Last night saw an in form Arsenal travel to Old Trafford for a quarter final cup clash with rivals Manchester United. Positioned 3rd and 4th in the table respectively, the tie was billed as more than a simple knock out, it would have a psychological impact on the race for the top 4.
After a telling 90 minutes, John Murphy writes why the Wenger Out brigade must now be silenced while those who want to see the back of The Iron Tulip should go fetch their drum sets.
It was a fabulous game. Let’s start with that. In an age when caution customarily takes the fore, it was a pleasure to see two sides taking the gloves off and going for it.
Arsenal attacked with style and pace, they weren’t afraid to take players on and they rightly reaped the rewards. United meanwhile, and this may be Van Gaal’s greatest indictment, were far from their worst.
When one analysis such heavy weight clashes their is often a tendency to take one of two viewpoints. The winners were brilliant. Or the losers were terrible. We do this as a means of justification.
“The winners won because they were superior” or “the winners won because their opponents were bad.”
One need only look at the BBC pundits reviewing Nacho Monreal’s opener to see this ambiguous analysis in action. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, who had looked dangerous for the opening half an hour, skipped past Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Antonio Valencia in quick succession before neatly freeing the Spanish left back to sweep home.
Upon reviewing the footage, Roy Keane focused on the dreadful defending while Alan Shearer and Ian Wright praised the Ox’s attacking prowess. The same goal, two completely different perspectives on why it had been scored.
Brilliance or negligence. Take your pick.
Last night, United did not lose because they were worse. They were. But they lost because Arsenal were better. What should worry United fans is that it was very much expected and under the supervision of Louis Van Gaal, there seems to be no signal that things are going to get any better. Ever.
Meanwhile, after a poor performance against Monaco just 14 days ago, many Arsenal fans began to put back on their Wenger out caps despite being almost consistently brilliant since Christmas.
It doesn’t make any sense so let’s talk some. Here are a quick 5 reasons why Wenger should stay and Van Gaal should go:
Wenger knows his best system. He plays a 4-2-3-1 week in, week out. It suits his squad and his philosophy of the game.
Van Gaal’s system selection is reminiscent of a schizophrenic with a Lego set. No one really knows what it is. United’s formation this season has changed from a 3-5-2 to 4-3-3. From a 4-4-3 to 4-1-2-1-2. A 4-2-2-2 to a 4-1-3-2. A 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-1-1… Does Van Gaal even know what he’s doing? Anyone?
The problem with David Moyes at Manchester United was that he didn’t have a philosophy. One week United would play 600 passes on the ground. The next they would aimlessly launch 80 odd crosses into the box. Moyes simply did not know how he wanted his United side to play from one week to the next.
Van Gaal has a philosophy. The philosophy is clear. The problem is that it is terrible. Slow, laboured football, cautious, overly drawn out passing. What a horror show.
Wenger on the other hand. What can you say? We’ve all seen it. It doesn’t always work but when it does? By god is it a beauty to behold.
3. Player selection:
Wenger plays Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Meanwhile, Juan Mata and Radamel Falcao are rotting on the bench at Old Trafford while Marouane Fellaini is seemingly edging closer and closer to becoming their first choice striker.
May god have mercy on us all.
Imagine if Wenger deployed, let’s say Danny Welbeck, in defensive midfield? Imagine if Arsene Wenger sent Per Mertesacker off to take a corner kick in a genuine premier league contest? And then just as you were wondering if that had really happened, he sent him off to take another?
How long do you think it would be before someone questioned his sanity?
1. Top 4 Finish:
Arsenal are now looking the team to beat in the Premier League. In fact, with a fully fit squad, there is a case to be made that they now have the best squad in England.
Yesterday I wrote that Arsenal would win in Manchester. One of the primary reasons for this was simply the talent that Wenger has amassed in his squad. It has taken the Professor some time but while building a new stadium and moving the club into a new era, he has kept them in Europe each year, guided them free from debt and bought smartly.
In what could have been a dreadful era for the North London club, Wenger has built a squad that could very soon be considered as a real force to be reckoned with in Europe.
In selecting his front 6 yesterday, the Frenchman had to choose between Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Mathieu Flamini, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud. They will cruise to a Champions League finish this season.
United are getting worse. They face a ridiculous set of fixtures as the season hits the home straight. Liverpool and Spurs are both within three points and are looking far better sides.
They’re not going to make it.
John Murphy, Pundit Arena