Was this Arsenal side stronger than the 8-2 one?
This side is as beset by injuries as the 8-2 one, with 11 first team players unavailable for Arsenal. Two center backs, Johann Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen, were playing in the full back positions, with Djourou particularly being exploited during the first half. This lack of conventional right-back essentially allowed Manchester United to break again and again down the left hand side throughout the first half, culminating in Valencia’s goal. Nico Yennaris, despite his lack of first team experience was clearly the right change to make at half time, as, at the very least, he is a conventional right back.
Arsenal’s most common scapegoat last season, during the time of Almunia, Fabianski et al, was the goalkeeper. Now that Wojciech Szczesny has clearly established himself in that position, with the impeccable save against Nani in the first half an example of his quality, the defence has once again been called into question. Is this just an excuse for lack of quality around the pitch? Simply put, Arsenal may not be good enough when compared to their rivals to mount a serious title challenge. The supposed weakness of the defence can be put into doubt by the performances this season of men such as Koscienly. He looks like a completely different player, and he may be one of the more improved players in the Premier League, year on year.
Even After Last Season, Man Utd are not stronger
The ‘big signings’ of the summer have disappeared, Young lost in the ether, De Gea displaced as Ferguson’s first choice keeper. Even after last year’s victory with an apparently sub-par side, Man Utd have not improved significantly, allowing rivals to catch up, or alternatively in the case of Manchester City, become the stronger side. Wayne Rooney seems to have spent this season learning how to become a more effective screaming machine as his form continually tails off, despite FIFA’s insistence. Both of Manchester United’s goals can be attributed somewhat to weaknesses in the Arsenal side, such as Arshavin’s lax defending, rather than clear strength in this Manchester United side.
Something has to be done about atmospheres
The response to Valencia’s goal inside the stadium was not palpable. Fans mock the Emirates for being particularly quiet, but away fans can create an atmosphere anywhere. Nothing doing from the Manchester United fans. Even though the aesthetic of the Emirates looks wonderful on television (“what a fantastic shot that is” post-match referring not to on pitch action, but a helicopter view of the stadium), it is clearly not conducive to an altogether entertaining and unique match-day experience. The game still remained in the balance as the side of the stadium the cameras face emptied almost completely.
Will Oxlade-Chamberlain be another Theo Walcott?
The example of Oxlade-Chamberlain shows how important positional awareness is. Much like his Arsenal counterpart, Oxlade-Chamberlain has bags of pace, but this matters not if you’re never where your team mates expect you to be. He came into the game much better after 25 minutes, possibly due to his team mates becoming more aware of his runs. He must be considered the first choice back-up to Gervinho as the African Cup of Nations roll on, especially after his substitution appeared to be the turning point that led to the opposition going ahead. Fans are now completely aware of Arshavin’s inadequacy, even if Wenger might not be.