It has been quite a week for the Gunners, which eventually culminated in an unlucky defeat at the hands of Manchester United on Saturday. Eduardo’s UEFA ban following the ‘dive’ accusations against Celtic in the Champions League play-off tie irked manager Arsene Wenger and the visit to Old Trafford was certainly overshadowed by events off the field. The north London side once again showed their glaring inexperience as they let a decisive and deserved lead slip with costly errors.
To add insult to injury, Wenger was sent off right at the end of the game for furiously kicking a water bottle after Arsenal were denied a goal for offside right at the death. It was a tense post match press conference but the Frenchman handled it really well as he was quoted as saying, “I think what is the most difficult to take is that we were the better team and we lost the game. We were in front and had a chance to score the second goal and got punished on two goals. It is beyond belief. So overall I would like to keep the positives of this game because I believe that we can deal well with the disappointment of losing the game today. We have a great future and we can be a real force. But of course, it’s difficult to sort out tonight and we go home without any points.”
The sending off of Wenger was humiliating to say the least. With thirty seconds to go, there was no way the manager could be discarded and the scenes that one of the most respected and experienced coaches in Europe was getting jeered by United fans really hurt the Emirates faithful. Wenger’s said of the incident,“I kicked the bottle of water when the goal was canceled from disappointment and the fourth official called the referee and sent me off. Frankly, I don’t know what to say. Thirty seconds to go. It was really spectacular. I didn’t even know where to go. He told me to go into the stands, but there was no way to get into the stands. Just because I kicked a bottle of water, I didn’t say a word to anybody. And it was quite a good kick.” The Premier League has since apologized to the former Arsenal boss.
Coming out of Manchester without a single point despite being the best side will be a matter of concern for Arsenal. Time and time again, the Gunners play beautiful football without any concrete result, but here the side lacked a midfield enforcer and Cesc Fabregas’ injury was certainly a loss. Andrei Arshavin was brilliant and so was every Arsenal player. Ben Foster’s dramatic save right at the beginning of the second half turned out to be the turning point as Robin van Persie looked certain to slide in his first goal of the season, only to be denied by Foster’s outstretched leg. As it turned out, the Gunners were undone by mistakes of their own and that has to be flushed out of the system as soon as possible. The international break comes at a good time for Wenger, as he has plenty of time to reflect on the defeat and the challenges ahead, with the Gunners having to visit Manchester again after the international break, where they face the in-form and daunting prospect of Manchester City. Arsene Wenger will hope that his international players return unscathed to start the season afresh at Eastlands.
Speaking after the game at Old Trafford, a disappointed Wenger insisted that his confidence in the side had not diminished as a result of the loss. But the manager admitted that there is room for psychological growth among his squad. “We were very strong today. I am very confident, I just hope that this unexpected defeat will not derail their confidence,” Wenger remarked.“I feel we are equipped to challenge for the title. Frankly, when you see a comparable two performances of the two teams, you can recognize that. I think they have won a game today they should not have won. I believe we looked mature on the pitch, in the way we are positioned on the pitch but individually in this team there is some nervousness there.”
A fair examination from the wily Frenchman, but he will know that the United match has thrown up as many negatives as it did positives. The main negative being the defeat itself, and if his side are going to continue to self-explode and gift their title-rivals such victories, the long wait for a trophy at the Emirates is certain to continue. That being said, his side played well at the home of the Champions and if there are more performances like the one on Saturday – minus the blunders – the Emirates may well be basking in title glory come May.
Arsenal Club Focus
Pre-season preparations take a few hits – July 29
Gunners as prepared as they can be for Everton – August 12
Gunners gear up for vital ‘Battle of Britain’ clash – August 18
Fortuitous Gunners revel in Glasgow win – August 21
Electric Arsenal improve on success with a formidable win – August 25
Gunners undone by terrible errors – September 1