Saturday, 10 November 2012

Manchester United chase down leads, Arsenal throw them away

Premier League '12/13, week 11

Arsenal were leading Fulham 2-0. Manchester United were trailing Aston Villa, away, 2-0. Yet the two most successful teams in Premier League history conformed to what is typical of their character. They did what they do best. United swam, and Arsenal sank.

These were two fantastic games, both first-on-Match of the Day worthy. One had to play second fiddle, and Villa-United was considered by the programme editor to be the most special. Fulham will be asking themselves what must they do to be on first, but this was a truly staggering game.

Villa held a comfortable lead, owing to Andrea Weimann's first two goals for the club. The timing of the goals meant their impact was even heavier. One moments before half-time with another tucked in just five minutes into the second-half would have felt like hammer blows to a lesser side.

But Manchester United are not a lesser side. When you have won the European Cup with the other team's colours already decorating the trophy, it gives you the mental strength to believe any situation is rescuable. United typify the never-say-die spirit like no other team.

Their saviour today was Javier Hernandez, who Martin Keown described as a 'modern-day Solskjaer'. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was United's go-to player whenever they needed a goal during the 1990s. Time and time again he would deliver from off the bench. He is a rare type of player whom few teams have in their squads and, despite building a career on starting most matches on the bench, he was never underrated.

It certainly appears that Solskjaer has been reborn in Hernandez.

While Manchester United chased down a lead, Arsenal threw one away. Arsenal are very good at keeping the ball, and enjoy the most possession of the league's 20 teams. But they can't keep an advantage.

For the second game in a row, Arsenal struck first, only to see their lead had evaporated at the final whistle. The nature of the goals they conceded is alarming, too. Fulham's first was a messy goal from a corner that should have been cleared. The second should have been saved. There appears to be a problem with the marking system at Arsenal, and they need a reliable goalkeeper. These are simple issues that can be addressed easily.

The positives for Arsenal lie in that they played their part in a highly entertaining game. Also, they missed a penalty in the last minute, which could easily have gone in on another day.

The negative, perhaps realistic, perspective is that this has been Arsenal's worst start to a league campaign under Wenger. The gap between them and United, City and Chelsea is widening. 

That Alan Shearer stated Everton are favourites to finish fourth speaks greatly about Arsenal's blatantly obvious flaws of character. In comparison to United, they could not be more apparent.

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