For Arsene Wenger, this was the chance to prove to his club’s critics and to the players under his control at Arsenal that the Gunners really are worthy of being considered likely candidates on odds comparison sites for the Premier League title this season. With Patrice Evra stating earlier in the week that Manchester United had nothing to fear from a weak Arsenal side that is currently undergoing a period of “crisis”, last night was the chance for Wenger to lead his team to a victory that would not only hand the North London side an advantage in the Premier League table standings but also finally show that the players so often laughed off by opponents as light-weights are able to compete against the big boys of the league.
Wenger must, therefore, be scratching his head in bemusement today after the reality that played itself out on the pitch last night. Arsenal shot themselves in the foot once again, proving to all those observing their efforts on Sky Sports that they’re still not capable of turning impressive possession statistics into the stats that count: goals. With Arsenal enjoying the majority of possession at Old Trafford, they barely registered a shot on target and Edwin Van der Sar was left a mere bystander for the majority of the evening.
Perhaps more worrying for Wenger was the desire and hunger shown by the United players compared to that displayed by the Arsenal starting eleven. With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, along with Evra, showing that they’re prepared to do whatever it takes to keep a clean sheet and help their team record a crucial victory that leaves them favourites in the fixed odds, the sort of team spirit needed to win tight battles such as that seen last night was absent from an Arsenal side that contained several players who looked like they couldn’t care less what the score-line was at the final whistle.
With Arsenal also notching up the fouls across the pitch and Andrey Arshavin guilty of going down softly on more than a couple of occasions, Wenger can surely no longer claim that Arsenal are bullied off the pitch by teams in the Premier League without being ridiculed.
If Chelsea manage to return to form over the next week or so and travel to the Emirates full of confidence after Christmas, the results for toothless Arsenal could be frightening.