Weekend Premier League Games Raise Questions About Gunners And United

There were only two Premier league games over the weekend due to the deep freeze, but these two games involving Manchester United and Arsenal were significant for the title race and perhaps for the top 4 scramble. Both United and Arsenal came away fortunate to get a draw – United through an own goal and Arsenal through two deflected goals – raising further doubts about both sides. While both remain in the title hunt, both also could be dragged into the top4 scrum should they continue to struggle, especially if City, Spurs, and Liverpool get hot.

Arsenal was outplayed at home by a spirited but injury riddled Everton still sitting in the bottom half of the table. The midfield of Ramsey, Denilson, and Diaby were outplayed and outmuscled by Everton, especially by Fellani. When Arsenal did get in the final third, Everton effectively clogged the middle forcing wide players to put in crosses, which with no aerial threat in the box, Everton was able to deal with very easily. Stephen Pienar’s outstanding breakaway goal at the end was in many ways a byproduct of this as they have to get Gallas and Vermaelan into the box to have any threat. Arshavin, the most dangerous player on the pitch, was anonymous throughout most of the match and looks wasted playing with his back to goal.

The goals Arsenal did score were more down to the defensive efforts of Everton – Howard would have likely easily saved Denilson’s shot for the first goal and would have certainly had a chance at Rosciky’s. But you make your own luck and there is no doubt of Arsenal’s talents. Yet with a brutal stretch of games approaching for the Gunners, they look certain to drop more points over the next month. Furthermore, Everton showed how to play against the Gunners: pressure their midfield, stay compact in the back and force them wide to aimlessly put in crosses to their 5’6 strike force. If Arsenal fail to sign a target man, their champions league place could be in danger.

Manchester United just aren’t that dangerous. They dominated possession most of the match with their five man midfield, but looked pretty anemic in the final third. Credit has to go to an organized and stalwart Birmingham, but some questions have to be asked. Two holding midfielders (Carrick and Fletcher) playing with another deep central midfield (Scholes), is reminiscent of the overly cautious approach of Rafa Benitez. Everything is placed on Wayne Rooney, but while Rooney is a great player, he has played the last few years not as striker and his finishing is just not all that sharp. He was one-on-one with the keeper and placed a tame shot right into him. Sure all strikers blow chances, but Rooney doesn’t strike me as a natural finisher. I think what we see with the hype around Rooney is a lot of English conjecture about what they hope Rooney to be (England’s goal scoring savior) rather than what he actually is (An English Carlos Tevez).

Finally, they just don’t have that many options off the bench, especially now that Berbatov is injured. Giggs came on at the end along with a Premier League debutant. If they really can’t buy because of debt, they look more likely to finish closer to fourth than first.

Without the talent to dominate Premier League battles they are forced to struggle through and have strategically placed a lot of emphasis on pressuring the referrers. It was nice to see this finally bite Ferguson in the butt with Darren Fletcher’s sending off on Saturday. Graham Poll, former Premier League referee, has some astute analysis:

If you only saw highlights of the match, the second yellow card for Fletcher did look extremely harsh as in isolation it was a foul which only really merited a free kick. Ferguson knew that, hence his complaint. Even if you watched the game live on television it appeared difficult to justify given some of the other challenges which went without disciplinary sanction. However, I was pleased to see that a number of journalists note Fletcher’s persistent baiting of Clattenburg and also what appeared to be a final warning earlier in the second half. The tackle was then, if you like, the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was a minor infringement but followed too closely after some clear and obvious dissent from Fletcher.All involved in football should remember this when reviewing highlights of matches that only tend to show the two incidents for which a player receives yellow cards.

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One Response

  1. I think you are wrong about Arsenal. I think they will win the EPL. They are a strong side. Remember their key piece in the midfield was gone Song. This hurt. Denilson was out of place. As for Man U they are in deep do-do. Sure the Red Devils lost Ronaldo but when Tevez left this hurt the squad even more. This man is showing what he can do at Man City. Imagine Tevez with Rooney. I love this though. It will be a crazy year in the EPL. http://bobbygee.wordpress.com/

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