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Arsenal Fail To Find A Way At Home


Gooners and Nike execs are already familiar with the Cesc Fabregas Show.  Tonight at the Emirates, it was the Cristiano Ronaldo Experience.

Though Ji-sung Park started off the scoring for Manchester United on a Kieran Gibbs mistake, it was Ronaldo who sealed the deal for the Red Devils on a searing free kick.  Eleven minutes into the biggest match of the year for both teams, and Manchester United fan’s could confidently book their tickets to Rome.

The result is less surprising than how it transpired.  Quite simply, tonight’s leg in London was a repeat of the first leg.  Only this time, Manchester United got the goals they deserved, given their dominance over the 180 minutes.

With Alex Ferguson’s side beginning their typical late-season surge, Arsenal seem the reverse of them, with players drifting in and out of injury, and a general lack of sharpness when it comes to their passing game.  The security of fourth place and Aston Villa’s poor run may have made the Gunners a bit complacent, but more likely, the simple fact is that Arsenal are not yet the team to compete at the highest level.

Andrei Arshavin has adapted to the league quickly, and there are some true adolescent gems at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger’s young team continue to show flashes of brilliance to instill optimism, but in the end, lack the consistency and tenacity required to touch silver.  There is no doubt Wenger is the one of the best spotters of young talent.  Unfortunately for him, Ferguson is the best builder of teams.

There is an appreciation of Arsenal and what they represent, with their passing ethos and enthusiastic side of youngsters.  But how long must we seek to find words to explain the ups and downs of a Jekyll and Hyde side?  Callow, inexperienced, petulant.  Naive, slight, lacking that cutting edge.  All of these are often thrown about when the Gunners are torn apart by a mid-table side, let alone humiliated at home by a top four side.

The debate continues over the efficacy of Wenger’s decision to remain young and lean.  Fiscal prudence is always more desired than extravagance in the transfer window, and Wenger has built and preserved his club better than anyone. Except Alex Ferguson, who coincidentally, finds himself on friendlier terms with his French nemesis since Arsenal have won nothing in the last five years.

You can argue for more depth in all positions, more height at the back, more bite in front of the back four, and less talking from Emmanuel Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner.  And perhaps less spitting from Cesc Fabregas.  But there is no denying that this is a team lacking the fire to compete with Manchester United.

There are elements of Wenger’s inaction that hurt his club’s chances, just as there are elements of his thrift that place the club in good standing for the future.  Arsenal essentially are battling above their weight-class, both on the pitch and the bench, despite record revenue.  At some point, Wenger is going to have to take a chance and splash out some cash.  Arshavin was always the wanted man, but the lateness of the move ruled him ineffectual for the majority of the season, and absent for the Champions League.

There cannot be an argument that Arsenal lack a few things in their side.  In the long-term, it may be players, but today it was guile and rhythm, those things we expect from an Arsene Wenger side.

Just how long the best players on the team will wait out the building process remains to be seen.  Perhaps Arsenal will lift some silver next year, but until a statement of intent is made, either in the transfer window or in performance, it remains boys against men, as it was today at the Emirates.


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  1. David Nathaniel

    May 6, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Just to correct you Tyson, when Arsenal beat us 2 – 1 at their home ground. You have to look at the way teams start out their seasons; Arsenal always start their season gunz blazing while united are like wine… they get better as time goes. How many times have we seen Arsenal stay at the top of the table from when the season begins and everything falls apart during mid December or early January? United on the other hand start slow; granted this season we started picking proper point a tad late compared to other season, and thats why they beat us, and am not tryna take anything away from the Gunners, they played well.

    However, as much as it would be foolish to write-off the Gooners, as the season progresses they slow down and get tired (expirience). Thats why all Arsenal fans are crying out to Wenger to spend some ching and get one or two expirienced strikers and defenders but knwoung Arsen, you can forget, he will keep to his strategy and wait for the day he can turn around to everyone and say “i say young players can do it and here it is…”

    that could be the year 2010/11 assuming these players still stick around. I wount be surprised if some money is flashed and most of them leave. Check Flamini and Hleb.

  2. luth

    May 6, 2009 at 7:49 am

    We need 4 or 5 players like Arshavin…. not a young players like the team…. very weak…

  3. luth

    May 6, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Sack Wanger! bring new manager…….

  4. Tyson

    May 6, 2009 at 4:43 am

    This is a good article you summed up the match and the result in a few short sweet paragraphs and kept your own bias to the very minimum while asking a question that will be on all of our minds; whats the problem?

    Anybody saying Arsenal didn’t have a chance by the way is insane. As a United fan I sit up and take notice every single time we play Arsenal. Arsene Wenger is a genius and Arsenal play very classy football that doesn’t always produce results but when it does.

