Arsenal’s impotence hands title to United

by Sean Bell

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

If ever a single day came to encapsulate an entire title race, then Saturday 2nd April was it. Manchester United looked down and out at half-time in their clash with West Ham, trailing two-nil and seemingly the latest victims in the Hammers’ recent upsurge in form. Yet forty-five minutes and an astute substitution later, three points were in the bag and the FA were once again made to look stupid by choosing to admonish Wayne Rooney for his language rather than the ‘wandering elbow’ he had flaunted against Wigan.

As so often this season United had come through when they had seemed least likely to do so. Trailing Villa back in November by two goals to nil with only quarter of an hour left, they had dug deep. Again against Blackpool in January , a two-goal reverse at the interval had been overhauled in the second period, and late goals against the likes of Stoke, Wolves, and Bolton have converted draws into wins.

By common consent United have rarely shone this season, eschewing their traditional swashbuckling style in favour of obduracy with Nemanja Vidic their player of the season at the heart of their defence. Yet they remain on course for an unlikely Treble with Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Chelsea the latest stage in their quest to repeat their historic 1999 feat.

They go into that game knowing that their position at the top of the Premier League is far more secure than it really should be. In a season which has seen Chelsea struggle to replace departed squad members until recently and Manchester City continue to look like a team just happy to be in the top four, it has been Arsenal who have continued to make the title a two-horse race.

But in the final furlong Arsene Wenger’s side has refused to take those last strides to glory. The recent goalless draws at home to Sunderland and Blackburn were symptomatic of their failings. Faced with two badly out-of-form sides ripe for the taking any serious title contender would have dispatched them with goals to spare but Arsenal looked both impotent and (worst of all) dispirited on each occasion.

A little over a month ago they were in the hunt for four trophies but their late defeat to Birmingham in the Carling Cup Final looks to have psychologically destroyed Wenger’s young side. Their defeat to Barcelona nine days later was as emphatic as a 3-1 scoreline can be, and following their F.A. Cup exit to United, they could at least console themselves by being able to concentrate on the league.

Yet the scars are there for all to see. Whereas they had previously been carefree in their approach they now appear guarded and hesitant. The pressure of expectancy has overwhelmed them just as an awareness of their own  fallibility was revealed in the mix-up that led to Obafemi Martins’ winner and Barca’s dominance in the Camp Nou. Whilst they still have a home clash to come with United, one feels that the title was lost in their failure to dig deep and find winning goals against both Sunderland and Blackburn. What seems certain is that United would have.

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  • stan

    at least we’ll qualify for the Champions League next season unlike our over acheiving neighbours!

  • Mystical Mike

    We need a mass clear out, no more excuses, we have to sign world class experienced players.

  • Simon Chabman

    Arsenal is bogus..each season we are told of the young players,who it seems never grow or apparently remain the same age..It is ridiculous,just to say the least.I repeat Arsenal is a loser team,in fact the Oxford dictionary has replaced the word loser with ‘Arsenal’.

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