Venue : The Emirates
Competition: The Barclays Premier League
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Full time Score: 0-0
Arsenal were held to a tame goalless draw by Manchester United last night as they missed out on the opportunity to go back on top of the league standings after Chelsea had dropped points against West Bromwich earlier this week.
Arsenal, who were hosting out of sorts Manchester United at home after a disappointing weekend result against Liverpool, had the opportunity to regain top position after Chelsea were held to a draw by the Baggies on Tuesday night. However, the Gunners looked a very cautious group still reeling under the effects of a 5-1 thumping at the hands of Liverpool last weekend.
Arsene Wenger reinstated Kieran Gibbs in the left back position after Nacho Monreal’s unsatisfactory performance against the Reds saw them slip from the league top and surrender the same to the Blues. Mesut Ozil, the club’s record signing from Real Madrid last summer, has been facing a lot of stick of late after his performance has been on a downward slide forcing many to question the very basis of spending £42 million on him. Ozil started the game but failed to inspire anything from the middle of the park as he stayed quiet for long periods of the game.
Manchester United did not make too many changes to the side which succumbed to a draw against Fulham despite dominating the majority of the game. Club record signing Juan Mata started the game once again on the left with Wayne Rooney partnering former Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie up front on his return to north London.
The game turned out to be a very cagey affair as both sides struggled to keep the ball for stretched periods and failed to create clear opportunities for the strikers. The best chance of the match, perhaps, fell to Robin Van Persie when a poor defensive clearance saw him through on goal with an advancing Szczesny between him and the goal. However, the Dutchman could only manage a very meek shot with his left foot which was easily gloved by the Polish shot stopper.
Moments later in the first half, Van Persie was put through on goal again by a very intelligent pass from Juan Mata. The United number 20 rounded off one defender to bring the ball on his right foot but his shot flew yards wide off the goal and far away from the onrushing Rooney and Valencia.
The referee, Mark Clattenburg, was keen on letting the game flow and stayed away from the blowing the whistle as much as he possibly could. However, both sides failed to get behind the opposition defense, or rather threaten to, on a regular basis throughout the game. Wayne Rooney struggled to make an impact on the game as he found surrounded by opposition defenders everytime he was on the ball, giving him little time to put a move together.
The second half was not much different either as both sides kept looking for the much-needed goal which would earn them the three points but stayed strong at the back. Rio Ferdinand was forced to make his first Premier League appearance since November after Rafael had to be taken off at half time following an aerial clash with Giroud just prior to the break. However, the Arsenal strikers did not do much to put pressure on the new center half pairing as Ferdinand and Vidic looked comfortable.
Olivier Giroud was the center of every Arsenal move that was put together, as he used his strength to good effect and emerged victorious on most aerial duels with the United skipper. However, Vidic proved his aerial prowess just when it so mattered as he made a series of crucial aerial clearances from Bacary Sagna’s crosses eliminating the danger of going behind temporarily.
However, the Serbian could do little about Sagna’s next as it was carefully swung in to the corridor of uncertainty but Giroud failed to provide the telling touch and put the Gunners in charge.
Van Persie, who did not receive a cordial and warm welcome back to his old club, had another fantastic chance to steal the match for his side. The move started when Michael Carrick dispossessed Wilshere to set off a counter attack, Van Persie ran at the defense before passing it on to Wayne Rooney who put in a carefully weighted cross back on the path of the onrushing Van Persie. The Dutch striker headed the ball only to find Szczesny to fist the ball back onto the bar and away from danger.
Both teams made changes around 65 minute mark as Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Adnan Januzaj were introduced to bring some extra spark to the attack but neither of them managed to inspire a win for their teams. It was evident that Arsenal were still recovering from their extraordinary defeat to Liverpool while Manchester United were keen on holding on to the clean sheet which has come very rarely this season.
But in hindsight, this match could well turn out to be the chance missed by both teams to achieve their respective domestic goals this season.