    Arsenal DID have a very good chance last night. I mean look at it this way. It wasn’t too long ago when Arsenal beat Manchester United 2-1 and if I recall correctly that was at Old Trafford. If you think Arsenal can’t repeat that result at the Emirates or even top that result your insane, don’t ever count the gunners out.

    Now the reason United won is because they had their ball bearings in order. United are pre-dominantly an attacking side but they have to be cautious because without Wed Brown and Owen Hargreaves they can’t deal with a counter attack at all.

    When the match started Arsenal tried to take the game to United to exploit their broken defense and midfield which was a great strategy but United got that first goal. It wasn’t a big deal at the time. I mean your talking one goal up and 82 minutes to go but that second strike pretty much sealed the deal.

    By the way I don’t know how this man does it but striking from 40 yards out and getting it in.. I’ve been watching football for a long time and I have to say I rarely see those but this man does it on a weekly basis it’s incredibly impressive.

    This is the problem with playing against United we have a world class striking team at our disposal but with problems in our mid and defense lines we are very suscpetible to a counter attack so we’re so busy trying to not give the ball away that we can’t attack as effectively.

    Last night though when we created a margin we ended up going back to the care free strike-a-thon team of last year and hit Arsenal hard and if it wasn’t for the amazing Almunia it would have been 5 or 6 goals instead of 3.

    I think Manchester United is going to be a force to be reckoned with next year when we have our defensive and midfield priorities organised and we can go back to playing like this but this year I’m just glad to be on my way to the final and probably retaining the Premier League title.

    What I will say is great game Arsenal I think your team has a hell of a future and to our rivals I’d like to say if you think we did well this year let us get our midfield and defensive lines together and see what we’re capable of then.

  5. David Nathaniel

    May 6, 2009 at 3:53 am

    Well well well the resd do it again, was it expected?? sort of. As much as most people would like to think that Man UTD were definately going to win, at the back of your heads, you knew Arsenal are capable of pulling 2 rabbits out of a hat (LiverFool game afew weeks ago). However you got the feeling that because Arsenal was very inexpirienced and full of young players, the firsts goal would kill their morale (Arshavin would beg to differ am sure… again, reference made to the LiverFool game).

    Whatever anyone says, the reds played a professional game. First goal was lucky but lets not take anything away from Ji Sung Park for being able to handle the pressure of making sure that hit the back of the net.

    Not sure if anyone realised but the first touch that Almunia had of the ball, was from behind his goal line…lol.

    Second goal??? Pure class, ye everyone says Almunia should have done better, but if you look at the pace that Ronaldo put on the ball… very few keepers can actually make that kind pf save. Ronaldo, Scholsy & Juninho (to a certain extent) have perfected the art of hitting proper dead balls with pace.

    Third goal…. well, what more can i say, traditional Man UTD counter-attack and God was very generous when he was issuing out talents coz he gave Ronaldo legs than can move like a bullet.

    Fletcher was unlucky, dont think it was a red card incident, perhaps yellow, i also feel he was a tad stupid, he should have left the ball for VDS, but i suppose clean sheets are uniteds trademarks and they werent going to give one away just like that.

    So why did Arsenal loose over 2 legs, united perfected the art of not letting Arsenl play their game. Pure strategy, everyone knows thet if you attack united flat out from the beginning of the game, you might get something, but on the other hand, United have perfected the art of keeping possession. I was surprised Arsenal had more ball possesion that us.

    I just think that if Chelsea or Barca watched that game last night, they must have been very very afraid. Something tells me Chelsea will win tonight even though i would rather meet Barca in the final.

    Whoever takes it tonight, we reds and United faithful dont care coz will take it to the edge. Good article by the way!!

  6. Naboth

    May 6, 2009 at 3:48 am

    Spend Money to make Money and win Trophies! Cup of tea or coffe is waiting for u guys!

  7. Brian 2

    May 6, 2009 at 2:54 am

    This is not the first time AW has lost a cl sf. He lost against Chelsea 2004 and Pool last season. It’s obvious he hasn’t digested the lessons. Granted he went in with a blowpipe against some one with the crossbow.
    He still thinks teams shd let his gunners play their bewitching stuff. He wasn’t playing or shd I say unable to play his usual fluent style.This leads to his recruitment policy. He shd get guys at least 180cm or taller.
    That will make a difference.
    Btw since the season began it it was and still is obviuos to all except AW the defence is shit. Unless he shores up the defence with a clone like Samba Arsenal will be leaking goals.

  8. Brian

    May 6, 2009 at 1:57 am


  9. olivert

    May 5, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    If you are an Arsenal supporter and you continue to believe that Arsenal lost because the team lacked “fire” or “heart”, please repeat until you understand the following three words:




    Arsenal went to “war” with the equivalent of a toy pop gun against an opponent who had bazookas. The result was predictable.

