What a match it turned out to be. Once again we showed that if we show up, we are more than a match for the best sides in the world. Chelsea, Barcelona and now Manchester United have been sent packing by our Arsenal. If anything, the result only showed the quality of the team and that we are capable of challenging for titles. Read what you may from the fact that the side we put out yesterday was the youngest average in the league history.
Prior to the start of the game, Arsene Wenger suffered a big blow when Cesc Fabregas had to be withdrawn from the game due to a hip injury. At least that is what the official line from the club was. On the other hand we also know that our captain had recently came out from a 6 year relationship. To me, if the latter is the actual reason, the decision to recluse himself from the game is commendable. He is supposed to be a professional and all but ultimately, he is still human.
The script could not have been written any better. Fabregas’ replacement was the one who scored the winner for us. Aaron Ramsey was the choice to come into the starting line-up and together with Alex Song and Jack Wilshere, they bossed the midfield. The Welshman was making only his second start since he came back from his horrendous year out from the game and showed the world what we’ve missed.
The trio formed a solid pillar for us in the middle of the park. Working together in defence and alternating between each other on when to join with the attack. Michael Carrick and Anderson at the opposite side of the field, could not cope with them and we started the game with real desire. Wilshere could’ve scored early but skewed his shot wide off the post.
We could’ve played the entire second half against 10 men, had the officials been more competent. Theo Walcott whipped in a cross from the right and it was pushed out for a corner. The problem with that was, Edwin Van Der Sar wasn’t the one who tipped it out but Nemanja Vidic. His hand denied Robin Van Persie, who was in a good position to score with a header. From the replay, there was no obstruction between the linesman and the incident and yet no penalty was forthcoming.
The referee Chris Foy was also instrumental in breaking down our counter attacks. Twice, his stood in the wrong position and blocked passes for United. Both times, we had numbers breaking forward and potentially had a chance to have a go at Van Der Sar. It was hard enough to play our game against top class sides but we had to it with the officials against us as well.
Foy probably had a view of the handball incident at half time and decided to return us the favour in the second half. Gael Clichy’s naive challenge on Michael Owen in the final minute of extra time was a penalty and it was not given either. 1-1 on that count, sounds like fair to me. However Foy was also guilty of flashing the yellow card to Song at what was his best tackle of the match. Cleanly winning the ball and coming from the side and not through the back of a United player.
Ramsey was the one who initiated the move that lead to him eventually scoring it. Having got hold of the ball right on the halfway line, he spread the ball wide right to RvP. As the Dutchman cuts inside the United box, Ramsey caught up with the play at the edge of United’s box and demanded the ball. RvP obliged and Ramsey returned the favour by planting home just inside of Van Der Sar’s right hand post.
Last but not least is a tribute to Laurent Koscielny. He may not have played a part in the goal that we scored but he was immense in defence. I’m not sure who got the official man of the match award but I would’ve given it to him. He read every play superbly and positioned himself at the right place at the right time. When tackles/challenges had to be made, each one of them won cleanly before distributing it to the next Arsenal player.
What is even more satisfying than the goal is the fact that we managed to hold on to the lead for close to 40 minutes. There was no collapse and no stupid mistakes. It serves to show that if the team put their mind to it, they can achieve the right results. Concentration are high purely because the opposition is United. When the team learn to do that against lesser teams, we are going to be a real force to be reckoned with.
However, let’s leave all that to another day. For now, well done Arsenal.