Arsenal-MU: Plenty of desire but lack of concentration, stamina and lethalness cost us

Arsenal's Bacary Sagna challenges Manchester United's Phil Jones

Glad that game is over and done with. I was very surprised to see Van Judas (VJ) start and finish the game, but it was good to see the supporters giving him a hard time.

I loved our commitment – some might call it healthy aggression – and focus in the first half. The first goal came early and this is often not an advantage in these sorts of games, as it can be hard to stay focused and keep momentum when that happens.  Theo was marginally offside but he took his chance very well.

It was a surprise not to see Wilshere start, but both Ramsey and Rosicky – either of whose position he would have played in – did very well in the first half. Not scoring a second goal during the first half, and us slacking off a bit, gradually gave MU a chance to get back in the game. Despite some excellent saves by Szczesny, we still got undone by a lack of concentration / poor defensive play from Sagna, culminating in him fouling VJ in the penalty area. VJ took the penalty and Szczesny had no chance: 1-1.

The second half lacked the intensity and concentration/focus of the first part of the first half, and although we had plenty of shots on goal, we never created good enough chances or lack lethalness to win the game. We clearly wanted to win and committed many players forward, and by doing so, we left a lot of space behind our midfield, which is so dangerous against a team like MU. They had the best chances in the second half and could/should have scored the winner on a few occasions.

But, having now played all the top teams twice this season, it is clear that we are on one hand, not lethal enough, and on the other hand, not solid enough at the back. Arsenal conceded goals in all  games against MC, MU and the Chelsea, and we scored never more than one goal in any of those games. Ultimately, this means us losing a lot of points against the top teams, with just two points out of 18 this season.

Today, we swarmed around the MU goal like bees, but we lacked penetration, invention, power and believe. Having watched Bayern and Dortmund power themselves into the boxes of their Spanish opponents last week, it is obvious that we need to invest in this area.

All in all, today’s performance was more than a bit disappointing and it is hard to take much encouragement from it for our remaining games. It seems that we are on our very last legs and the finish is still too far away….

I will also say, though, that we still have not got the best formation for our team/ the Arsenal way of playing football. Arsene just does not seem to be able to get this team to play on a higher level. Some will say it is because we do not have enough quality players, and no doubt, there is truth in this. However, I also feel that our 4-3-3 system without a proper DM and not using dedicated wing-play, is not working for us very well.

We need to look at the bigger picture, which is 26 points out of 33; so, we are on a good run and this draw might prove a very valuable point for us in the end. I don’t think we deserved more, and we could even say we are a tat lucky to end up with a draw.

But the other part of the bigger picture is that we look tired and lack stamina and quality in midfield and up-front, and possibly at the back as well. This team can work hard and there is plenty of growth in it, and that goes a long way, but we need to add real quality this summer, AND get the formation/style of play right, if we want to make a step improvement.

These were the questions I asked  during the prematch report:

How will Nacho and Cazorla – I reckon they will start on the left today – cope against the strongest opposition in the PL?

How will the ‘fluid-three’ up-front work, or will Pod play in the Giroud role and stay centrally?

Will Theo finally have a good game again and show us all what he is capable of – might he even start in the middle today?

How will Aaron and Mikel cope in the double DM-anchor against the Mancs, and will the Mancs target Arteta as our ‘weakest’ link again?

How will the back-four cope with the Mancs’ versatile attackers?

Will Szczesny have a top game today?

Will we be able to dominate the game and play our passing game?

So, over to you fellow Bkers, and don’t hold back! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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31 Responses to Arsenal-MU: Plenty of desire but lack of concentration, stamina and lethalness cost us

  1. silenstan says:

    love the way you just ignore the fact that but for sagna’s mental aberation we would have beaten the champions. but hey why let anything get in the way of another moan

  2. TotalArsenal says:


    I love the way you just ignore that if Walcott had been flagged offsite, we would have lost the game. Your and my statement make no sense, because reality does not work like that.

  3. TotalArsenal says:

    Admir wrote in previous post:

    ‘PFA picked the best eleven in Premiership this season.
    De Gea-Zabaleta, Ferdinand, Vertonghen, Baines-Carrick-Hazard, Mata, Bale-Suarez, Van Judas.
    No Arsenal players. :/

    If this is the best team the PFA can come up with, it is no wonder English teams did so badly in the CL this year. Especially the ‘back-five’ looks unimpressive.

