It was hardly a surprise that Arsenal lost to Barcelona. They are the best team in the world and their front three contains three of the world’s best strikers. Maybe Real Madrid fans should educate some of us Arsenal fans on how good Barcelona really are. I get the fact that our season is hanging in the balance ahead of our visit to Old Trafford but the only way we should be looking back at the Barcelona game is with a positive attitude.
In that one game, we put on a display of everything we are capable of doing. Again, by no means was it a great performance but that 70 minutes showed we’ve got the ingredients to be competitive against teams like Barcelona. We made them look not so great in the first half as we created the better chances and nullified their attacking threat and creativity. We also displayed out complete lack of tactical awareness in conceding the first goal and propensity to make stupid mistakes with the second but all in all, having approached the game expecting a thrashing, I saw an Arsenal capable of mixing it with the best but just lacking that maturity, consistency and sparkle to get over the line.
I say all this because I think our general frustrations with Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and the players shouldn’t cloud the fact that we are still hunting a domestic double and produced a competitive performance against Barcelona that the expensively assembled squads of Real Madrid and Manchester City haven’t been able to do. We can’t be hung up on losing to one of the best team the world has ever seen in the middle of a title challenge. The analyses and verdicts can be given at the end of the season but we’ve still got the targets we set out to achieve in August in our sights and that should drive forward the players and fans alike.
Also a word of support for Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. I am not going to delude myself by saying he’s been playing well because he certainly hasn’t. But all this negativity from the fans about the Ox reminds me of Aaron Ramsey in 2012. I was among the majority of fans who liked Aaron Ramsey but felt he wasn’t good enough to be in the team and thought we’d do better without him. We were wrong. And we most probably are wrong about the Ox as well. He’s just 22. Yes, he’s been here for five years but that doesn’t change the fact that he is just 22. He’s had injuries aplenty and apart from his first season, rarely had a consistent run in the side. Yes, he’s got a lot to improve upon if he is to realize his true potential but let’s not come to conclusions and make him a scapegoat of the team’s poor performances in the same way we did with Aaron Ramsey.
Onto the weekend now and the dreaded trip to Old Trafford! Or is it so horrifying anymore? Not on paper at least. I believe they are amongst the lowest goal scorers at home and the football really is boring. But I am yet to witness an Arsenal league victory at Old Trafford since I started supporting the Gunners and until that record is set straight, it will be a fixture that will drive me nuts. We are the better team, we’ve got a title to win, Sports Betting Dime have us as the title favourites and a victory will go a long way in bringing back some positivity to the Arsenal world. Don Aguero also gives the Foxes huge credit but still has both Arsenal and Spurs just ahead of them in the betting. This weekend’s opposition ate considered out of the race at 12-1.
I got in touch with Dale O’Donnell of Stretty News and he was happy to answer our questions. Take a read below to see what he thinks about Louis van Gaal, “Same ol’ Arsenal” and much more.
- What is your overall verdict on United’s season so far?
A big step backwards. Louis van Gaal’s first season in charge was an improvement from the crap we witnessed under David Moyes, but sadly there has been little difference this season.
- Are you happy with Louis van Gaal? What’s your take on his tenure so far?
I backed Van Gaal longer than most but I can’t anymore without describing it as false hope. He’s as stubborn as a mule and the football simply doesn’t fit Manchester United’s DNA. However, I admire how the youngsters have responded to first team opportunities under his management.
- What have you made of the relentless rumours about Mourinho? Do you think it is affecting the team in anyway?
It will please several players knowing arguably the greatest manager around might be coming to Old Trafford as their saviour. I have openly stated previously that I would take Jose Mourinho in a heartbeat, but his agent Jorge Mendes worries me a little.
- Who has been United’s player of the season so far?
David de Gea, Chris Smalling and Anthony Martial share this one. I cannot decide on one from the three mentioned.
- Any youngsters to look out for on Sunday?
Yes, Guillermo Varela will have his hands full with Alexis Sanchez but he looks a great prospect. Should do a better job than Matteo Darmian did against you lot earlier this season.
- Your opinion on Arsenal this season.
Same ol’ Arsenal but with a fantastic goalkeeper. All f.rt, no sh.t. Falling a few hurdles from the finish line due to lacking bottle.
- One Arsenal player you’d love to have in the United team.
Alexis Sanchez would add spark to our attack, so I’m not looking beyond the Chilean. I do enjoy watching Aaron Ramsey too
- Where do you think the game will be won or lost on Sunday?
I’m predicting a tight encounter with goals from set-pieces or defensive lapses. Unfortunately for us, a top four finish seems out of reach but it would nice if we could hold you back and give Leicester a hand in creating Premier League history.
- Your take on the EPL this season and English teams struggling in Europe?
Hardly a surprise, is it? The Premier League is now inferior in terms of quality when compared to La Liga and Bundesliga. There is a lot of catching up to do.
- What are United’s targets for the rest of the season?
Some silverware to lift spirits. My objective back in August was a top four finish and FA Cup triumph. I wouldn’t say no to the Europa League either, especially when it would mean knocking the Scousers out along the way.
- Predictions for the game.
United 2-1 Arsenal.