United Review: A Missed Opportunity

Manchester United 1 – 1 Arsenal

Given our record at Old Trafford, a point is a good outcome. This, however, feels like a glorious opportunity missed.

The quality of football on offer was poor given the players on show. As teams, United are distinctly average and we weren’t any better.

Conditions didn’t help but that’s a pitiful excuse. We went to Old Trafford determined not to lose. A win, if it could be nicked, was fine and dandy but a point sufficed.

In the cold light of day, it took us to fourth place and kept us in the mix for Champions League football come the end of the season. But it was painful viewing.

Emery picked an adventurous XI; two wingers in a forward line containing plenty of pace? Surely we were going there to attack. Instead, we contained, barely troubling De Gea in the opening 45 minutes.

A lacklustre United did the same to Leno until McTominay fired home from the edge of the area. Granit Xhaka was set to head the ball wide when Sokratis slid in, more mindful of conceding a freekick through handball than blocking the shot. The deflection off his leg took the ball away from Xhaka to give the impression the Swiss ducked.

I’m far from Xhaka’s biggest fan but in this instance, he is being wrongly maligned. It’s not as if you have to look far for things to criticise him about, is it?

The most laughable aspect is that McTominay was only in the position to score because he was baulked in the counter-attack. Had he not eaten turf, he would have been further forward. One of football’s little ironies.

It was a rare moment of quality in forty-five minutes of drudgery.

Right Man, Wrong Time

It took twelve minutes to equalise plus another one to overturn the ludicrous offside decision by the assistant.

Auabmeyang was played onside by around six feet (!) as the lino was looking away and missed the defender three feet in front of him keeping Auba onside.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a man looking hopelessly out of his depth, bitterly complained the referee blew his whistle before the ball entered the net. It’s so pitiful that “You’re getting sacked in the morning” seems unnecessarily cruel.

Not that Emery is on much more secure ground.

Beyond Saka’s effort shortly effort, deflected for a corner, we created very little which is all the more disappointing given how poor United were.

Saka was a rare bright spot in the evening. A strong sense of purpose in everything he did underpinned his play as he gave Ashley Young a thoughtful evening. Defensively, Saka worked hard and gave Kolasinac the support he needed.

On the right, Chambers was set for a torrid evening with James. An early booking put him on the back foot but intelligently, the Arsenal man didn’t get involved in foot races with the Welshman.

However, Matteo Guendouzi was the star turn. A busy evening, working hard to close United down as well as supporting the attack. Not only that, he left his infuriating habit of hitting the turf all too easily in London.

I suggest making the most of Lucas Torreira. Unai Emery is intent on pushing him out of Arsenal. Once again, the best defensive midfielder at the club found his talents wasted. Pushed further forward, the Uruguayan was replaced by Dani Ceballos in the second half.

A more adventurous player, he failed to improve the impoverished nature of our set-pieces. They were simply abysmal all night.

No Ambition

The match was vexing in so many areas, not least the tactics and nature of our performance. Neither of the latter bodes well for the future. There’s no sense of progress from two seasons ago with turgid displays such as this.

We lack vitality and are treading water. Emery might argue we’re taking it steady, getting ourselves back together after Anfield and Watford. I keep having to remind myself that we didn’t lose the latter; that’s how bad the capitulation felt.

Nonetheless, I wonder if those two results and conceding twice against Villa scarred the coach. His philosophy isn’t taking hold at the club, whatever it is.

At the moment, Emery is getting results – we’ve still only lost one match this season – but his football is, at best, mundane and not winning friends. There is a balance between results and entertainment, however, and we’re not getting that anywhere near right.

If this continues, not even a top-four finish may be enough for him to see out the final year of his contract.

‘til Tomorrow.

40 thoughts on “United Review: A Missed Opportunity

  1. Ferkov says:

    Thanks YW. I was just passing by! I did see JG sat outside tho. Well dodge.
    A few nails well struck.
    Xhaka ,I thought had his best game of the season. Not great, and still not imposing enough to warrant the anchor role or the armband, but distributed well, except That free kick, and was quicker to play the ball on the press than we’ve come to fear.
    Agree with his non duck. Can’t blame him for shutting his eyes at that moment.
    As industrious and troublesome Shaka was, Pepe was the mirror. Where did he go? Just didn’t have the creative/destructive instinct I expect from him. He can’t stand the rain?.Lalalala. Better get him oilskinned up, or he’s gonna have a miserable time playing second fiddle to …. many others.