  4. weedonald says:

    TA… all fairness your summary is somewhat slanted and overly-critical. that said, your point about our incisiveness is well made, it has been our Achilles-heel all season. I absolutely disagree with you about our team being fatigued and running out of energy…they gave their all today and as you, yourself pointed out, our record over the last 9 games is excellent.
    I am not concerned about the remaining games. Szcesny was great today and saved us many times, especially in the 2nd half. ManU are a strong team and while their defense is, imho, weaker than ours, their attack is stronger….but today they needed a penalty to win. Had we scored a second when we had the opportunity in the first half, I felt that game would have been ours.
    We have QPR and Wigan yet to play and with QPr now relegated, they have little to play for. Wigan can be a tough game but AFC seem to be taking every team very seriously since the 9 game run started so a top 4 finish is within reach.

  5. Bond James says:

    we were extremely lucky to pick up a point and even more lucky not have been down to 10 men thanks to Sagna, seriously what does he bring to the table ? i have said it before , we should let him go if he doesn’t want to sign a contract extension, the sooner the better.

    the guy can’t hit a decent cross even if his life depended on it, wastes way too much energy coming up and down, least with Jenko you get exactly what’s on the label unlike sagna (unpredictability).

    everyone was top notch and up for a fight apart from Sagna (reckless challenges), poor concentration and for me, not a big match player.

    i wouldn’t be surprised if someone did stats and it showed we had more clean sheets when Sagna was injured ?

    agreed with most of your points, TA

    but you do have to question Wenger’s decision to take off the best player (rosicky) for Wilshere, it should have been for Ramsey , hands down.

    anyway a valuable point only if mancs do the same to chelsea next weekend or even better, if they win against a tired looking chelsea by unleashing their one true nemesis – Hernandez 😀

  6. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Weedonald

    You might be right, although I expect some to come out and say it is not critical enough.

    It is just how I saw it. 🙂

    To me, the team were fatigued in the second half, which showed in a lack of invention and penetration of the MU defence. Also, a player like Rosicky, in such a crucial role, should be able to go on for 90 minutes, as the substitution there really destabilised us.

  7. TotalArsenal says:

    BJ 🙂

    It is hard to defend Sagna today, other then to repeat what others have said that he does not get enough protection at times. I love the guy and please note he has not been offered a contract extension as yet (as far as I know).

    Today, he was below par and yes he has had one or two too many of these sorts of performances…

    Let’s hope the Chavs lose next weekend and we can get a win at QPR…

  8. Bond James says:

    actually it’s not critical enough, we play at home as if we were playing in a foreign conditions, our home form has been the difference between winning the EPL, or any other trophy.

    i don’t know what it is but i’m glad we’re play QPR away next as i’m pretty confident we can thrash them 4-0.

    for me Rosicky needs to be starting instead of Ramsey with both Jack and Arteta sitting back, letting Jack to come forward when there’s an opening.

    RVP was both the hero and villain today, it was due to his pass gone wrong that we managed to counter attack but Sagna did not really have to tackle him especially when there was not much damage he could have done from there.

    Gibbs and Poldi combination works best on the left, for the life of me i did not understand why slot Santi on the left when Nacho wasn’t going to play ? Nacho and santi understanding is plenty better.

    we really should be looking at playing santi in the middle and using poldi on the left with gibbs and slotting Gervinho or Theo as the striker with the OX on the right.

    let’s run riot next week and get that goal difference sorted once n for all.

  9. Bond James says:


    he has been offered another year’s contract extension on 60K (same wages as he is currently on due to his age and injury record) another year means that he will have 2 more years, so basically he would be available to us for another couple of seasons and if he performs well and stays healthy for most part, another 1 year extension (Same model as most clubs these days, over 30 – only 1 year contract extensions offered).

    he has refused to sign it, not once but twice as per my limited knowledge 😉

    he is not happy with the duration (wants more than 1 year) and the same wages being offered.

