A Costly Friday Night

Online Ed: Arsenal eliminated from FA Cup by Man Utd as injury list grows

A Costly Friday Night

In May 2009, Manchester United came to the Emirates in a cup game and handed a developing Arsenal team a football lesson, winning 3-1, the first two goals coming in quick succession in the first half. It was a deflating evening.

Fast forward four months short of a decade, and it suddenly feels like the club has been treading water in all that time. Nothing seems to have changed. Now go back 10 years from May 2009 and we have some more deflating memories – of another cup defeat at the hands of United, although on neutral ground, with a 2-1 scoreline after extra time. At least that collective of players recovered, with new additions, to win a string of trophies over the following six seasons. At the moment, it’s hard to feel too optimistic about the next six years at Arsenal. At least, between 1999 and 2002, the club had money to spend (it dried up with the new stadium project, but by that time, key personnel had been secured – Henry, Pires, Sol Campbell, Lauren, Gilberto to name a few). Now, even if the club were owned by a billionaire willing to invest in playing staff, FFP rules dictate there is a limit on how much they could do. Everyone now, in theory, is operating on a self-sufficiency model. Manchester City get round it by their huge sponsorship deals with their owner’s companies. But for everyone else, it’s money through their varied sources of income that determines their ability to do business for new players. Roman Abramovich has stopped pumping funds into Chelsea due to his visa situation, and would probably sell the club if the right offer came along.

Arsenal do not have much room for manoeuvre – compared to the money making machine at Old Trafford for example – because of their wage bill. It is way too high, a legacy of the previous regime awarding contracts to players paying them more than their worth. It was a model based upon continued Champions League participation, but a series of poor buys meant that as Liverpool and Spurs improved, Arsenal could not maintain their consistency. Now the club are stuck with a squad where too many of the players are simply not of the standard required. United can afford to pay Alexis Sanchez more than Arsenal are paying Mesut Ozil – and it doesn’t hamper them as much when they seek players to improve their squad.

Which brings us to the game and the booing of Sanchez. Panto season isn’t quite over yet it seems. Sanchez is a talented player who served Arsenal pretty well, but quite evidently fell out with many of his team-mates. He, like most footballers, prioritised personal finance over club loyalty and could do better by moving elsewhere. Additionally, he seemed to care more about winning than many of his colleagues – at least that was my impression. Arsenal decided to let him go to United because they felt they would do better trading him for a player rather than getting nothing for him a few months later. Sanchez chose to go to United because they were offering a bigger pay packet than anyone else. I didn’t boo Sanchez last night. Perhaps better to focus one’s energy on getting behind your own team? Just a thought. Still, it’s all entertainment. We pay our money we have the choice to do as we choose within the ground regulations. No-one takes it that seriously, but I never enjoy seeing former players get this kind of reception, understanding their personal priorities are to themselves rather than any one club. That’s just me though.

As for the game, no need to rake over the coals in depth. Arsenal were unfortunate to lose two more centre backs to injury, and we can only guess when either will be back. It certainly didn’t help the team. United’s first two goals were a result of Emery’s team playing the offside trap badly. Maitland-Niles wasn’t in line for the first goal and Koscielny unwisely tried to use it for the second. Steve Bould is on the coaching staff, but my suspicion is that he isn’t taking the defenders through the kind of George Graham drills upon which 18 years of success were built. Good times. And you know what, for many reading this, the period between 1987 and 2005 will be as good as it gets in our Arsenal supporting lives. 13 trophies in 18 seasons. Some wonderful football and great matches under two managers at the peak of their powers. To think, the club moved stadium to build upon that success.

Back to the game anyway and Arsenal gave us hope with a goal before the interval, and had a go in the second half. The best chance was the point blank header from Ramsey that was saved by Romero. Lacazette tried manfully, but there were too many instances of over-playing it in the United box when getting a shot away would have been more effective. It is a hangover from the attempt to score the perfect goal from the previous manager’s era. If you have Messi, Suarez, Neymar and Iniesta in the team, it might come off more often.

Ultimately though, United proved adept at closing off the channels and getting their interceptions in. Given that Grant Xhaka was moved to centre back once Koscielny was taken off, a counter attack was always going to result in a likely goal, and so it proved. That Rashford and Martial had joined the fray by this time told you that. In the end, the third United goal came and the home fans streamed out, even though there would be ten minutes of injury time added. In truth, the players seemed to lose heart after the third goal, and it was no wonder. Ozil came on for Iwobi on 64 minutes and got heavily involved, but ultimately to little effect. He couldn’t unpick United’s defensive lock.

So Arsenal exit the FA Cup. Time will tell whether this ultimately assists their season. They have two prizes to focus on now. Top four and Europa League. Frankly with the defending as we have seen it so far this season, there isn’t a huge amount of optimism here. Is it personnel, tactics or lack of coaching? Probably a combination of all three. How revolutionary would it be to give the players to Bould or another defensive co-ordinator for 30 minutes every day so they could work on this? With Emery watching so that he can incorporate the lessons into his tactical approach. For a piece one day I will look at the defensive solidity of Sevilla when they won their three Europa Leagues in a row under Emery. Then we will have a better idea whether improvement is likely. And if it isn’t… well, how long can the club afford to wait before trying someone else?


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  1. peter wain

    Jan 28, 2019, 13:13 #113010

    no surprise with the result. We need better players and the owner should finance them. Why we are messing around with wingers when we need two world class centre halves is beyond me. Unfortunately we have an owner who is bleeding the club dry of money and no chance of any real progress in improving the squad until the yank goes.

