Man United 2-0 Arsenal or Drawn and Quartered in the FA Cup Quarter Final
Today was a hard day for many gooners as Arsenal was finally knocked out of the FA Cup competition. It was important that we win this match in order to wipe away the dissatisfaction of Tuesday’s Champions League result against Barcelona and show ourselves that we have what it takes to beat the big sides when it matters. Instead, today added insult to injury as Arsenal again failed to produce a crucial victory against Manchester United.
It’s not that we played poor football: we held the lion’s share of possession and made more scoring chances than United (10 shots on target to their 6). Indeed our early play was quite positive and I for one had high hopes of finishing on top, but as time passed it seemed evident that this would not happen. The only eventful occurrence in the first half, besides a couple near misses by Robin van Persie, was a goal started and finished by United’s Fabio. Almunia made a fantastic diving save against a Hernandez header, only to see Fabio knock in the rebound. There was nothing Almunia could have done to cover the second shot, but Koscielny and Gibbs should have done better to prevent Fabio from finding such a sweet spot in front of goal. You can find the match highlights, including goals and attempts, here courtesy of Arsenalist.
The second half would see Arsenal apply plenty of pressure, but fall apart as the 90 minute mark approached. Just four minutes in Rooney took the United tally to two with an easy header in front of goal from a ball deflected high into the air. I thought Almunia should have covered the shot a better than he did, but perhaps there wasn’t that much he could have done. From this point on we offered no adequate response to United’s challenge and the result speaks for itself. It’s hard to think that United fielded a team that really wasn’t their best, while our side was nearly full strength, with the exception of our midfield. Denilson, while he makes short and easy passes that contribute to our possession, really does not take the attacking chances we need that will contribute to creation. He was very poor today and I’d almost argue he be cut from the squad based on his recent performances. Diaby, who I usually like, was a weak link as well. He has the opposite problem to Denilson in that he prefers to hold on to the ball and would rather not pass until he’s held on to it for 30 seconds and shown how fancy his footwork can be. Two poor showings that illustrate how important players like Cesc and Song can be to our overall team effectiveness.
The hardest part of the match to swallow is the injury to Johan Djourou. The Swiss centre half has been phenomenal for us this season and will now, according to Arsene Wenger, miss the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder suffered after a collision with Bacary Sagna while defending against a run by United. I feel bad for him due to the time he’s missed in the past with injury complications, but I feel even worse that not only are we now down to one fit experienced keeper, but we are now down to just two centre halves until Vermaelen is back in the game. It means that Koscielny will have to be exemplary in his role and Squillaci will have to step up to cover the gap in the defense caused in Djourou’s absence. Cross your fingers folks.
So, not a good result at all, but it does leave us with week-long breaks between Premiership games, time to rest, recuperate, and prepare for the next challenge. We’re still in a position where the League is winnable and a good run from us can see that happen. It won’t be easy, but I for one will remain positive and support Arsenal no matter the outcome. Right, on to the next challenge.