  10. TotalArsenal says:


    Agreed on the left side combinations. It was a surprise to me to see Gibbs and Santi combined…

    You are also right re our home form – something is not right there.

  11. TotalArsenal says:

    Okay, thanks for that BJ. I’d love him to stay, but I understand why he wants more security. Him and Jenkinson are two fine RB’s to choose from imo.

  12. TotalArsenal says:


    I noticed you asking about AFC yesterday. I have just emailed him to ask him how he is doing.

  13. Milo says:

    Bond James, Ramsey was our best player on the day, so I agree with the Wilshere for Rosicky substitution. I know he gave away a couple of passes, but aside from that, Ramsey was our driving force in midfield. His combination play was excellent, and he played a lot of forward passes. He is starting to look like a decisive player, and a player we can rely on. Even if he doesn’t start every match next season, if we buy, I think he will do a more than capable job for us. He was our engine today, no doubt about that.


    Brilliant stuff TA

    Funny enough, todays game said more about utd than it did us and if you then spin it around asks some fundamental questions

    This is a club that under the same manager has dominated the premeirship era, winning 13 titles

    This is not a critiscim of utd because they do have many strings to there bow. I have seen them out pass Arsenal on more than one occasion, they can be very versatile.

    However, today they reverted to type. i lost count how many times they picked the ball up in dangerous areas only to whack the ball wide and then proceed to leg it with speed and power to get on the end of a cross. At times it was comical, with the whack wide resulting in the ball going out of play. Virtuly all there best chances were headers, with giants like Rooney and Evra especialy dangerous. hahaha

    To be honest if Fergie bought Messi, he would ask him to whack it wide and then steam into the box to head in the centre.

    This then leads me to ask what i believe is a very important question. Is Utds versatility and there fall back to “wing play” the secret to there success?

    The reason i ask this is that i am a firm believer that to be succesful you need to look and learn from the best, and Utd, as much as we dont like to admit it, are the best.

    Sure, weve done them in the past when we had great attacking players and City pipped them last year. However,despite the quality of our previous squads and Citys now, the title has not been retained by a pure “footballing” side. Chelsea managed it, but they relied on a counter attacking style with loads of power. no Henry or Aguero for them, there approach was Drogba.

    This is in no way a moan. I was very impressed with our performance today. The boys gave everything and though it could have gone either way, with a bit of luck we might have nicked it. The future is very good, great young players and a new found togetherness should see us make steady progress, but i admit we do need some reinforcements, and they have to be bloody good, and despite what some think the transfer market is a difficult place for clubs that are not awash with money.

    For long term succes however, we need to add versitility and adaptability to our game. But to pinch a phrase from 17HT “What the F*uck do i know”. hahaha

  15. TotalArsenal says:

    AFC has just emailed to say he has been very busy recently and hopes to be back on the blog at some point tomorrow.

    I know HH has been busy too and let’s hope he’ll be back soon as well.

  16. TotalArsenal says:

    Hahaha Terry

    In my early twenties on a holiday in Portugal I was addicted to saying ‘what the fuck anyway’ every five minutes or so. 😛

    Great observations on the MU style. It must heard Wenger a lot to see us trail them by 21 points this season. Next season, there is always next season hahaha 😛

  17. Bond James says:

    nice one,TA, thanks for that.


    i have said it a fair few times, you know we haven’t played as well when Ramsey is your best player out of the lot.

    Ramsey did fine, he could have done better by passing it to his right to Walcott who literally had to tap the ball in , instead of giving the more difficult pass to Poldi from an impossible angle, for me that is the difference between a potential great (wilshere) and your mid table team midfielder (Ramsey).

    it should have been 2-0 if he had picked the right pass or done what Rosicky did (mind you rosicky had more pressure on him , yet he played the right pass, he could have easily played poldi on as well).

    trouble with him starting to look like a decisive player is that we don’t have many more games to go for him to actually reach that peak, he also had a few long pops at goal which were border line terrible attempts.


    again our set pieces and corners in particular, every time i see theo take corners i feel like pulling all my remaining hair out.


    hahaha nice one TA. I have the same problem but mine has persisted into my forties. After talking to a women about there work or kids, just normal chat etc i just Touretts style come out with “Want to F*uck anyway”. This has led to many an embaressing moment, and 3 visits to A&E. hahaha

  19. TotalArsenal says:

    Set pieces were poor again, BJ, agreed. The Santi free-kick in the second half for example…

  20. TotalArsenal says:

    hahaha Terry 😛

  21. Bond James says:

    it would be better if they both swapped roles, theo can take the free kicks and santi can take the corners until we find a better solution (am hoping we will find that 1 in 3 player next season).

