Worse Than The Liverpool Result For Arsenal?

While a 0-0 draw might be better than a 5-1 defeat, Nick Miller thinks Arsenal were actually worse against Man United than Liverpool. At least they were outplayed that time...

Last Updated: 13/02/14 at 09:13 Post Comment

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Do you reckon that was a game you needed a 'football brain' to appreciate?

Both Arsenal and Manchester United should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for the turgid fare served up at the Emirates. It was the sort of game that made one wish it was north London, rather than south Manchester or Merseyside that was battered by wind enough to force a postponement. At least we could all have read a book or watched a film or reorganised the cutlery drawer instead.

It was the game that we feared it would be - a tedious affair played by two teams scared of their own shadows. A pair of teams emerging from chastening results at the weekend and terrified of losing.

Both managers' comments after the game seemed to confirm this. Arsene Wenger made reference to Arsenal's "extreme defensive focus" with the Liverpool defeat in mind, while David Moyes thought United "looked compact, defended well when we had to...I thought defensively we were solid".

It suggests two teams who simply were happy with not being quite as bad as in their last game, and anything beyond that was a pleasant bonus.

Given the context of the season, Manchester United should of course be the happier of the two sides - after all, the team in seventh place drawing at the home of the league leaders for much of the season is a decent result whichever way you look at it. Of course, they probably won't look at it that way, because they're Manchester United, and a draw anywhere isn't traditionally regarded as a good result.

For Arsenal, on the other hand, this was a desperately bad result. In fact, you could argue that in this was a worse performance than in their 5-1 defeat to Liverpool at the weekend.

At Anfield, they were blitzed. It's difficult to think of any side in the Premier League, perhaps even in Europe, that could have coped with the ferocity with which Liverpool attacked in the early spells. Of course, Arsenal didn't play well, but at least on that occasion they could blame the result on their opponents being better.

This time, United were basically there for the taking. Of course they have played worse this term, but this is the weakest United team in 20 years, and Arsenal, who are supposed to be title challengers, still couldn't beat them. Their movement was poor and their insistence on attempting a neat and clever ball was frustratingly familiar. Mesut Ozil had one of his better games but still couldn't conjure anything of note and Olivier Giroud missed a couple of relatively simple chances, while they once again missed the pace of Theo Walcott.

It wouldn't be quite so bad if Arsenal already had their toughest fixtures behind them, but they still have to travel to Chelsea and Tottenham, and host Manchester City - all of those in a two-week period in March, incidentally. Oh, the second leg against Bayern is five days before the Spurs game, too.

Before this current tough run started, it was said that this would be the series of fixtures that would define Arsenal's season. After the first two, they haven't made a very good start.

Of course, these two bad results don't mean that Arsenal are out of the title race. They're still above Manchester City (although Manuel Pellegrini's side do now have a game in hand) and are a mere point behind Chelsea at the top. Glass-half-full Gooners could view the upcoming tricky games as opportunities to take points from their rivals, rather than potential sinkholes. The trouble is, this was their best chance to beat a top-eight side in the remainder of the season, and given their performances against the big boys thus far (and no matter how bad they play, United are still one of those big boys), you wouldn't back them to take too many points from the others.

Still, if they'd like to take some inspiration in the optimism stakes, look no further than David Moyes, who said of United's Champions League hopes: "If there's one club in history who've been great at winning games in second half of season it's United."

Sure Davie. They haven't been managed by you before though, eh?

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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