  2. Bufallo says:

    Emery is scraping results, not getting them i’d argue. Hopefully we can make the most of our luck to be in 4th and push on. But we dont look on the cusp of much atm. New signings have not bedded at all. Players look like they don’t know what they’re doing. Passive mentality to our play. Bizarre selections. Poor selection of captain, who immediately repays that poor decision. More of that to pay off yet for sure. Concerns me that Pepe looks so all at sea, what is Emery doing with him ? Auba wont score evey game to get us out of jail. He doesn’t look very nurtured or loved but that doesn’t seem to be Emerys style at all. He’s not much of a personal motivator by the looks of things. It’s a C- for Emery this season so far. If he gets top four think the top brass will give him a new contract, never mind sack him. That is the ceiling of the clubs ambition

  3. Bufallo says:

    Tony Adams would have taken that full in the face. Just been appointed captain, bottled it. And picked up yet another yellow. No discipline and he wont come good.

  4. Ferkov says:

    Bufallo,

    I actually think he thought he was going to. But Papa deflected it. Not sure even Tony stared the ball down as it flew at him.

  5. freddo says:

    I think pushing Torriera forward was a very good idea. He was obviously sent forward into the AM slot to keep tabs on Pogba and give the press some bite. That way, we wouldn’t drop back too far like we did against liverpool. Maureen used to do something similar at RM when he put Pepe in midfield against Barcelona.
    Torriera’s job was basically defensive (though much further forward than usual). The big problem was that when Man U got in behind us we did not have a mobile DM to clean up in front of the back four.

  6. Papa Bear says:

    What the heck Dick Emery sees in Xhaka? Do they always go do karaoke together as a couple or BFF or what? What a waste of money it would be if this Pepe gonna be another Gervinho, too expensive flop. Should’ve spent the 72m towards an expensive quality CB that we craved for a decade. Soyuncu (CB) and Ndidi (DM) from Leicester turned out to be a shrewd acquisition for them and we missed that chance to find those gems.

    The problem with Emery is that he seems to have lost something and has withdrawn a bit this season. It was obvious against Liverpool where he set up in a very negative way and also against Watford where we seemed to stop playing after the second goal, where were the half time substitutions? The bold tactics? I am not expecting anything from this Man Utd match because Emery is like a man who is too scared to dare or becoming a coward.

    We would probably see a lineup like what we witnessed against Liverpool and that will be a shame because Man Utd is there for the taking if only our coach is bold enough. At Old Trafford last night it’s not about where we played but rather the team we played. United are the worst I have ever seen in terms of their players and today they were even worse than usual due to who was missing. Rashford and Pogba were not fit and were rushed back to play and Lingard hasn’t scored or assisted a single goal in over six months.

    They had a winger at right back, a rookie CB at left and Perreira who is a holding midfielder as a winger, they didn’t even have a striker in the starting 11 and drew with Rochdale and lost comfortably to West Ham last week. They were missing Bailly, Wan Bassaka, Shaw, Martial, Jones, Dalot ect, ect and on top of this had Pogba and Rashford who shouldn’t have even been playing. Watch the game back without looking at the result and see our style of play and quality of play it was a disgrace we couldn’t even make 4 or 5 passes in a row and should of conceded another penalty. Surely that awful turgid display is enough to convince most fans that Dick Emery simply isn’t the man for the job? We are talking about a team that is now largely Emery recruited particularly in midfield and yet we are seeing a whole team held together by one striker (ironically not Emery recruited – Aubameyang). This is not the Emery we had last season, something has changed in him, last season Pepe would have been off at half time. The emotions of Arsenal supporters and that you can’t find supporters that absorbs, adsorps, condones, reconcile and eventually fall in deep love again with their club the way Arsenal fans does just to be heartbroken again and put through the same cycle over and over again (back to Wenger’s last 10 years again that we want to put behind us).

    We just want the new head coach to convince the supporters and see the club play with passion, aggressively and not so many handbrakes and not been PRAGMATIC at every opportunity he has to be so negative even so scared with Watford and Aston Villa, WTF? If it wasn’t an act of cowardice, I don’t know what else. It’s clear Emery has no clue about what his best Eleven is, his best formation tactics yet or organising a solid defence and midfield, so utterly out of his depth Xhaka is, about the fast paced Premier League intensity, and so it’s fair to say that Emery only have 2 years to get Arsenal to CL again and if he failed we should give the chance to another coach, to me I wouldn’t mind we take a shot with Freddie L, or Nagelsman.

  7. Pete the Thirst says:

    He’s just not a very good player is he?

    Bufallo:
    Just been appointed captain, bottled it.And picked up yet another yellow.No discipline and he wont come good.

  8. Stu says:

    Papa Bear, you have said almost everything I was thinking…. albeit I have distilled your reply significantly.

    Papa Bear:
    What the heck (does) Emery sees in Xhaka?