  22. 17highburyterrace says:

    Sagna is a personal favorite of mine so it’s hard to see him get lured into such a mistake. For me, he’s a class defender but maybe the demands of the system (FBs needing to run from end line to end line) plus the lack of commensurate class around him is finally catching up. If he goes and it’s all Jenks all the time, I think we will miss him….

    It’s true that Ramsey looks as fit as anybody in the squad and gives a lot of energy to the project. He’s also terrifically wasteful which is an energy sap. If he could’ve seen Theo instead of Poldoski when he had the 3 v 2 situation we would have been 2 goals to the good. Maybe that wasn’t a question of vision but one of skills…. Perhaps not having a left foot with which to make the pass was the real problem–or knowing that going with the outside of the right foot would not have gotten the ball where it needed to get. My point is that as fit and energetic as Ramsey is, it is an huge indictment on the state of the squad that he could possibly look like our best player out there given his limitations….

    OK, now I’m in full on moan….Poldolski looked completely unfit but he is preferred to zero-confidence Gervinho. Theo got the goal and then contributed what, exactly? (He was there to finish the ball from Ramsey, I guess….) Wilshere also looks unfit and Gibbs appears very unsure if not struggling for fitness himself. Rosicky and Koscielny were very crisp in the tackle and Ramsey gave everything. Still, to put a good team to the sword will take more than a couple of guys pushing hard. We need energy PLUS technique and both are in short supply. I thought players like Nani and Rooney hardly got into 2nd gear. If they had, or if Valencia and Jones were just a bit off better with their crosses and finishing, it might have been a drubbing. As it was, we got our point, kept them from going on for their points record and we absorbed the return of the van Persie. The scoreline shows a draw; the gulf in quality seems a bit more lop-sided….

    All that being said, I think we can get nine from nine and Spurs/Chavs will drop what needs to be dropped. Frankly, a good finish followed by a somewhat aggressive summer and then a strong start in August (including a nervy 2 legged CL qualifier) is exactly what the Club need. That’s only 3 planets which need to line up…. Even if they do (and I’m always hopeful….) it’s only a beginning and it will take plenty of time (several seasons, I think) to chip away at the gap between us and the clubs ahead. But I’m getting ahead of myself….First we limp on over to meet up with Championship ‘Arry and his band of merry (because their so well paid….) men….

  23. TotalArsenal says:

    Jack is a decent corner taker and free-kicks should be Poldi or Theo, agreed.

    Off to bed now – catch you tomorrow.

  24. malaysian gunner says:

    Wenger says the gunners will soon rival the rf. For that to happen,Arsenal must be able to beat MU and the other top 4 teams. His record against the red ffaced has been appalling the last ten years.His negligence of the defence is well known. He wants to be like Brazil or Keegan: you score one ,we will score two,you score 5 ,I will score 6.Although he has mellowed with regard to defence,his attacking style leaves much to be desired.
    The problem is his gunners will indulge in a series of passes around the box. He shd know defenders will regroup and deny time and space. When MU broke away they were very threatening.Why can’t Arsenal play like that?reduce the passes.Arsenal’s first goal is an example of what I mean.
    Don’t be surprised Wenger will go if he can’t get 4th.And don’t be surprised the new guy coud,reduce the passing game,and shoot to score and get the gunners challenging again.

  25. Highbury Harmony says:

    TA, thank you for the post-match report as I was traveling and not able to see the game today! I managed to catch a replay and I personally agree that we were fortunate to come out of the match with a point. However we should have also put them away earlier too after our incredible start.

    Our inability to grab more than 2 points against the top sides in the EPL is extremely concerning and on a day like today where we jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, we should have buried our opponents early. The lack of vision by Ramsey to find Walcott on a 3v2 after a beautiful forced turnover by Arteta was the turning point for me. Score and we’re out to a comfortable 2-0 lead exerting our dominance and rewarding our build-up, in addition to Manure completely losing their confidence.

