The frustration and tension of Arsene Wenger was there for all to see at Old Trafford on Saturday evening. A sixth minute injury-time goal ruled out for offside was enough to see the Arsenal boss feel joy then sheer despair, taking a water bottle with him. The farcical scenes in which Wenger stood among the Manchester United fans like a foreign Messiah capped off a miserable week for the Gunners with Eduardo being charged for diving and Abou Diaby gifting United three points in the evening kick-off. After Arsenal’s incredible start to the season they started the game at Old Trafford oozing with confidence. Even without their captain Cesc Fabregas there still seemed to be excellent cohesion in the side and the usual flowing football was there to be seen, combining patient build up with quick, effective movement.
Alexandre Song and Denilson are two players which are becoming more mature and disciplined in their approach. Song was playing in front of the back four, a role which involves discipline, efficiency and grit – something which the young man did not possess last season. Denilson also showed why he is becoming a lynchpin in the Arsenal midfield. In the first half the young Brazilian was linking the play beautifully with excellent passing and a wonderful first touch. It was no surprise when Andrey Arshavin’s rocket put Arsenal into a 40th minute lead as United’s formation was once again coming into question – with Nani and Antonio Valencia not giving lone front man Wayne Rooney nearly enough support.
United seemed to lack a creative craftsman in the middle of the park until the experience of Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher stood out in the second half. Arsenal’s ever-present soft centre began to show as Fletcher utilised his aggressive nature with strong tackling and harassing of the young Gunners midfield. Giggs could now become the architect of a United uprising, threading a wonderful ball through to Wayne Rooney. The familiar onrushing sight of a goalkeeper and tumbling of legs came into the spotlight again – however this was a cast iron penalty in which Rooney made no mistake. Giggs was the man again providing a peach of a cross which caused indecision and confusion for Abou Diaby as he headed the ball into his own net in the 64th minute.
Manchester United created a different atmosphere in their play in the second half to go on and win the game. Darren Fletcher’s importance for the side is unquestioned as he was fantastic from box to box, helping with quick incisive counter attacks, yet crunching into tackles and hounding Arsenal midfield players. Wayne Rooney seemed to have an added energy and pace to his movement as he linked much more fluently with the United midfield and created indecision in Arsenal’s defensive unit. Ryan Giggs still has a key part to play for a Manchester United title push this season, his experience and sheer quality proved the difference for the Red Devils in a much needed early season boost.
However it will not be all doom and gloom for Arsene Wenger despite the tempered kick of a water bottle and a rant about Manchester United’s “anti-football”. His side played excellent football in the first half – however that gooey centre became the problem once again for Arsenal. With more steel and power Arsenal could go on to push themselves to the Premier League forefront once more.
Portsmouth and Bolton were once again in the spotlight after this week’s round of Premier League games. Both sides have still not got a point to their names, and the pressure will be on for both Gary Megson and Paul Hart.
The overwhelming problem for Portsmouth and Paul Hart is the inability to score goals. With only one goal in four Premier League games this season, questions remain about whether any Portsmouth player is capable of getting double figures. New signings Federique Piquionne and Tommy Smith will be expected to weigh in with goals – however they are simply not good enough replacements for the likes of Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe. With the finances of Portsmouth suffering badly, there could be more departures and troubles as the transfer window edges closer.
Bolton needs to create that sense of a backbone and also some form of creativity to be able to climb the league. New signings Zat Knight, Sam Ricketts and Paul Robinson will need time to gel in order to gain clean sheets and start playing as a defensive unit. Gary Megson may be tempted to dip into the transfer market to sign a central midfield player with the ability for a cutting edge pass, who can also take excellent set-pieces, a tactic of the game which Bolton usually thrive on.