Arsenal 1 Man Utd 2
Arsenal-Man U games have a history of providing incidents that overshadow the matches they are connected to. Think of the Busby Babes playing their last game on English soil at Highbury, the two Old Trafford melees or the Ian Wright-Peter Schmeichel spat.
I would never have thought we could a substitution to that list but the replacement of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with Andrei Arshavin – or more precisely the fury directed towards Arsene Wenger by the home fans as a result of it – certainly has the air of another landmark.
It feels like the moment when the general discontent among a large number of supporters – maybe now the majority – towards Wenger made itself clear to the world on one of the biggest stages possible.
I doubt whether the Ox would have been more able to prevent the Man U winner than Arshavin and more of the blame should be directed towards his defensive colleagues, namely Song and Vermaelen, for letting two one-twos to be completed in the box than the Russian.
Nevertheless, what I can be sure of is that Ox had put in one of the best individual displays of the season by an Arsenal player and he should have been left to continue it. Tired or not, he still would have offered more in attack than Arshavin.
Wenger made things worse by offering up a terse, ‘Do you know who I am?’ response when questioned about the decision.
All the boss does by being so aloof and defensive is aggravate whatever doubts are held by increasing portions of the Arsenal populace.
In truth, we didn’t play that badly and I don’t think our first half was as terrible as some commentators are making out. We started each half well but after the two time-sapping injuries, to Jones and Nani, we were incapable of picking up where we’d started. Whether that’s just coincidence or another sign of our mental fragility I don’t know.
We’ve now slipped back into tabloid ‘crisis club’ territory but we have to remember we had reached similar levels earlier in the season and recovered enough to get back in the race for fourth spot.
Reaching the Champions League places is certainly not out of our reach, though we still remain severely weakened by the defensive absentees and lack of quality in midfield, where Ramsey looks increasingly poor.
The one ray of light is the performance of the Ox. If he can reproduce that regularly we have something to build on.
Perhaps the more pressing question is whether Wenger still has the sense to realise he deserves the chance to reproduce that form.