    What a waste of money it would be if Pepe gonna be another expensive flop. Should’ve spent the 72m towards an expensive quality CB that we craved for a decade.

    Emery ….. seems to have lost something and has withdrawn a bit this season.

    United are the worst I have ever seen in terms of their players and today they were even worse than usual due to who was missing.

    Surely that awful turgid display is enough to convince most fans that Emery simply isn’t the man for the job?

    We just want the head coach to convince the supporters and see the club play with passion, aggressively and not so many handbrakes.

    I wouldn’t mind we take a shot with Freddie L or Nagelsman.

    I was excited about this match. As I genuinely thought we could snatch a scruffy, long overdue away win at OT, but we simply didn’t give it a good go. I don’t like picking on players, but we simply don’t look up for a match with Xhaka in the team – he isn’t a EPL player. A midfield of Guendouzi (should be the captain), Torreira and Willock/Ceballos looks the most dynamic set up to me. The energy Guendouzi and Willock bring ignites other players….. Pepe, Saka, Kola and Chambers.

    And when you don’t even take Ozil to a game like this, you know you should cut your losses and show him the door.

  9. Ferkov says:

    Papa Bear,

    It is baffling. He sets up like he expects us to be overrun in midfield, yet persists with the main cause .
    I hope he’s expecting The three wounded defenders to come and balance the books. Once they are back , if he’s got any metal , we’ll maybe see how he wants us to Control games. With pace ,purpose, and balanced defence of our flanks maybe the midfield will function. At the moment they do seem all at Sea.
    Miraculously, we are still 4th, but we have to start being frightening rather than running scared. It’s embarrassing and not good for the heart, or soul.

  10. Ferkov says:

    Pete the Thirst,

    He’s not totally rubbish, BUT, he’s not as good CDM as Chambers or Terrier , not as good as Willock or Doozie, as box to box, not as good as Willock, Ceballos or Ozil as 8/10. How the fuck is he Captain?

  11. Pete the Thrist says:

    I’m not so distraught at the draw. OT is a tricky place to get a result. I remember going there in 89 as Champions and we got battered 4-1 by an average United side.

    There are definitely questions to be asked about the formation and certain players. Torreira should be playing DM. Without him there teams just walk through our middle. Xhaka & Luiz can’t defend and gave away stupid free kicks again last night.

    Good performances from Guendouzi, Saka, Leno and PEA. Where would we be without his goals?

    Surely the team would be more robust with another body in midfield rather than two wingers that don’t track back much.

  12. Pete the Thirst says:

    Not totally…but then neither was David Hillier or that Korean lad (Kim Il Sung?)

    The sad thing is he’s not fit to lace Giles Grimandi’s boots and he was a bit part player. Xhaka is captain!

    Ferkov:
    Pete the Thirst,

    He’s not totally rubbish, BUT, he’s not as good CDM as Chambers or Terrier , not as good as Willock or Doozie, as box to box, not as good as Willock, Ceballos or Ozil as 8/10. How the fuck is he Captain?

  13. Bufallo says:

    Nice post Papa bear.
    The great run last season is cushioning him at the moment but unless he can
    shows signs of a repeat this year we wont finish fourth and he ought to be out of a job.
    Same problems here as he was having at PSG …… too cautious, same feeling he doesn’t have the dressing room listening all ears, making a tactical meal of things etc. Emery doesn’t seem to be learning from job to job or season to season.

  14. C says:

    For as shit as we’ve played, we sit 4th. Maybe just the optimist in me but with Lacazette, Bellerin, Tierney and Holding coming back, things could be on the up. The thing that Emery must do though is sort out the midfield. Torriera/Guendouzi/Ceballos could certainly help us push forward.

  15. JonJon says:

    emerys setting us up to knick wins.
    it doesnt matter who we play against home or away, we allow them to dictate the tempo of the game, take the midfield and come at us.

    its deliberate and its shite…leading to shite performances – 15 + shots against us every game by teams who have zero confidence and half the ability and we make it hard for ourselves.

    thank fuck for PEA. keeping us in games.

    hes the striker wenger needed in the era of the midfield midget.

    saying all that – if it were the wenger years and if we’d have had our first choice wb’s out, as well as our most solid cb and one of our best strikers missing after 7 games in with spurs , pool and utd out of the way and we sat 4th at the end of it all it would have been acceptable. judge him in may.

    difficult decision for the board – emerys not wenger and its obvious we were in for a rebuild and nothing was going to happen overnight – getting us back into the top 4, rebuilding the culture of the club and rebuilding the squad was always the first steps – but emerys showing no signs of being the right man for the job.

    we cant defend and we cant attack and we give up the midfield on purpose. our tactics seem being focused on the other team being shit – its worse than the end of wengers reign

    theres nothing wrong with winning ugly and setting up to catch teams on the break – but for fuck sake – every game – for 90minutes.

    nah – i had high hopes for emery last season when we went unbeaten for 20 games. the end of season collapse left me with reservations about him, though, i wasnt convinced he should have been given another season.

    now its his team, his squad – and im even less convinced, dont think he should see out this season to be fair but im willing to see what happens when the wb’s laca and holding are back.

    if we get to xmas and its the same shite then he has to go.

