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The Enmity is Still There

This is a rather rushed recollection of yesterday’s game in which Arsenal surrendered their unbeaten record to Manchester United. Recent seasons have seen the intensity of the rivalry between the two clubs diminish but yesterday’s match events and the comments of the pundits after the match ensured that all those long-suppressed feelings of injustice and rivalry surfaced spontaneously.

Let us summarise the match before we talk about the reaction to it. It was a high-quality game at a stadium where Arsenal don’t traditionally do too well, although in the last eight games (home and away) before this against United we had lost only once. That was last year – a very avoidable defeat. We managed to replicate the experience yesterday.

Arsenal made one change from Villa in midweek, bringing back Zinchenko to what begins as a left-back station but morphs into many other things. The game developed in segments. For the first ten or so minutes Arsenal hardly had a kick as United stormed out of the blocks. Eriksen should have scored from a fine Antony cross but fired wide, otherwise for all their pressure United did not create much. Suddenly we broke. Ødegaard dispossessed Eriksen inside the United half , Saka produced an incisive pass which gave Martinelli lots to do but he did it brilliantly holding off Dalot and beating De Gea. Nobody celebrates goals immediately anymore especially at Old Trafford. Referee Tierney (who Twitter are claiming is from Salford) saw the tackle from Ødegaard and deemed it acceptable but Lee Mason stationed out at Greater Manchester decided that being in charge of VAR entitles you to re-referee the game. Having made a diabolical mistake at Newcastle the day before he obviously told Tierney to ‘look again’. Tierney did and looked for some time but ruled the goal out. Quelle Surprise.

The impact of that seemed to affect both teams . United lost any rhythm they had before and Arsenal grew in confidence and fluidity. Martinelli had a shot blocked by De Gea’s leg and Saka had a reasonable claim for a penalty turned down. Saliba missed when well-placed and Jesús ran Varane and most of the rest of the United defence ragged. A goal seemed inevitable and it duly came. Sadly it was a United goal

Tierney played an intelligent advantage when Gabriel fouled Fernandes, the ball was switched on to Rashford who played it through to debutant Antony, and he finished well although it might be claimed that Ramsdale showed him a lot of the goal.

United 1 Arsenal 0 (Antony, 35′)

Arsenal responded with more fluent attacking play but could not produce an equaliser despite enjoying great success along both wings. We had enjoyed territorial superiority, had bossed possession and looked a cut above United. But at the interval we were one down.

Half-time – United 1 Arsenal 0

We have some idea of how Arteta might have tackled the task of preparing his team for the second half. His message would have gone something like ‘You’re murdering this lot. Make our fooking superiority count!’ High fives all round.

The lads must have listened because for the first fifteen minutes of the second half there was only one team in it. Arsenal’s superiority was almost embarrassing. Saka whipped a cross shot narrowly wide, Jesús continued to bamboozle Varane, and Xhaka and Zinchenko fed a constant stream of through balls to Saka and Martinelli. Ronaldo arrived but as soon as he did we equalised. Ødegaard played a lovely pass to Jesús through the middle. United‘s defence could only block it partially and it span to Saka who swept it home. Even Gary Neville couldn’t dispute the justice of it.

United 1 Arsenal 1 (Saka, 60′)

I could not have been alone in thinking that this was going to be the pivotal moment in the game as Arteta readied three substitutes: Nketiah, Vieira and Smith Rowe. Zinchenko was removed forcing Martinelli to operate as a withdrawn left-back. Then from nothing Fernandes found Rashford onside and he took the chance well racing from halfway to slot into the corner. Mike Macdonald criticised Ramsdale’s starting position but I felt that was harsh.

United 2 Arsenal 1 (Rashford, 66′)

I felt a combination of deep injustice and annoyance at the naivety of our gung ho approach exemplified by our very high line. Our substitutes all came on to push for an equaliser only to suffer the coup de grace.

Eriksen timed his run from midfield perfectly and slotted across goal for Rashford, a man who until recently couldn’t buy a goal to slot home, despite White’s despairing challenge. My inclusion of Rashford in my Fantasy Team did not lessen the pain any.

United 3 Arsenal 1 (Rashford, 75′)

By now it was obvious that this was not our day. We continued to play neat and occasionally penetrative football without troubling De Gea unduly. Gooners watching on Sky braced themselves for the smug self-assurance of Roy Keane and Gary Neville. Arteta fumed on the touchline (why can’t they fooking do what I fooking tell them?) and Ten Hag, now officially the greatest  manager in the world, looked like a man whose plan has worked to perfection.