  2. TonyEvans

    Jan 28, 2019, 08:41 #113006

    I know the injuries didn't help but it all looked depressingly familiar to the bad old days under Wenger. Defensive naivety playing right in to United's hands, and tippy tappy, tippy tappy ad nauseam with no end product. At least it doesn't get me down anymore - I watched the game, we lost and that was it - no hangover for the whole weekend, which would have been the usual for me.

  3. John F

    Jan 27, 2019, 17:24 #113005

    It just got worse ,Sokratis out for a month.

  4. 1971 Gooner

    Jan 27, 2019, 14:37 #113004

    It will get worse before it gets better.

  5. Bard

    Jan 27, 2019, 13:01 #113003

    Agree with all about the booing. He put in a decent shift for us and left for more money and also that fact that Arsenal arent going anywhere so why stay. Have no problem with that. Would prefer to hear us booing Stan/son wherever they deem to appear. Nothing game against Manure. Once we had gifted them a couple of goals it was game over. Usual defensive mes from us. We will have to wait for reinforcements before we see any improvement.

  6. Don Howe

    Jan 26, 2019, 21:27 #113002

    I don’t understand the booing . I loathe it. It’s rude and it’s ungrateful. The player left because of Wenger. So did others. Van Persie nFabregas, Henry. As to the defence, what Emery calls the balance, is not right. The balance between defence and attack.We need Martin Keown, not Steve Bould, who has had his chance. Ozil must be sacked for performance reasons and told to get another job to mitigate his loss.

  7. Paulo75

    Jan 26, 2019, 18:24 #113001

    Another sobering lesson of what we already knew really. The defensive injuries obviously didn't help but don't really change the fact that Emery needs time and money to effect what he is capable of and trying to do with the team. Top four or EL success is what we need to focus on but I don't see either happening this year. Until the playing staff evolution gathers pace (after summer) will we have half a chance of progressing. Agree though, Bould seems to be under utilised - I'm sure he has much to offer defensive coaching wise but if Emery will not let him have a major influence then its just another wage being paid with no value to the club in return.

  8. ArsenalMagna

    Jan 26, 2019, 16:53 #113000

    We looked the far better team till United scored - they were were happy to take a draw with a rematch at Old Trafford; once their first goal went in it played into their hands perfectly. In any case, there was some bad defending from us even before that, and I am struggling to see why Emery is not addressing this side of the game properly. Ideally we would press high, but I doubt we have the pace at CB positions, and players can't/won't do that all season anyway, especially if it's across multiple competitions. I can only think that Emery has a Wenger-esque idealism re: attacking over defending, or that he feels pressured to achieve things this season, hence he goes gung ho to play to our strengths (Laca, Auba). When Steve Bould first joined our defence became so much better - that makes me think that Emery is being ridgid in terms of training/tactics one way or another. The thing is, great though City and Liverpool are, I think that with the right doctrine and a few great additions, we could definitely challenge for the title in a few years time. It remains to be seen whether the top EPL teams really are becoming amongst the best in Europe again.

  9. The Man From UNCLE

    Jan 26, 2019, 16:41 #112999

    Obviously disappointing but they took their chances clinically and we did not, otherwise not much between the two sides. A carbon copy of the LC game vs that lot up the road. OP is being a little harsh on the team and manager here IMO, judge Dick next Christmas not now. I can understand the booing of Alexis but come on people, all players will go somewhere else if a better offer comes along, the guy is still class (as that finish showed) and did a great job for us.

  10. John F

    Jan 26, 2019, 16:41 #112998

    The injuries decided this game and as Mbg said having Cech in goal.I felt in the periods before each injury we were building up momentum and we could of scored and won the game.We have now lost four 1st choice defenders no team can cope with that with a 25 man Squad.Good defending is built up on the good understanding of players who have been playing together over a period of time,Dick has not had this luxury.

  11. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Jan 26, 2019, 16:12 #112997

    We started very well and should have punished United, who started poorly. However you could feel a break against us coming and United punished our defensive frailties. I received an text message 15 minutes from the end "Wengerball lives hurrah" - as we played tippy tappy around the United box, pass pass pass, looking for the perfect angle but never actually crossing the ball. Now when you have Phil Jones in defence you should get in as many crosses as possible because when PJ meets the ball 1 of 3 things can happen, the ball is cleared for a corner, the defending keeper will make a great save or the lumbering defender will score a wonderful own goal. We never saw any of the three things happen because we never fired the ball into the box. We finished the game looking like the Arsenal of Arsene Wenger's most frustrating years in charge. Without sounding churlish I thought United were average and should have been beaten.

  12. mbg

    Jan 26, 2019, 14:42 #112996

    That game was very winable last night i thought, man u were nothing special we had some good spells and the chance to equalise, of course we needed to take those chances and we didn't, and it didn't help we had an over the hill idiot in a hat in goals who gifted them the third and it was game over. Keepers help win games too and that's the difference they had one/two and we have none.

  13. RobG

    Jan 26, 2019, 13:44 #112995

    " And you know what, for many reading this, the period between 1987 and 2005 will be as good as it gets in our Arsenal supporting lives. 13 trophies in 18 seasons. Some wonderful football and great matches under two managers at the peak of their powers. To think, the club moved stadium to build upon that success." This - is indisputable. Frankly I think the result - although not the further injuries - do us a favour. We aren't equipped to handle the Prem' by itself, let alone anything else. We're handicapped enough. What really worries me is 1/ How much Kronke is taking out the Club to pay his purchase of Uzmanov's share ? 2/ Even if we get back to the CL - if ? - will this not simply encourage him to grab more ? In other words any increased income, goes to Stan and not the squad. In which case Emery could be an amalgam of Clough and Ferguson with Herbert Chapman thrown in for good measure and he's still a long shot so succeed ??