Thursday, April 30, 2009

1-0 to Man Utd

"That's Arsenal's advantage. They can play Pat Rice at right-back and Arsène Wenger can play centre-forward; it doesn't matter to them."

- Alex Ferguson, commenting about the Premier League, but also valid for the Champions League return fixture next week

He's right, of course. We can play Pat Rice at right-back and Arsene Wenger at centre-forward. That'll free up Sagna to partner Toure in the centre of defense, slide Eboue out to left back, and it'll leave Silvestre out of the team completely. Adebayor could be relegated to the bench, and maybe Wenger's good enough to score from clear-cut chances and not get offside all the time. I'm sure his workrate would be much better, at any rate.

That's the Arsenal advantage - our squad's so thin that sometimes, it doesn't matter who we play.

Wenger says that the positive is that we're only a goal down. He's right; we were very lucky this morning. O'Shea scored a weak goal after he was totally unmarked by the far post. Man Utd peppered our goal, and if Almunia hadn't been up for the game, we would be entering the second leg four or five goals down.

We played terribly. Adebayor was listless. Diaby was useless. Silvestre was worse than useless - we'd be better off getting him red carded at the start of the match. He's at the heart of every goal we've conceded in the past couple of weeks. We didn't press, we didn't attack, we didn't defend, we didn't do anything except stroll around the pitch for 90 minutes and hope it wouldn't be too bad. For the biggest game of our season, it's a pretty poor performance.

It's frustrating that we're playing our best players out of position to compensate for weaker players. Cesc is now an attacking midfielder because he's a good finisher and can score the goals that Adebayor can't. Nasri is now a defensive midfielder becaue Diaby can't tackle, can't press and can't offer a physical presence. Diaby is a left winger because he's a defensive liability and he will do less damage on the wing than in the middle of the park.

There isn't a lot to say. We were outplayed because Man Utd's a better team that's better organised and more hungry for success. They played an outstanding game this morning, and really should've buried us. And next Tuesday, they probably will.

Still, there is a bit of hope. Ferdinand might be out. Djourou and van Persie might be fit, and might take the place of Silvestre and Adebayor. We might play a 4-4-2 and try to attack Man Utd instead of playing a tactical game. We might have learnt to defend in the meanwhile. I wouldn't hold my breath, but hope is all we've got.

My prediction for Tuesday: 3-1 to the Arsenal.

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