It didn’t feel like a win and no, a draw isn’t a result that we should be celebrating. I am, of course, referring to our undeserved draw, at Old Trafford. A game where, once again, we didn’t turn up. Yes, it was Manchester United and yes, their manager is Jose Mourinho but the use of basic observational skills should be enough for everyone to see that neither are the forces they once were.
Some of our supporters are eager to point out that we remain unbeaten since our opening day defeat to Liverpool. Whilst this is the case and makes good reading on paper, a closer analysis of our results and performances in the five games – or six, if you include the current champions Leicester – against the so-called ‘big teams’, shows a less than impressive return.
From the eighteen points available in the games against Liverpool, Leicester, PSG, Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United, we’ve only collected a meagre seven points. Hardly an inspiring points total from a team considered to be title challengers. With the performances away at PSG, at home to Spurs and away at United, particularly flat.
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It is these games that provide opportunities to make a statement of intent and the three goal demolition of Chelsea aside, we haven’t done that. We deserved to be on the end of a hiding against PSG and we lacked urgency and desire in the games against Spurs and United. If you can’t lift yourself for those two fixtures, when can you?
As I mentioned in my article following the draw with Spurs, it is not solely the team who isn’t turning up for these fixtures but the manager too. Some supporters will point to Arsene’s substitutions paying off against United but why does he continually leave it so late to make changes when it’s obvious to us all, that the way the team is set up, isn’t working? And will he ever accept that Aaron Ramsey is not a wide player?
It is all too easy to say that Saturday’s point could be the one that wins us the title. The reality is that the team who wins the title, is generally the team who chalks up the most victories during the season. I don’t consider United to be a title rival and they were there for the taking. For these reasons, we should view a draw as two points dropped, not as a point gained. Forget the timing of our goal and look at the bigger picture.
Following the final whistle against United, it appears that Ramsey is the latest scapegoat amongst our supporters. Admittedly, he had a terrible game on Saturday but he wasn’t alone. Alexis Sanchez was disappointing and Mesut Ozil anonymous for instance. It is clear that his national team manager, Chris Coleman, is capable of getting the best out of him, whilst his club manager, isn’t.
The difference is that Wales play him in his preferred position and don’t try to fit square pegs in round holes. On current form, Aaron shouldn’t get in our side and should be used as back up to Ozil, should he suffer an injury or a prolonged dip in form. That said, Aaron showed what he is capable of in Euro 2016 and were we to put him up for sale, a host of clubs would be chasing him. He isn’t as poor a player as many would have you believe.
I have also seen some supporters saying that we should drop Francis Coquelin. In my opinion, considering his recent form, that would be an act of lunacy. Francis is the one player who has showed the required level of energy and desire in our recent games. His attitude is one that should be infectious for team mates and supporters because he is a winner.
Although Granit Xhaka is a player that I rate highly, I would be happy to see him brought in alongside Coquelin but not in place of him. As much as I believe it is time for Arsene to step aside, perhaps I should just be thankful that some of our supporters are not lined up to be his successor.
On a final note, Spurs supporters have long mocked us for our early, knock out stage, eliminations from the Champions League. A bizarre source of entertainment, considering the inability of their team to even qualify for Europe’s premier competition. To show there are no hard feelings, I would like to put rivalries aside for a second and congratulate them on their teams failure to make it past the group stage. Can’t smile without you.
Let’s hope our team and our manager turn up for tonight’s game with PSG…..