Losing at Old Trafford always hurts but it hurts more when it is avoidable.

Full time – United 3 Arsenal 1

So what lessons can we learn from our first defeat?

Firstly we played some lovely football and had the first goal stood it would  have been a different game. On a weekend where the effectiveness of the way PGMOL operate VAR was called into question by the Premier League it was a pity that we are one of the teams that suffered but at Old Trafford “twas ever thus”.

Our squad still looks light in places and it must be hoped that we can deal capably with our Europa League group witn several rotations because ESR was injured (yet again) in the warm down and we are without Elneny, Partey (due back on Sunday) and Nelson. Several of our team played very well. Jesús was superb, Saka much improved, Ødegaard looked incisive and Xhaka played well again in his advanced role. Zinchenko is a terrific player but Gabriel and Ramsdale have an occasional mistake in them, Sambi is inevitably inexperienced, and I can’t understand starting White ahead of Tomayisu although he has done little wrong.

But there was enough encouragement in our performance to persuade the most cynical Gooner that we have a real chance of top four this season. A little perspective is often useful. It’s sad that we had to acquire it in such depressing circumstances…

26 Drinks to “The Enmity is Still There”

  1. 1
    North Bank Ned says:

    An excellent report between the two of you, Scruz and TTG. Ying and yang. It was a game that could have been won and certainly not lost, doubling the disappointment. They say top teams know how to win when they play badly. We seem to lose when we play well. How the team bounces back will be the test of its metal.

  2. 2
    OsakaMatt says:

    It’s two for one day!

  3. 3
    OsakaMatt says:

    But thanks to you both, for equally accurate reports of a frustrating result.
    I thought Jesus put it well – we were better than them. Though they got
    the win I’d rather have our team than theirs. It’s a pity we couldn’t get
    points while learning a lesson but shit happens. Talking of which, the PGMOL
    have already admitted to mistakes in two of the games on Saturday and I
    think should add our disallowed goal as another. A nonsense decision and it
    is a good first step to openly admit your mistake but I’ve yet to read that
    Mason has been stood down for a month to attend a course on common sense.

    On we go to Zurich to neuter the neutrals……

    Be great if we can rip Everton next weekend and get straight back to winning

  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    Double thanks TTG and Scruz for your comprehensive reports on a difficult afternoon. Resilience is now the order of the day. Let’s take advantage of the midweek opportunity for recovery before we smash Everton.

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    McTominay is a donkey onlybto be compared to Eric Dier.

  6. 6
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks TTG and Scruz. A disappointing day, which I watched in a Greek bar. A frustrating day. But a day to be proud of, because we played some fantastic football. Our front four looked amazing, sharp and incisive. My son and I were muttering louder and louder “ don’t play the high line, it’s the only way they’ll score” And lo, it came to pass. United took their goals very well, but losing to long balls through the channels is very hard to take. Sort it out Mikel, especially against Spurs who play the same way.

    But, it must be pointed out, we are still top of the league. Get maximum points against Everton and Brentford and we will still be top of the league when the NLD comes around after the international break. A state of affairs we would have been well pleased with at the beginning of August.

    Come on you Gunners! As Maria would have said.

  7. 7
    Ollie says:

    Two blogs at once? Got some catch up to do!

  8. 8
    Ollie says:

    Ah I see it’s a double match reports. Cheers Scruz and TTG. Or is it ‘damn you!’?Painful match to revisit.
    Double report=double drinks for all. Let’s put things back right on Sunday (well, let’s win on Thursday first though).

  9. 9
    Ollie says:

    Spot on on all accounts, C100 at 6.

  10. 10
    bathgooner says:

    Good stuff, gents but a painful double reprise.

    An ability to shrug off setbacks without them affecting you defines winners. Now is an opportunity for this young (and naive) team to show they can do that and learn from this experience.