  16. G4E says:

    I think those should be numbered:

    United Review: A Missed Opportunity #1
    United Review: A Missed Opportunity #2
    United Review: A Missed Opportunity #3

    Etc., Etc.,

    Didn’t watch the game due to work, have it taped but not sure if I will even watch it based on reports it sucked, so no need to waste the time as we are wasteful with “Missed Opportunities”.

    I think Emery has just signed his first name in the History books, just a matter of months before he signs his last name and be done with it.

  17. Bufallo says:

    in a nutshell “since the start of 2019 his substitutes have scored four goals and provided one assist in 24 games. Only one of those has directly impacted the result. After Monday’s draw at Old Trafford, Emery’s 45-game Arsenal reign has brought 82 points – just one more than Wenger managed in his final 45 matches. Emery’s Arsenal have scored fewer goals and conceded more than Wenger’s.”

  18. consolsbob says:

    It’s not the lack of entertainment, YW.

    I don’t have any objection to cold, calculated pragmatism that leaves the opposition crying.

    This is worse. This is a fatalistic approach to the game. Emery is scared and therefore we will not play to out strengths. A terrible attitude.

    Stoke fans would be disappointed because he would fuck up a gameplan that Pulis perfected as he doesn’t know how to coach.

    He is wasting the talents of good players. Why would they stay at the club? This could be his dangerous legacy if he stumbles into a new contract. Out best players will leave. They will not be able to bail him out and we will bomb spectacularly.

    That is the concern.

  19. Blue Yonder says:

    At the time of hiring, Emery stated Arsenal would continue to play attractive, attacking football with a forward press.
    This did happen a few times last season but mostly (and especially this season) he has mainly been trying “not to lose”. With the potential that this club has, it’s inexcusable.
    He is being carried by Aubameyang and, if he were to go down, Emery would be sunk. He is rolling the dice with player selection and strategy and this will cost him.
    Trying not to lose will not win many games but it can get him fired.
    Did he simply sell Arsenal a bill of goods?

  20. C says:

    Gnabry is destroying Spuds. Haha, Pulis said he isn’t a PL quality player 🤣🤣

  21. andy1886 says:

    Spurs 2 – 7 down, Gnabry has four. Nice!

  22. C says:

    andy1886,

    Gnabry was superb, just building on his Player of the Season from last year.

    Given our departed youth some of them are coming good in more recent times in the likes of Gnabry, Malen, Bennacer, Adelaide just to name a few. Its good to see kids being able to find their feet and take that next step and flourish.

  23. Dukey says:

    Is there anything those spurs won’t copy from us. Now European batterings .

  24. Las says:

    @Ferkov

    Ferkov:
    Papa Bear,

    ….. we’ll maybe see how he wants us to Control games…

    I think this is the problem, Emery has a small-team mentality. He not even dreaming about controlling games. He is always worried about what could happen and he is just happy seeing out matches. If the team is scared of Watford (WTF?!?!?! We are Arsenal!) it must come from Emery. I don’t think that Torreira or Kolasinac could be scared of anything, anyway.

  25. Ras says:

    It’s funny game football. Serge returns to North London. Triumphant resplendent in his demolition of the Spuds.

    If only? We can but dream. It’s a funny old Game.

    He’s exactly what This Arsenal team needs. Pace, physicality, precision and consistant performance. I’d take him any day over a number of the current Arsenal players.

  26. Blue Yonder says:

    Ras,

    Ras:

    He’s exactly what This Arsenal team needs. Pace, physicality, precision and consistant performance. I’d take him any day over a number of the current Arsenal players.

    I wonder how many current Gunners might thrive elsewhere. Not much doubt about Torreria and Guendozi, of course.

  27. Papa Bear says:

    With this Emery’s slump, at least spuds 2-7 drubbing last night will cheer me up a lil bit.

  28. nicky says:

    Re Torreira “Emery is intent on pushing him out of Arsenal”
    What evidence is there of this, YW?

  29. andy1886 says:

    Gnabry had an additional little dig at Spurs tweeting: “North London is RED!!!”. Love it.

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