    I disagree with others that you were too critical in your article. I thought it was fair given the result and exactly on par with our performance. I am befuddled by the fact that people can be content with today’s result because we managed to walk away with 1 point. That’s exactly the type of attitude that has beleaguered our team the past 8 years and has led to complacent performances on the pitch and in the transfer market.

    As Terry duly noted, today’s match was more indicative of how weak Manure and the rest of the EPL are, relative to teams like Bayern, BD etc. We played to our typical, expected level and still managed a draw against the “EPL champions” (not worth much these days imo). Despite Manure having superior tactics and more quality than our squad, they still lack creativity and top, top quality too.

    The lack of pace between Arteta and Ramsey really shows against a team that quickly and efficiently passes forward like Utd. I often found us being outnumbered in defense on Manure’s attacks with the 2 DM’s only catching up to the play once the scoring opportunity was already created or taken. A fast, true DM beast would have made a substantial impact on today’s match. A fit Poldi would have really helped as he seemed to also lack pace, stamina and the mental strength to make an impact on the game.

    We also seem to lack a player who can efficiently take defenders on 1 on 1 and dribble around them using feints and tricks to open up space. I’m not sure if AW encourages players to avoid the flashiness of the game because these types of moves are often unsuccessful and lead to turnovers, but it seems that our players freeze and become predictable in these situations. Ox and Gervinho are capable of pulling off some fantastic moves, but these moves have been absent all year and both are hesitant to try anything extraordinary.

    What gets lost in restricting a players’ flair is that when these dekes are pulled off correctly, they open up the pitch and make our attack more unpredictable. Instead, we often lose the ball trying to think of a higher percentage way to beat a defender or continuously pass the ball around the opponent’s 18-yard box, allowing more defenders to clog the middle.

    Also, what has happened to Sagna? He was downright awful today, lacking any sort of burst or discipline defensively in coverage and his decision on the pass and tackle leading to Manure’s goal was shocking. I won’t say anymore, but I sincerely hope Jenkinson plays from here on out because I have not been overly impressed with Sagna for most of this season.

  26. Highbury Harmony says:

    Weedonald, that’s just it – we gave our all today and it was CLEARLY still not enough. If we can’t even stay on par with Manure, what chance do we have against Bayern, BD, Real and Barca. Relieved to walk away with 1 point after Manure were clearly more threatening in real scoring opportunities (Szczesny really bailed us out), but not happy with the result in any way.

    How much longer will we depend on just beating mid and lower table sides? We have to beat the top clubs before having any hopes of moving forward. Finishing 3rd or 4th this season should be viewed as the bare minimum, in order to buy the top players to truly improve our squad this off-season. Otherwise, complacency will resonate throughout our squad once again and we’ll continue playing for the only trophy we’ve known these past 8 years: CL qualification…

  27. oz gunner says:

    great sum up TA.

    For once i’d like to see Theo time his runs a bit better. Half the time he takes off to early and walks back whinging and complaining. Get back into position and go again.

    our lack of creativity is worrying. Podolski is well underdone, no giroud, walcott…is well walcott, and theirs not much else.

    Great effort from the boys in the first half though!

    @ HH

    agreed, no one wants to take on players. Look at the magic Rosicky produced when he turned splitting Manu’s defense.

  28. TotalArsenal says:

    New Post – New Post!

    Redders makes a strong argument for competing at the highest level again by allowing a rich, benevolent owner to run the club.

  29. TotalArsenal says:

    HH 🙂

    All good observations! Especially agreed on the need to have players on the wings and in the middle who can take players on and make things happen. We are soooooo centrally focussed but it is too easy to defend against!

    Also, I like Arteta and Ramsey are good players to have in the squad, but playing them together week in week out, we do lack something in midfield, especially in the big games.

  30. TotalArsenal says:

    17HT 🙂

    All good observations. Nine points out of the next three games? I don’t think so myself, but the others will hopefully drop points too. It will get very, very close. 😦

  31. TotalArsenal says:

    Oz 🙂

    All agreed. I hate to say it but Theo has been disappointing since his return.

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