  10. Brian

    May 5, 2009 at 10:13 pm


    I hope you realize I don’t take offense with your tone. My hope in not taking myself too seriously is tempered by a little sarcasm.

    I too am frustrated, more so over the possibility of Barcelona being knocked out 1-0 on aggregate. Though Manchester United simply outclassed the Gunners, I would’ve liked different teams in this year’s final.

    My question about Arsenal having a chance stems from my personal opinion that all of that is positive about Wenger’s side seems to come from an array of one-off, mercurial moments (Fabregas’ pass to create Adebayor’s overhead goal) instead of consistent, dominant play. It’s unfair to compare sides from different eras, but there’s something forceful (passion, confidence, guile) missing in comparison to more successful Arsenal teams.

  11. Morgan

    May 5, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    The first goal was extremely unlucky. Gibbs simply lost his footing, it could have happened to anybody. The semifinals were over for Arsenal after that goal. The remainder of the game they had to play an all out attack, leaving themselves exposed at the back repeatedly. The 2nd goal should have been saved, nobody should score from that distance, Ronaldo included.

    I believe Brian Louie is incorrect, and frankly, a jackass for saying Arsenal did not have the fire. I think the opposite was quite evident in the opening minutes, but again, an unlucky goal all but eliminated them in the first ten minutes.

  12. JLay

    May 5, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Arguing over word choice won’t make Arsenal relevant again. Whether it was fire, firepower, toughness, maturity, experience, or quality, Arsenal lacked it.

    Also, is it just me or does Adebayor take a cheap shot at someone every time Arsenal loses? The ankle stomp he performed on Carrick was classless and obviously intended to cause injury – he deserved to see red, not yellow. I really hope that somebody gives it back to him one day- preferably in a career-ending dose.

  13. mk

    May 5, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    still a great article! jm may have some great arguments but in conclusion, one of the best articles i have read on this site in weeks!

  14. jm

    May 5, 2009 at 8:16 pm


    I do apologize for the harshness of tone, it was partially born out of frustration at the match. I stand by the criticism though. I was not demanding tactical analysis out of you – but I was asking for claims that can be sensibly defended. I thought your claim was either (a) vacuous (on the first definition), or (b) without evidence (on the second).

    I also don’t really know what your new question has to do with anything. It is so broad that any answer I give cannot possibly be used as evidence for the “fire” claim unless you meant it on the vacuous definition.

    As far as an answer goes, I guess it depends at which point you are asking. I certainly thought they had a chance through the first 7 minutes of the match. After the double hit of two goals, I didn’t like their chances, and the team were outclassed. I still don’t see any need to chalk that up to something like “fire” or “guile.” (I do think there is something to “rhythm” though),

  15. Brian

    May 5, 2009 at 7:38 pm


    I like both of your proposed definitions. If you want in-depth tactical analysis, I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding any online. As gifted as Arsenal are, they didn’t rise to the occasion. Was it lack of skill in the face of a better team? Sure. But, did you feel like Arsenal really had a chance at all in the two legs, as they have in the past against their top rivals?

  16. jm

    May 5, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    “But there is no denying that this is a team lacking the fire to compete with Manchester United.”

    I’ll deny this non-falsifiable nonsense.

    Let us consider the pair of ways I can think to define “fire” in this sentence. The first is that it is “whatever made United better than Arsenal tonight.” Well, that’s complicated, a lot of things made them better. Not the least of which is that they are the best team in England, and are better than Arsenal. A serious analysis (which this is not) would have to take a pretty close look at the personal on the field, the tactics they employed, where the goals came from, why Arsenal could not get shots on goal, etc.

    The second way to take it is that “fire” refers to some psychological quality that Arsenal lacked. If this is what is meant, then I must ask for some evidence for that claim. What makes you think it is true? That Arsenal were bettered? What distinguishes being bettered by a stronger side from lacking “fire”? If it was your “personal observation,” then it is hard to see why you think nobody would doubt it. I think your observation was wrong. What evidence will settle our dispute? Where is it?

  17. Sean Atkinson

    May 5, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Adrian, you are acting like Gibbs put in a shambolic performance. Unfortunate? Yes. A result of his inexperience on a big stage? No.

    While Clichy has been injured Gibbs has played well. One slip should not take away from that.

  18. Adrian

    May 5, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    It wasn’t fair on poor young Gibbs to have to play in such a high pressure game like a semi-final champions league clash against man united. Anyway I hope this proves that experience is the key to success and not youth!!!!! Our main aim since being at the Emirates has been to maintain a fourth position in the premiership. Long live the ‘untouchables’ and long may they reign…

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