hex over Arsène and very briefly, he succeeded where no-one connected with Arsenal can: unifying the fanbase. A lusty rendition of “F*** off, Mourinho”, left the Miserable One in no doubt as to what he should do. With bells on.
What really matters is that it was our best performance in the Premier League since the 5 – 1 win at West Ham last December. Admittedly, it’s been a low bar since then…
We were helped by Mourinho’s usual defensive dullness. United sat deep and invited us to have the ball, hoping to launch a succession of counter-attacks. The early promise of Anthony Martial faded quickly. Aside from capitalising on Rob Holdings unfortunate error, he offered little threat. Wayne Rooney continues to be the journeyman boxer, not knowing when to give up and taking punch after punch.
With Liverpool’s determination to implode in a very Spursy way, the prospect of Arsène achieving a top four finish cannot be dismissed. Three games in hand but ten points behind; we play twice before they face West Ham. No doubt we will make an absolute hash of next weekend’s trip to Stoke to end any debate in that sense. Wenger’s benchmark for success is within reach. Those are for discussion another day; for now, we enjoy the win over a former rival.
Here, There and Everywhere
Aaron Ramsey picked up the Man of the Match, debatable because it ignored Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain revelling in his new lease of life at wing back. Not to say Ramsey didn’t play well; he did, in probably his best performance this season. The understanding between he and Granit Xhaka improves on a game-by-game basis with the Swiss providing the usual harum-scarum lunge along the way. Surprisingly, he didn’t get booked when he might, with an uncharacteristic show of common sense by the referee.
And when his calf twanged, Francis Coquelin arrived. His star has fallen among supporters since his arrival into the first team. His star also fell to earth yesterday as well.
That is an internet sensation waiting to happen.
Arsène put the victory down to patience and not chasing victory. A giant slice of luck helped. Xhaka’s shot was probably going nowhere but a looping deflection took it over De Gea. No wonder he was inclined to shoot from distance after that. Two minutes later, Holding dispossessed Martial with Ox delivering a cross which begged to buried in the back of the net; Danny Welbeck obliged. Wenger admitted picking Welbeck on his record against Manchester United, which is a polite way of saying he dropped Olivier Giroud. He has an equally good record – probably better – against the Mancunians, but his recent form has been dismal.
I Don’t Wanna Spoil the Party
Arsenal had the better chances, or at least made De Gea work harder than Petr Cech. Ox forced the Spaniard into action with his take on a ‘Lampard’ while Ramsey drew a good save after Alexis put the Welshman through. The infuriating Chilean was his usual bundle of energy mixed with casual loss of possession. The problem for his detractors – and it’s become something of an ‘Arsenal sport’ to do so – is that he is the livewire striker without which many of our attacks would flounder. I prefer him on the flank because centrally, he drops deep to get the ball and no-one fills his gap further up the pitch.
We visit Southampton on Wednesday and Arsène was right not to dismiss the importance of the game. The top four is important to him but to supporters, the FA Cup is surely ranked higher? The two aren’t mutually exclusive, despite the manager’s previous protestations and actions. For the moment, the Cup is on the backburner, looming in three weeks time. Before then, two away games at grounds where we have traditionally fared badly, lay ahead.
Mourinho continued to play games with the press. Wenger is a “big manager” who “puts too much pressure on the Fourth Official”. Because Jose sits quietly all game. There’s something he and Arsène have in common; both are extremely bad losers. Arsène’s just had more practice at it.
And that puts a little spring into everyone’s step.
PS: Oh, and for those wondering about yesterday’s playlist. It will be arriving today, here; technical hitch *coughs*.