More shots on target, more shots off target, more blocked shots, greater possession, better passing completion rate, better tackling completion rate, superior territorial advantage, away from home… yet we left with nothing.
It’s the small details that make all the difference in these games and unfortunately for United, it was Arsenal who got the rub of the green today.
Had Gary Neville been stood one yard to his right, Nasri’s shot would have hit him square on and would have rebounded out of the penalty area. As it was, the ball hit Neville awkwardly, leading it to fire past Edwin Van der Sar.
At 1-0 down, just before the half time whistle was blown, Gael Clichy handballed in the box. The French defender look horror-stricken, convinced his side’s lead would now be taken away. The referee missed it though. More blatant than the penalty given against Michael Carrick at Stamford Bridge last season, yet somehow, both Howard Webb and the linesman were none the wiser. With the score at 1-1 leading in to the second half, it would have been game on.
At the moment, these small details don’t seem to be falling in United’s favour. We aren’t getting the lucky deflections, we aren’t getting the nailed on penalty decisions away from home, but more importantly, when these small details fall in to our hands, we aren’t making the most of them.
Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were all presented with goalscoring opportunities they should finish every day of the week, yet today, failed to make anything of them. Ronaldo dragged a shot just wide of the post, Rooney didn’t hit the target from positions where he could bury the ball, and on occasion, Berbatov didn’t even make contact on chances he could have rolled in to the back of the net.
Both teams created good chances, both teams had spells of brilliant football… yet only one team seemed to get the rub of the green. On other days, that team will be United, but unfortunately today wasn’t one of those days.
Diaby should have had a freekick outside the area after Carrick made no contact on the ball, yet Carrick should NOT have been booked for going after a ball that was there to be won and Almunia should have been booked for picking up the ball in the area following a pass-back from Clichy, which denied Rooney a goal-scoring opportunity. Dimitar Berbatov’s goal on 7 minutes was rightly ruled out for offside, and Arsenal’s appeals for a penalty for a Neville ‘handball’ were rightly turned down.
It was interesting to see nasty lunges from both Clichy and William Gallas after Wenger’s protests in the week. I don’t expect Ferguson to rant about the opposition intentionally trying to injure our players though.
Rafael Da Silva is a class act. For the half an hour he was on the pitch, he worked his bollocks off. He chased every ball down, was keen on the attack, and scored the goal of the match. Brilliant performance from the youngster.
Nicklas Bendtner is not a Manchester United player. Christ, that lad is shit. He could have taken the match ball home with him today if he had anything about him. Two chances early on which he somehow managed to fuck up, as well as screwing up a one on one towards the end. Arsenal fans will be praying for the return of Adebayor.
Anderson still shits on Fabregas. You wouldn’t have known Fabregas was on the pitch today for all the part he played. By all accounts, this season is a fall from grace for the young Spaniard, who will no doubt is already imagining the sunshine he’ll enjoy playing in La Liga next season. On several occasions Anderson got the better of him, bursting through the centre of the park and leaving Cesc for dead.
United made Arsenal look like the away team at the Emirates. There won’t be many teams who dominate a game in such a way on Arsenal’s turf this season, although I imagine there will be several who leave with a better result than ours. Whilst Arsenal clearly created chances, they were forced in to committing 10 more fouls than United, enjoyed a passing success of 77% to our 82%, spent more of the game in their own half, and were successful in just over half the tackles they attempted. United had a go at shooting 23 times in contrast to Arsenal’s 15.
Points win prizes though and whilst deflections and penalty decisions may go against us, we need to make our own luck and take our chances when they come. We failed to do that today and paid the price. The performance was encouraging though, nevertheless, and that is all of the top teams we’ve now played away from home. Roll on next weekend.