Three Things We Learned from Arsenal v Manchester United

Welbeck celebrates with Sanchez
May 8, 2017

Nothing is better than enjoying an Arsenal win. It’s even sweeter when that win can come at the expense at someone as horrid as Jose Mourinho. Still, after watching the Arsenal go out to a 2-0 win, it still seems a long way to fixing things but at least we’re happy for a few days at least.

So let’s look back at the three things we learned from this match.

Arsenal’s slim top 4 hopes still alive

Jose said pre-match he would send out a weakened side as he would prioritize the Europa League semi-final on Thursday over this match. His thinking, better to fight the automatic Champion’s League spot from winning the EL then fighting for the top 4 in England.

Well, Arsenal were only too happy to oblige. Well, sort of.

The first half was a dull affair. Neither team looked like they wanted to win it. Manchester United set up as Jose team’s usually do on the road and in big games, parking a big-ass bus on the pitch and forcing the opponents to play around it.

Arsenal tried – sort of. Aaron Ramsey made some smart runs and tested David DeGea with a cross the goal shot that he got a hand on but for the most part our patient play suited Jose’s strategy to a tee. He was through the entirety of the first half, the biggest threat in the match. His timing on many of his runs the whole match was excellent and reminiscent of his peak time at Arsenal a few years back.

Then the second half came and well, Arsenal actually remembered that there is something at stake here. While top 4 is nothing to cheer about it does offer a door way into the tournament that most European players want to play in. And while Arsenal’s fortunes in that tournament have been bleak, they are a club that should be in that competition regularly.

Finally, due to some sustained pressure in the 2nd half, Arsenal found a way – barely – through. With the ball coming to the feet of Granit Xhaka and the crowd baying for him to shoot, he shot and thanks to Ander Herrera’s back adding some back spin on the ball, the Xhakaboom goal was back. Game on.

Then only a few seconds later (minutes actually) with Rob Holding doing a magnificent job of wining the ball and Ox (more on him in a moment) putting in a beautiful cross, the much needed second goal came off of the head of Dat Guy! Game over.

Jose isn’t one who can adjust well when his favored game plan goes wrong. Much like Wenger is accused of, he knows what he knows and he sticks to it – stubbornly. While he placed more attack-minded subs on, it was clear United had no idea how to go forward like this.

With the win, and games in hand over United (1) and Liverpool (2), Arsenal could still qualify for Europe. But the reality is it means taking maximum points from the four remaining matches and/or praying others falter.

But hey, Arsene can dream can’t he?

A tale of two Oxes.

Raise your hand if during the first half you saw the moment with Ox dribbling towards the United box with Aaron Ramsey in front of him? Let me amend that, Aaron Ramsey in a channel wide enough for the Titantic to fit in and NO PRESSURE on him. Looked like the obvious option right? Not if your Ox. He passed centrally and we lost the chance. Such was the tale of Ox’s first half. He was everything that is wrong with him. Poor decision making and lack of defensive cover.

Then we come to the second half. I am going to assume someone had a “talk” with young master Oxlade-Chamberlain. Because he was a completely different player. He was smart with the ball, retained possession well and battled in his own half. His guile with the ball is what got him free to make that cross in for Welbeck’s goal.

And that’s thing about Oxlade-Chamberlain, you’re just not sure what you’re going to get. He definitely has all the talent in the world to be a bright star in England. But things he should be progressing with – he isn’t and his decision making irks me the most.

Like Jack Wilshere he has a tendency to hold the ball too long missing clear cut opportunities to set someone else free and keep the ball moving forward. But then also like Jack, he will have moments – like his second half where you go  – ahhhhhhhhh that’s the Ox we’ve all heard about.

Many want to blame Wenger for his development being stunted but truth be told, it may be as much about where Wenger plays him as it is about Ox’s own penchant for just not progressing well enough. Sure playing out of position or not consistently enough could effect a player. But to me that’s more mental and effects player confidence than actual player ability.

No, poor decision making isn’t on Wenger. That’s all the player’s fault. They either aren’t understanding what should be done as situations arise on the pitch or they are ignorant of it and just going about their own thing. Either way, it’s not on the coach and the real person holding Ox back is the Ox himself.

If he can play like he did against United in the 2nd half over multiple games and for long periods of time he may deliver on that promise. If not, he will be another in a long line of English star-wannabes.

Alexis for all his good is just as frustrating as everyone else

Over the last few days a report circulated that Bayern were willing to pay £55 million for Alexis Sanchez. To which I replied – TAKE IT! You can imagine the twitter response I got.

Look, I love the guy and I’d love for him to stay because when he is capable of so much. But just as he is so electric he continues to frustrate. But because he is who he is – many fans are willing to overlook that.

I’m not one of them.

He frustrates the crap out of me. His whole movement off the ball, coming deep into the midfield for instance takes away our shape. His instance on dribbling four or five times around defenders only to lose the ball kills chances. His desire to be the guy and the only guy while applause-worthy doesn’t work when you there are options around and he just doesn’t want to let go of the ball.

I get why it’s so easy to overlook his flaws. But if you’re going to criticize someone like Mesut Özil and his “body language” or “lack of effort” than you have to equally criticize Sanchez for his consistent inconsistency and lack of team work.

During this whole run of poor form Sanchez is just as culpable as his teammates. He shouldn’t escape criticism and if we want to blow it all up, you have to be just as willing to let him go too.

Extra Time

Twitter was interesting during the match, especially regarding Rob Holding. I love the lad. I think he is going to be a steal as he matures into a star CB. Sure the kid made mistakes yesterday and one nearly resulted in a goal. But let’s not kill the kid.

Frankly, if you watched our attack, the triangle of Holding, Özil and Ramsey created numerous wall-passes that were successfully able to break down United yesterday. But that’s not the part of his game we’re interested in.

He has all the tools to be a really good CB for a long time. Wenger is managing him carefully. At least it seems that way to me. There was a lot of buzz about him in the aftermath of the Semi-Final win over City. He looked so good against Sergio Aguero, you’d not know he was only a 20-something kid.

He’s solid on the ball, strong, and poised. All the makings of a CB.

By the way we’ve beaten two big rivals both times he’s been on the pitch. I say we ride that luck a little longer.

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Founder, editor, writer, designer of When he’s not following the Arsenal,he’s busy coaching various age groups the right way to play the beautiful game

I am neurotic. Well, Arsenal tends to do that to you and due to this maddening love affair I have with this team across the sea, I rise and fall like everyday (given our current state some times more than 5 times a day.) I love this team and hope it comes through even slightly with this blog.

If I am not here blogging away, I am either working or writing coaching sessions. All in all, I'm loving it. UTA!

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