Both of today's games were absolute thrillers. They started out at a slow pace, gradually picking up tempo and then reaching climactic heights all within 90 minutes (stoppage time, if you consider Manchester City's late winner to break Tottenham hearts).
Manchester United emerged victorious after a great game of football, beating Arsenal by two goals to one. Antonio Valencia scored, only to have his goal neutralized by a superb Arsenal goal, which started with a great interception and pass by Laurent Koscielny and a wonderful through ball from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The score sheet does little justice to actually show how great Arsenal also played and how one tactical decision cost them the match. More on that later.
For United, Antonio Valencia put in a splendid performance once again, Nani disappeared and Wayne Rooney wasn't as influential. However, Danny Welbeck had another good game, getting his name on the score sheet after Valencia had done all the great work.
For Arsenal, one man outshone everyone else—Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The young Arsenal man has been really impressive in other cup ties, and he was equally impressive today in his first premier league outing. It was his reverse ball that gave Van Persie the opportunity to score, although Van Persie also deserves a lot of credit for the sublime finish. Well, Van Persie is sublime, what'd you expect?
Oxlade-Chamberlain also made marauding runs, controlled the pace of the game on numerous occasions and enthused the team with a lot of positive energy.
Naturally, when he was substituted, it was a shock. Perhaps Arsene Wenger wanted the young lad to get some experience but not be over worked. However, this cost Arsene the match. Replacing the precocious young talent was Andrei Arshavin.
I don't need to tell you how much Arshavin's form has been on the wane lately, but I wonder why Wenger expects a different outcome with the same thing that has been tried, tested and failed in recent months. Chamberlain's departure and Arshavin's arrival was met with a lot of dissent, anger and boos from the Arsenal faithful. The malcontent was rightly expressed.
Arshavin effectively cost Arsenal the match. While Koscielny was superb today, and Mertesacker made a fantastic clearance of the line, who would have thought Arshavin would be the culprit in defence? He was beaten too easily, did not allow others to step in as a result and let Valencia place a great pass at Welbeck's feet.
The rest, as they say, is history.
So except for one tactical change, Arsenal looked fantastic on several occasions. And, despite the defeat, Arsenal should pride themselves on a valiant tussle with the defending champions. They controlled much of the second half of the match and looked to be strong contenders.
Just as in the other game, Spurs deserved at least a draw, or even a win, while Arsenal deserved a draw.
Was Mikel Arteta the missing link for this game?
What are your opinions on the match? Please leave your comments.
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