Arsenal were routinely beaten by a Manchester United side playing in second gear as Arsene Wenger’s side submissively bent over and took one from Robin van Persie and co.
The Gunners set up at Old Trafford with the same starting line-up that laboured to victory over QPR last weekend but barely mustered a shot on target as our former captain and Patrice Evra scored either side of half-time.
Santi Cazorla scored a consolation with the last kick of the game, but the 2-1 defeat could have been far worse with Wayne Rooney missing a penalty and the home side able to pick holes in the Arsenal defence at will following Jack Wilshere’s 70th minute sending off.
If you’d asked any Gooner before the game to describe the worst possible way the game could start they’d probably have muttered something about our defence pressing the self-destruct button and Robin van Persie scoring.
And so it came to pass.
In the second minute a Ferdinand pass was cleverly flicked by Valencia outside Andre Santos leaving Rafael with space to cross low across the box. The danger appeared to be over as Vermaelen assessed his clearance options, but instead of hoofing the ball up the field he miskicked straight to Van Persie who first-time arrowed a right-foot shot through the Belgian’s legs past Mannone. It was the stuff of nightmares.
The first half continued in a similarly error-prone fashion; we produced nothing of merit. Wayne Rooney didn’t allow Arteta any time on the ball meaning the Spaniard often had to pass backwards to Mertesacker rather than find Wilshere and Cazorla. It slowed the pace of our game down from the outset and meant we rarely got out of our half without facing ten men in red shirts.
When the midfield did find space, simple things like controlling the ball proved impossible for their teammates. United bossed the midfield, while up front Giroud toiled away without any reward.
Andre Santos was ripped to shreds in the left-back position, not helped by Podolski’s apparent unwillingness to help cover, Rooney and Van Persie had further efforts which Mannone kept out with a minimum of fuss, Wilshere picked up a booking, before Young and Cleverly were also cautioned – the game was pretty dull.
Alas, just as it looked as though we might make it to half-time at 1-0 we conceded a penalty. A short corner was played to Young and his cross was blocked by Cazorla’s hands as he tried to protect his face. Harsh? Maybe. A penalty? Yes. Wayne Rooney stepped up to take it and finally we got a break as he fired off the post and wide.
At the start of the second half Thomas Vermaelen, channelling all the quality of a Pascal Cygan-Igor Stepanovs hybrid, made another awful error on the edge of the box which nearly led to United doubling there lead. On this occasion Valencia wasn’t quite able to make contact with the ensuing cross.
Aaron Ramsey was sacrificed in favour of Theo Walcott on the 50 minute mark; the Welshman possibly suffering from a groin problem. A couple of minutes later we produced our first effort at goal. Santos chugged down the left and fed Cazorla who in turn fired across to Giroud. The Frenchman swivelled well but could only hit the near post.
We were a bit more competitive as the game reached the hour mark. There was a little more pace and resolve in possession and a bit more crunch in the tackles, but despite an upturn in urgency we weren’t a match for Ferguson’s mob.
On 66 minutes Ashley Young floated a ball over the top of the defence, Van Persie found space and looked certain to score before Mannone smartly turned the ball around the post. The reprieve was only temporary. From the resulting corner Rooney crossed and Evra headed home. 2-0 and game over.
Things went from bad to worse 90 seconds later when a frustrated and tired Wilshere picked up his second booking and received his marching orders. There was little complaint from the England international as Evra lay in a crumpled heap.
The last twenty minutes were played out to the noise of the travelling Gooners bravely chanting, “We love you Arsenal.” The players didn’t deserve such support and they knew it as United squandered several more chances to extend their lead. In the dying seconds of injury-time Cazorla flashed home a nice strike, but before the game even restarted Mike Dean blew for full-time.
The whistle came as a relief. We were poor, awful in fact, and the 15 point total we’ve amassed in our opening 10 Premier League games is our worst since we finished 12th in the 1994-95 season (stat from @Orbinho).
I’m loathed to sound too depressed, but it really isn’t looking good at the moment.