  11. 11
    TTG says:

    It’s a pity we had to reprise a defeat rather than a glorious victory but Old Trafford PTSD is a well known clinical condition that affected Scruz deeply , so much in fact that he forgot the rota! He recovered magnificently to produce a great report which is much better than the other fella who frankly has no clue what’s going on .
    One is continually learning about football but playing now requires much more than football intelligence which very dim individuals like Gascoigne had in abundance. You almost need a degree in physics and geometry to play nowadays . It is also telling that one of the slowest midfielders I’ve ever seen who held up our build up play is performing so effectively further forward. Xhaka has increased his speed of pass significantly and is proving a real threat further forward . I would never have thought him either capable or suitable to push further forward but Mikel has belatedly got him channelling Johnny Haynes .
    On to play a team lying bottom of the Swiss League.Our team selection will be fascinating

  12. 12
    Las says:

    Scruz, TTG well done! Two honest though painful report about our rise and fall.
    Our forward passing was a pleasure to watch Martinelli and Saka goals were beauties.
    But the refereeing and the naivety of our team ultimately ruined the evening.
    We will react on Thursday and on Saturday as well.
    Top of the league!

    p.s it still hurts

  13. 13
    Ollie says:

    Las. I’d rather we reacted on Thursday and Sunday ;-).

  14. 14
    Las says:

    Ollie @13 if you say so 🙂 Let’s be it.

  15. 15
    Doctor Faustus says:

    A fantastic pair of reviews of a frustrating game but not at all a forgettable performance by the fearless force of youthful Arsenal. The fearlessness and youth are applicable not only to the team, but the manager as well.

    Kudos TTG and Scruz!

    Goals win matches. We need to score more, especially when we are dominating. As everyone who is not an apologist for the dastardly biases of officiating in English football have observed, that first goal if not disallowed would have changed the complexion of the game. And what a goal it was!

    I am optimistic that this character filled team will use this experience as a springboard for even better performance — and also a bit more craftier in the moments of transition — in the months and years to come.

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    Touchel sacked at Chelsea

  17. 17
    Countryman100 says:

    Or even Tuchel

  18. 18
    Ollie says:

    Aubameyang must be thrilled….

  19. 19
    North Bank Ned says:

    Ollie@18: 🙂

    Spending all that money during the transfer window on players that assumedly Tuchel wanted and then sacking him makes little sense and will leave little room for the new head coach to reshape the team as he invariably will want. Clearly, the sacking was a reactive move as there seems to be no replacement lined up. All in all, a bit of a 100-day mess at the Bus Stop.

  20. 20
    Trev says:

    Thanks TTG, an accurate account of events and very fair opinions on the lessons to learn.

    I honestly had no great wish to “read all about it” as seeing it was enough. Not only Twitter but also a straightforward google search revealed that Tierney is from Salford and the ridiculous Lee Mason comes from Bolton, GreatervManchester.. That doesn’t help the referees case much when poor decisions go against you.

    I actually thought Tierney wasn’t too bad – apart from his over leniency with adrenaline filled thug McTominay, as usual – but it was VAR that screwed us. Did Odegaard, kick, trip, rake or even scrape Ericsson ? Not at all. A side to side challenge, allowed in football saw Eriksen go to ground. Tierney allowed play to flow – as per the new directives – but Mason decided to draw his timeline at the challenge and disallow the goal.

    I saw a Twitter re-post that claimed that commentator Tyler’s VAR feed picked up the fact that Tierney still did not want to chalk the goal off but was instructed to by Mason. So the on-pitch referee now has no say over events on the, er, pitch ! And who decides quite how far back VAR can look ? The system is junk. Fans can no longer celebrate goals. What’s the point ?

    On the positive side, we showed enough to suggest that our football is definitely going in the right direction. We outplayed United for about 80 minutes of that game. Must improve our finishing in front of goal and not get too high and spread apart at the back.

  21. 21
    Trev says:

    And thanks to scruz for his report – that arrived about as late as a McTominay tackle ! 🤣

    I have read it scruz, and very good it was too !

  22. 22
    scruzgooner says:

    but not as nasty donkey-like, i hope, trev 😘

    sorry to put you all through remembering twice. it’s all or nothing, i’m afraid.

  23. 23
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@20: Well said about VAR. There will come the day when a goal gets chalked off and VAR will rewind the play so far back to find a minor infraction that will allow a penalty to be given against the side that thought it had just scored. Reductio ad absurdum, perhaps, but VAR is getting absurd.

  24. 24
    bt8 says:

    According to Google Translate this is what the home fans should have been singing to Tuchel last night in Zagreb:

    ujutro ćeš dobiti otkaz = you’re getting sacked in the morning

    All Croatian grammatical errors are solely the fault of GT; I’ll accept the fault for the ones in English.

  25. 25
    Ollie says:

    Heh bt8. 😁

  26. 26
    Pangloss says: