Them’s the breaks
First off, credit to United. The reason they’ve won the league the last few years is that they find a way to get points when they’re not playing well and yesterday was no different. Foster made a huge save early in the second half to keep them in it. On United’s first goal, Rooney knew the best way to get a goal was to go down easily and make the referee face the scorn of the crowd and Fergie (exactly the same as Kobe or Lebron driving to the paint, forcing contact, and then making the referee make a decision); he then calmly sank the penalty. The second goal was pure luck and they did enough to capitalize on that and take all three points.
It’s easy to complain about the difficulties of playing at Old Trafford and the calls that do not go your way but not very productive. You know that going in and know that you have to play so much better than them that it won’t matter. This is no different than playing Duke at Cameron Indoor or the Lakers in Staples. What’s frustrating is that we did play that much better than them and came away with nothing. A draw would have been a fairer result but there are some positives to take away from this game: We are better than them. We played on the road without Cesc, Walcott, or Nasri and still had the better of the play. Unless they make some signings, we are clearly more talented than United. Chelsea is the only team that can match or surpass our talent level.
It sucks that the Eduardo thing happened three days before this game. If the Eduardo dive (which might not be as clear-cut as people were thinking) and the subsequent knashing-of-teeth in the English media would have happened this upcoming Wednesday, we would have got the benefit of the doubt on either the Fletcher penalty on Arshavin or the Almunia penalty on Rooney. The referee just couldn’t go against the grain of the narrative of Arsenal as floppers. Arseblog touched on the idea of Us versus Them in his post yesterday and how that should help galvanize the team.
The team has to love Wenger. Arsene stuck up for his guys towards the end and showed some defiance both in his end-of-game antics and post-game comments where he discusses the differences in coverage between the Eduardo and Rooney plays, Fletcher getting away with fouls, and the difficulties of playing at Old Trafford. While it’s debatable how effective this method is in gaining calls for the future, it’s nice for the team and fans to see that Wenger will not take these slights (however perceived) sitting down.
How does Diaby recover from this? He had an opportunity to make up for his own goal but failed to capitalize. We need a confident Diaby out there; it was nice to see van Persie take a leadership role after the own goal and tell Abou to keep his head in it.
We have two weeks to sit on this loss. It’d be great to have a game at mid-week or even next week against some shit team and just get out all of the frustration from this loss. Instead, we have to sit on it for two weeks, hope no one gets injured in international play, and then travel to Manchester to play a City squad that is 3-for-3 and will be looking to establish themselves as contenders in their first match against quality competition. Such is life in the Premier League, but it’d be nice to be Liverpool and take it easy for the next few weeks as Chelsea, United, Arsenal, Spurs, and City all play one another.
An ongoing worry is the lack of depth at centre-back. Gallas and Vermaelen continue to play wonderfully but they’ve played all 90 minutes of all five games and the group of Djourou, Senderoos, and the Geriatric behind them is very scary. Hopefully, the two-week break will get Djourou fit enough to see some action.
It’s very frustrating to not come away with at least a point against United but them’s the breaks. As long as Wenger can keep the lads’ heads up (all he’ll need to know is throw on video of the match to do this), this will only be a mere blip on what will be a very exciting season for Arsenal.