Exactly one week ago, Arsenal were preparing for a home clash against Hull. They were buzzing. After all this was a familiar opponent they had conquered two seasons ago. The smash and grab victory at Leicester had instilled the “bad boy” attitude on the Gunners as for the first time in a while, they had actually sucker punched a team. However Jakupovic and company had other plans. The second fiddle keeper was arguably the best player that Saturday afternoon. Impressively keeping out Ox Chambo’s curler which was all but going in. He later on admitted that he might have been lucky in making the save but everyone is so modest these days (sic) so lets just put that down as an instinctive save. Moment later, Welbeck also came knocking with a worldie of his own. Even I must admit he really did wrap his foot around it, only to be denied by a Super Dave-esque stop. The 31 year old Yugoslavian flew across to make that all important stop. His heroics did not got to waste as Hull have earned themselves a replay on March 8th.
Arsene had opted to rest some of the key players for the clash with Barcelona that was looming above the Emirates like a dark cloud. The Gunners’ fans with their banter started ranting about how they had not scored as they were preserving their goals for Barcelona, How Cech had not conceded against Messi in over five appearances, how they were the most in form team in the league and also how Barce had struggled to win against lowly opposition. But perhaps what they should have considered is that Barcelona struggled to win by scoring two goals when they simply struggled to score. Wenger also joined in the banter by claiming that Hull was definitely going to be harder to beat as compared to Barcelona. YIKES.
On that Tuesday night, Barcelona certainly showed up while Ox Chambo clearly didn’t. Undoubtedly wasted Arsenal’s best chance. He had to exit at some time in the second half to spark fears about his Euro 2016 place in the National Team. I will ask this question again, will we ever see the best of Chambo? Not the small bursts of speed, not the 15 minute trickery he employs when he’s brought on in the 70th minute. I’m talking about a very consistent performance. Can he play about 20 games in a row and still provide his best? I’ll let you… or Wilshere be the judge of that.
At the end of the night, Messi knocked and just as the Bible says, the door was opened unto him.. twice, Mascherano gave the performance of a lifetime, Busquets and Iniesta ran Arsenal’s midfield ragged and Neymar casually sent Coquelin back to France.
That’s on paper. I will agree that Barce perhaps got a bit fortunate not to concede on the counter. The Gunners had a blueprint but it just was not working. The most agonizing moment had to be when Giroud passed the ball to his right while his team-mate was on his left. First of, you’re a number nine! Stick your foot through it and pray something happens. When you are in the opposition’s box, you have absolutely nada to lose. They were made to pay for this by Barce’s own version of a counter attack. It was perfectly executed with Messi given an inch perfect pass who took all the pace off the ball with a single touch, held on to it for Cech to make enough contact with the grass to be labelled “weird” before absolutely burying it. Monreal was definitely at fault, although debatable as Arsenal were on ultra attack meaning everyone had pushed up. What we know is that Flamini was definitely responsible for the second. There were just 47 seconds between his coming on to kick Messi’s rear and actually kicking him! Arsenal yet again drew blanks in front of their own. 180 minutes at home and coming up empty, that has got to be a worrying point for Arsene. compare this to their previous run of 17 consecutive games. Dark times my friends, dark times… For Arsenal at least.
United on the other hand were being entertained by League One’s relegation-threatened Shrewsbury for the FA cup. It was an all too familiar story that we have grown accustomed to. Lose and Louis would also lose his position. Talk about chain reaction. And boy did the boys react to the shock Europa loss. We were practically camped in their half. Of course not the type of Camping Bayern did on Juve’s half but yea… you get the point.
Smalling finally made the breakthrough for his first FA goal in his 20th Appearance(wait…what??). United completed the half with 15 shots. This was our highest number of shots in a first half since May 2012. Mata’s sublime freekick and Lingard’s contact from a super Herrera layup ensured united ended the game on a high.
This was the perfect mentality to take to Old Trafford for the do or die match (sic). However united would enter the clash without Smalling who had played in 39 of our last 40 games. How were we to cope without the inform Centre Back? Multi-faceted Michael Carrick was slotted in beside Blind but the biggest blow was coming. During the warm up to the game, Martial picked up what appeared to be a hamstring strain. The second crucial player in a week to suffer this fate. I have questioned Lvg’s training methods before mind you. This meant 18 year old Rashford who was named on the bench would be forced to make his United début in a rather impromptu manner.
From the early moments, there was definitely something special about the kid. Brilliant pace, brilliant on the ball and brilliant finishes; just brilliant. His two goals were pretty impressive I must say. Not so much in the technique but in the positioning. Right place right time. It’s been a while since we had such a decisive goal poacher. I know it’s also a bit too early but his positioning reminds me of the abilities of a certain lanky German (Yes Mark, LANKY)
No to take away anything from the lad but with Martial and Rooney out, United needed someone who would step up; Enter Memphis. The Dutchman certainly killed two birds with one stone. He won the hearts of the fans once again, he stepped up when we urgently required him to and gave the performance of a lifetime that he epitomized in a penalty and a goal. He has also set the record for the most dribbles in an Europa match; 14. (wait how many birds are those again?)
Coming to this game, Memphis was the effigy of United’s poor run. The lad had received so much vile online I even doubted he would ever pull on that shirt. biggest Fraud in Football? who even came up with that! However it is quite easy to relate to his poor run. Playing for a team that was so low on confidence meaning every mistake made would be balloned, a team that was struggling to do anything meaningful in the final third, essentially typical Memphis Territory. He only had three goals, 0 assists in 26 premier league and champions league games. He also had 1 chance created every 115.9 minutes in the league, such an unenviable record. The fact that he acknowledged this was a big step and he admitted he was working on it. After doing this, https://twitter.com/ManUtdMaster/status/703199767124275201 Much Much Better Memphis!!
The two teams who have had very different weeks meet up this Sunday in what is an important game for both teams who are chasing two different things again. Arsenal delivering a league double over us will certainly be the lowest point this season, especially since we are at home. Louis should not let this happen. However my stance on him does not change. The last two results don’t reflect change. He still has to go. We cannot spend 250 million and still be battling for top four; unacceptable. However allow me to disembark from the Mourinho bandwagon. He might be the right person to lead us to back to winning ways but he definitely will not lead us back to dominance. Obviously he is not a long term coach and there is a fear that after he is done, the players he leaves behind are battered, tired and emotionally drained. It takes nothing short of a miracle to get them revving again. is this the type of coach we want our helm?
Herrera and Schneiderlin definitely played their hearts out. This was my ideal midfield pairing once the summer window was shut. Both players are dynamic, have got the skill, can make the tackle, know their way around the box although both should work on their finishing and most importantly, can comfortably do cross field balls all day long. this for me has always been the hallmark of any great midfielder. this skill easily opens up the game and adds new dimensions to attack. i expect the two to line up against Arsenal in two days time.
Rojo was given a brief cameo and should start at fullback, Smalling should make the cut for Sunday. However, Darmian might not make it in time meaning Varela might go up against Sanchez. That is certainly not good news for the Uruguayan. Martial is also unlikely to feature. Could Louis yet again bestow faith on the kid? It remains to be seen. De Gea making it back will be the biggest boost for us. There is something edgy about having the ball close to Romero, whether its United or opposition that have the ball. A loss on Sunday will definitely bring back the #LVGOUT conundrum. He should avoid it like a plague, at all costs. Arsenal celebrating at Old Trafford is a sight for sore eyes.